Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Brand Bangalore has ’em coming back for more

Brand Bangalore has ’em coming back for more

Rasheed Kappan

Today Karnataka’s capital is zooming to be a global, multicultural megapolis powered by youthful vibrancy

Arrival of Texas Instruments as the first MNC proved a defining moment

Between September 2006 and August 2007 air traffic grew by 40 per cent

— Photo: K. Gopinathan

On the fast track: With people migrating to Bangalore falling in love with its culture, food and weather, the profile of the Bangalorean has changed dramatically.

BANGALORE: Beyond the steel and glass high-rises that starkly epitomise Bangalore’s unfettered modernist push, beyond the pubs, the IT companies, the space-starved pathways, there exists a people, alive, breathing life every day to build a brand called Bangalore.

It is that vibrant, demographic mix that gives this city its image, its magnetic aura to trigger inward migrations decade after decade and earn Bangalore its “A-1” city tag. This seldom-heralded dynamism of the Bangalorean could well be the springboard for out city to eventually wear the coveted “World City” tag.

The signs of that next transformation are all over. In Frenchman Bruno Rouot’s “homey” feel of Bangalore, barely four years into his stay here as the French Embassy’s Attaché (Science & Technology), is an echo of what the 320-strong French community experience. He does not feel alien anymore. “Here, unlike Delhi, I feel I am in a European city. I find no problem with the food, dance or music here. There are world cuisine restaurants all over,” he explains.
Long journey

The journey of that change had begun much before, when the British cantonments triggered the first influx. Then came the 1940s and 1950s which spurred a rapid growth driven by the steady inflow of Kannadigas from the rest of Karnataka. The 1960s had the new public sector giants unleash the third major Bangalore rush. Then came the job seekers from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Gujarat. The arrival of Texas Instruments in 1985 as the first multinational proved a defining moment for Brand Bangalore. The stage was firmly set for the city’s eventual emergence as an IT hub, a Silicon Valley, a symbol of India’s software potential. The clichéd Pensioners Paradise suddenly turned an uncomfortable sobriquet to wear. Bangalore yearned for a bigger tag, a global brand name. The world city tag beckoned big time.

The transition was quick. Foreigners who, well, once looked foreign, were no longer strangers. They were not missionaries or tourists anymore. The Americans, the Europeans, the Chinese, the Japanese were the new business partners. Some were even employees.

They had a new home: Bangalore, no lesser than where they came from. Interacting on equal footing with the Bangalorean, they collectively redefined the city’s image.

For some, it was the culture, for others it was the food and weather. Some had even fallen in love with someone here.

Among the expatriates were also students pursuing professional education or internships from an assortment of countries such as Iran, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Germany and France.
Not just IT

Driving the growth of foreign traffic into the city was not just the IT industry. Education and medical tourism also brought in people with an international profile. The city’s real estate boom attracted plenty of NRI attention.

For proof of this growth, check out the rise in international air traffic to the city: between September 2006 and August 2007, it grew by a stupendous 40 per cent, the highest in the country. In the last 18 months alone, as the Airports Authority of India (AAI) informed, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Malaysian Airlines, Lufthansa and Air France have increased their total seat capacity to the city.

The reverse brain drain brought back many who had left the Indian shores. But they had returned with fresh insights about a more developed economy.

In their collective attempts to replicate what they saw and felt in the West, they slowly began to transform Bangalore.

They were now more aware of the hitherto unseen chaos. They yearned for more order, more discipline, better infrastructure.

But Bangalore was no longer that small town they had left a decade before. It had exploded into a mega city with 65 lakh people.

It was not just Bangalore’s physical growth (that had virtually decimated the old bungalows to make way for multi-storied apartments), which shook the returning techies. The profile of the average Bangalorean had changed dramatically.
Change of name

If Peking was Beijing, and Bombay Mumbai, Bangalore had no reason why it could not be Bengaluru. But the name change has to wait because there was no State Government to push the proposal. Bangalore, along with 12 other cities and towns of Karnataka, was destined to be rechristened.

Yet the file is pending before the Union Home Ministry, with no urgency to change the name before Kannada Rajyotsava.


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