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Monday, November 17, 2003

Fortune on Bangalore

India, or rather, the loss of U.S. jobs to India seems to be the flavour of the month. Lou Dobbs can't seem to stop talking about it. Now, Fortune is carrying a lead story on Bangalore it calls Where Your Job Is Going. For a lead story, it's a mostly blah-blah article with nothing new to say (serves as good background reading if you don't really know much about India), but since it's about Bangalore, I figured I might as well post it.

The world is lousy with places claiming to be another Silicon Valley. But in Bangalore the claims have an eerie ring of truth. For one thing, as in Northern California, the climate is a big draw--Bangalore is 3,000 feet above sea level and thus has the most bearable summer weather of any Indian metropolis. What's more, like the San Francisco area it boasts fine educational institutions (foremost among them the Indian Institute of Science, founded in 1909) and an openness to outsiders--born of the city's status as a big army garrison since colonial days and as the home of India's defense and aerospace industries since independence. There's even a wine country (okay, one winery) north of town.

The real clincher is that despite constant complaints about the city's insane traffic, skyrocketing real estate prices, and fickle workforce--and constant efforts by other cities, especially Hyderabad and Chennai, to get in on the action--companies and people keep coming to Bangalore. Which, of course, sounds exactly like Silicon Valley in the late 1990s. And while Bangalore was a graveyard of failed startups in 2001, just like the Valley, the very corporate cost cutting that has meant continued lean times in California has brought tons of new business to South India.

Nandan Nilakeni, the CEO of Infosys has the last word on the trade issue.

India at its best is a lot like the U.S. at its best--a nation of staggering ethnic and religious diversity that somehow holds together by dint of tolerance and a sense of shared destiny. And now that India wants to join the material world, it seems churlish for Americans to begrudge it entry. "For the last 20 years, you've been telling countries like India and China to adopt free markets and join the global economy," says Nilekani of Infosys. "Now that we're doing it, you can't just say, 'Stop it!'"

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