BENGALURU: Former US President Barack Obama had famously lauded Bengaluru, saying SM Krishna --- who was Karnataka’s 16th chief minister between 1999 and 2004 -- had achieved the unbelievable in the city.
Today, while it is true that Bangalore aka Bengaluru is a brand and a name that is recognised across the world, it is not without its huge share of challenges.
Poor roads, problems which keep recurring thanks to poor quality material used in their construction and which cannot stand up to rain, poor road network design that ensures a perennial problem of traffic bottlenecks, interrupted power supply, that is not so noticeable thanks to the uninterruptible power source (UPS) system manufacturers and distributors in the private sector laughing all the way to the banks, and water problems — these are among the main problems the state capital faces.
But the most critical challenge that Brand Bengaluru faces is the challenge of leadership to tackle the problems once and for all.
Former Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) member V Ravichandar, says, “We lack a few Cs: Commitment, Coordination and Competence. Unfortunately, what should have actually been lacking is found to be in excess: Corruption. The extended city’s crumbling infrastructure is a visible manifestation of our challenges. We tend to take it for granted that Brand Bengaluru, which is primarily a result of the citizenry, will endure despite all the snafus and neglect. History tells us that cities do wither away, but they can also rejuvenate themselves. Can we? It will need political leadership and administrative action. The citizens’ involvement is off the charts in Bengaluru. We need matching reciprocity from the powers that be. The future beckons and we live in hope.”
Everyone knows that one cannot establish Brand Bengaluru without being consistent, and while maintaining that consistency.
But what has Bengaluru’s consistency been? It started off excellently during 1999-2004, steered by a visionary SM Krishna through BATF. But BATF itself was virtually dumped by the two subsequent coalition governments that JDS was part of between 2004 and 2008 as that party’s support came mainly from the rural hinterland.
The aim of BATF, a public-private partnership (PPP), was to bring together businesses and civic leaders to devise a development agenda for the city and suggest ways for the city’s infrastructure and service delivery to be upgraded and improved according to the best practices elsewhere.
The raison d’etre of BATF was to foster a partnership among the citizenry and various civic agencies to build government capacity to beef up infrastructure. In 2008 B S Yediyurappa, who rode to power started a vision group ABIDE Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development Task Force to spearhead the need for Bangalore Development. The years between 2013 to date has seen little action on the Brand Bangalore Front.
After several industry leaders spoke up, it finally took a leader of the repute of SM Krishna himself in a state of semi-retirement — to remind Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai that Brand Bengaluru needs to be protected. He said that whatever threatens Brand Bengaluru can impact investments eventually. Investments in Bengaluru, since the early 1990s, have been humongous. It single-handedly propelled Karnataka to the top spot globally as IT city and a knowledge hub.
But is corporate Bengaluru pleased with the infrastructure? Entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Executive Chairperson and founder, Biocon, says she has not been pleased with the infrastructure and took to Twitter to express her displeasure.
Ashok Soota, Executive Chairman, Happiest Minds Technologies, who is recognised as one of the pioneering leaders of the Indian IT Industry, says, “I agree completely with Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw that Bengaluru’s roads are pathetic. The pavements are even worse. The way multiple wires are strung up over the pavement is a disgrace.’’
A senior bureaucrat complained that industrialists cannot easily buy land anywhere in Karnataka. They start an industry and then begin complaining that infrastructure is not available here. He says MLAs and MPs and local politicians are not exactly in charge of roads. He says Beangaluru has a city limit and complaints about lack of infrastructure outside the city limits cannot be raised because everyone understands the city limits.
He explains that established industrial areas are connected by a network of roads and it is the duty of the government to build that infrastructure. But if someone complains about some remote place then that is another question.
Brand Guru Harish Bijoor says, “Brand Bengaluru has two facets today – the image, on the one end, and the ground reality, at the other. Those of us who live on Ground Zero understand the reality of an already crumbled infrastructure. Note: The infrastructure is not crumbling, it already has! This reality needs to be first understood and then rectified. With all the mind and money power at our disposal, all that is needed is the right attitude.”
