India’s Beacon of Innovation

Bengaluru  is regularly called India’s IT City, Science City, Electronic City, Biotechnology City, Aeronautical City, Fashion City, Robotics City, Health City... with the list going on. This reputation has been built on the fact that you will find India’s best talent here. In fact, over 55 per cent of its tech talent is from outside Karnataka!

Bengaluru  has more tech talent from several states than those states have themselves. We estimate that the city has nearly 150,000 Bengali IT engineers, more than that in Bengal and 50,000 Oriyas, more than in Odisha. As India’s leading middle-class city with no apparent traditional business class, it is an aspiration for great talent from all over India to come and work here.

Global city

Bengaluru  has today become one ofIndia’s premier global cities with over 150,000 overseas citizens, many being US expats. Bengaluru  has the IT industry to thank for being a key cog in its engine of growth over the past 25 years. Today the IT industry employs over 15 lakh people in Bengaluru . The sector has over 25,000 companies of which around 7,000 are startups, with an export revenue of $45 billion. There are over 450 research labs with over 400 Fortune 500 companies getting their work done in Bengaluru . Bengaluru  has over 125,000 chip testers and designers (the largest in the world), with over 200 chip design companies even though India has no integrated chip fabrication facilities.

Bengaluru  has more than 20,000 automotive software engineers and designers and over 10,000 aeronautical engineers and designers. Lately, over 500 AI and ML startups have cropped up, with India’s first Venture Fund for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML), also being started here. In the past couple of decades, the city has also become a front-runner in biotechnology, with the largest concentration of companies and talent in India. The biotech accelerators have some world-class companies in superbug drug research, 3D printing of body parts, etc.

We are now in the age of disruption, where every industry is going through consequential change driven by technology adaptation. Bengaluru  is at the centre of this change, being the leader in Robotics, AL/ML, Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and other frontier industries.

The ecosystem for startups and innovation here is top class, supported by over 100 funds, armies of lawyers, accountants, mentors, many incubators, accelerators, etc. Bengaluru  saw over $7 billion of overseas and local venture capital flowing in last year, supporting the over 150,000 jobs in the startup industry.

The city has the second highest concentration of tech talent in the world and by 2020, we will have the largest concentration of tech talent globally, overtaking Silicon Valley. Reports indicate that over 100,000 PhDs reside here. Name any technology and the chances are that Bengaluru  has them in some numbers.

Bengaluru  is a rich city, rich in both intellect and wealth. Bengaluru ’s GDP is around $120 billion, 60 per cent of Karnataka’s GDP. In comparison to India’s per capita income of about $1,900, Bengaluru  has nurtured an ecosystem that can boast of a per capita income of around $10-12,000 per year. Bengaluru  paid around Rs 92,000 crore as corporate and income tax last year, next only to Mumbai and Delhi. The city reportedly pays more corporate and Income Tax than Karnataka collects in own taxes of Rs 86,000 Cr. With the third highest quantum of bank deposits for an Indian city, at around Rs 600,000 crore, the fourth highest level of bank lending, the third biggest airport and more, Bengaluru  certainly rocks!


Traffic mess

Well, almost except for the traffic! That too because Bengaluru  has 70 lakh vehicles for a population of around one crore, the second highest in India after Delhi. With a small stretch of metro rail and inadequate bus transport, Bengalureans suffer the most compared to any city in India due to traffic congestion.

Luckily there is succour ahead with chief minister Siddaramaiah announcing 250 km of Metro rail by 2022 which should carry more than 30 lakh passengers every year. There was also the announcement in the Union Budget of a 160 km suburban transportation network to ease the congestion.

Karnataka has led India in creating the right policy framework to foster this Hitech City. In 1997 came India’s first IT policy, later the Biotech policy, Science policy, and more recently, the Start-up Policy and the Electric Vehicle Policy, all due to a very progressive chief minister. The government here is the most receptive to change and new ideas and most open to citizens. Possibly the only state in India where you can criticise the chief minister in the morning and be invited over tea in the evening to discuss your issues.

Of course, Bengaluru  has suffered immensely in the last 10 years, been neglected by successive governments obsessed with the rural vote thinking that by neglecting the city they can show their solidarity with the rural voters. Only in the past couple of years has the state government shown the willingness to invest in the city by committing over Rs 7,000 crore for infrastructure.

All things considered, the data speaks volumes about the growth Bengaluru  has witnessed. There is indeed a need to improve infrastructure and transport in Bengaluru  to improve the quality of life for its incredible talent and there is enough recognition of this. A continued focus on forward-looking policies and improved governance will improve Bengaluru ’s productivity, and it will continue to be India’s beacon of innovation.

The Writer is Chairman, Aarin Capital 

(As told to Mini Tejaswi)