One former iconic IAS officer, who is credited with being one of the builders of modern Bengaluru and who built many flyovers and other essential infrastructure, says, “Only two things are required: First, an officer with integrity, and second, an officer with commitment.’’
LOWER BUREAUCRACY THE BANE?
Former president, Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FKCCI), D Muralidhar, who has served as member of city’s planning commission and member of the board of governors at Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, says, “Bengaluru has attracted investments worth lakhs of crores over a period of time. A large chunk of investments, up to a quarter of the $88 billion in FDI, come to Bengaluru. But there is a marked deterioration in the quality of lower bureaucracy as there is rampant corruption.”
He says this is happening even as the state capital faces stiff competition not only from other countries, but also from other states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Unless the state government and the bureaucracy, from top to bottom, helps in the process of attracting investment, it will not have the desired impact.
“The government will have to take note of this and address all issues, not so much at policy level as much as at the implementation level. You may have the best policies on paper, but if it is not implemented effectively then Brand Bengaluru suffers. The government needs to pull up its socks immediately. Post-pandemic, we are not able to handle the pressure on infrastructure,” he says. It is probably the reason why several from the ruling dispensation as well as business leaders, knowing that Bengaluru’s infrastructural sufferings would take a long time to address, are now pushing for investments beyond Bengaluru. And why not?
Prospects across the state
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said investments will be channelled not just to Bengaluru, but beyond too. TNIE takes a look at the prospects beyond B’luru
Big sector is agriculture with main products being raisins and lime
No big industries here, but under One District One Product scheme, the govt is encouraging entrepreneurs to set up small-scale industries to produce lime products
Providing proper marketing platforms for products of raisins and lime is a challenge
Agriculture, fabric and granite are the big sectors here
Murugesh R Nirani Group of Industries is the biggest sugar and ethanol producer in the district
There is big scope for granite business in Ilkal and Hungund regions
District houses thousands of traditional handloom and powerloom weavers
Taking the popular Ilkal granite to the global market is a big challenge
Part of Mumbai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor
5,000 acres of land being acquired for industries
Scope for investment in IT, automobile, consumer electronics and durable goods cluster, FMCG cluster
Investment opportunities in banking, education, healthcare, fisheries, medical equipment, tourism and IT sector
Non-availability of land, lack of ecosystem for employment are some of the challenges
Some big firms are Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd, Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd, CAMPCO factory, Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilizers, BASF India Ltd and Infosys
A lot of investment opportunities in mobile assembly units, assembling of vehicle parts, software industries and manufacturing units.
20 pharma units coming up at Kadechur, Yadgir district
Investment opportunities in textile industry
The traditional textile industry which produces Shahpur sarees that have demand across India and abroad. The industry is facing a financial crisis and produ-ction has taken a hit over the last decade
An IT park in Belagavi city likely to get the nod soon
Investment opportunities in engineering, automobile and chemical industries
Textile and granite industries in Chamarajanagar district
Jaggery and textile industries in Mandya
Investment opportunities in tourism
Fisheries and agriculture also look promising
Scope for investment in environment-friendly sectors as the region is eco-sensitive
Huge scope for potato products manufacturing and export units
The Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board set up special economic zones for textile, chemicals and food processing at an industrial growth centre with over 500 acres available for industries
Airport coming up near Bhuvanahalli near Hassan
Investment opportunities in foundry, paper, IT, textiles, tourism, food processing and carpentry
Lack of uninterrupted power supply and unavailability of skilled manpower are some of the challenges
Shivamogga Airport, being constructed at Sogane village, expected to be operational by year-end
Inputs from: Naushad Bijapur/Belagavi; BK Lakshmikantha/Mysuru; Arunkumar Huralimath/Dharwad; Prakash Samaga/Udupi; Marx Tejaswi/Shivamogga; Divya Cutinho/Dakshina Kannada; Udaya Kumar BR/Hassan; Ramakrishna Badseshi/Kalaburagi; G Subhash Chandra/Chitradurga/Davanagere; and Mahesh Goudar/ Vijayapura/Bagalkot