A Bangalore vacation of a Mumbaikar

So, the quintessential summer vacation with the kid is done. This time in and around Bangalore (Bengaluru for the puritans). This time around, I got a chance to have a real look at the city, where I have been flying in and out a zillion times on day-trips for business, not to mention a 2-year b-schooling about 20 years back. The recent business trips have recorded in my memory traffic snarls, long airport drives and an easier work routine among people as compared to that in Mumbai (OK, I know this is a controversial statement already). However this time, since we spent 7-8 days roaming along the Bangalore streets, I did manage to note more interesting things about the Garden City or now, the IT City.
• Of the 9mn population in Bangalore, there about 4-5 lacs IT professionals. 9mn population may translate to 2mn households. 4-5 lac IT professionals may be spread across 3-4 lacs Households, accounting for couples or siblings working in the Industry. This implies 20-25% Households having an IT professional!!! Very high !! If we look at only the middle-class and upper class HHs, then the %age might be much, much higher. So Bangalore is indeed an IT city, and any marketer of any product or service needs to take that into account while designing their marketing (and business) strategies. Offering has to be online, on social media; go-to-market should involve corporate worksites; offshore-onshore behaviour should be understood, and so on.
• There was an average of 7-8 full page ads in the Times of India every day for Real Estate properties !! Realty market is still going strong. With ticket sizes of Rs.80 lacs to 2 crore being the sweet spot, this is a breath of fresh air to Mumbaikars, who may have to own a bachelor’s (or spinster’s) pad in the outskirts with that budget. 25-storey buildings loom on the skyline in all directions. Sarjapur, Outer Ring Road, Hosur Road are fast replacing the Whitefield mania of the previous decade. North Bangalore is of course going to be the darling in the coming decade with an IT park threatening to come up there as well.
• Language of communication in the shops and markets is fast becoming Hindi, with the huge influx of North and West Indians into the city through the IT route. This might be provoking the “Kannada wave in schools” sort of movement. Having seen similar movements in the past in Maharashtra, I think commercial interests will prevail in the long run. Development always pips sectarianism.
• Housing complexes have become swanky, with many complexes having 6-10 buildings of 20-25 storeys each, having 2-3 swimming pool, large gym, hyper-market. The pools are full with people from 8am-9pm !! And then the odd post-dinner star-gazers lounging on the pool cots. This could possibly be because it was May, summer vacation for kids. 8-9am, one sees young IT professionals swarming out of the complexes in their Zens, WagonRs, i10s, i20s and many on bikes. Some amble across the complex on foot, boarding their company buses reaching outside the gates.
• Eating out is growing exponentially (no hyperbole here, I actually mean doubling every 2-3 years). There are 87 such joints on a 1-km stretch on the 100-ft road in Indira Nagar. In addition to another 100 retail outlets for apparel/ fashion-wear. Delivery still is not as rampant as in Mumbai, with overall low service levels of Bangalore hitting this space too. What I mean by lower overall service levels is seen across restaurants, shops – the sprightly, spirited entrepreneurial zest seen in Mumbai is sorely missing here among waiters, kids manning the tills, delivery boys etc.
• Very few places to see!! We did manage a few – Lalbagh Botanical Gardens (4.5 on a scale of 5), Cubbon Park (4), Suryanarayana Swamy temple at Domlur (3.5), Sankey Tank (3.5), Art of Living Centre on Harohalli Road (3), Pyramid Valley 50km from the City (3), MTR – the Mavalli Tiffin Resort at Basvangudi (3), St Marks Cathedral (2.5)
• Lalabagh was a revelation! One has to take the Electric powered Buggies to really enjoy the Garden (Rs 100 per person for a 35-minute ride, with three photo-op stops). The cotton-silk tree with the 4-metre wide trunk is a marvel (possibly the largest tree in India?). The Eucalyptus tree grove and the Japanese Black Bamboo plantations also came a close second.
• Cubbon Park matched Lalbagh in natural beauty, parts of it coming close to Hyde Park and St James Park in London. Some parts were desolate and barren, and hence one has to select the correct parts to visit (it’s huge and may be covered in 2 visits, same like Lalbagh).
• MTR was a bit of a disappointment, largely because the Menu varies widely with the timings in the day. 0630-0730, one gets Idli-Chutney, 0730-1330 one gets only Masala Dosa, Rawa Idli, Khara bath, Gulab Jamun, Kesari Bath – but all with only chutney !! Beware if you ask for Sambhar – that will expose your non-traditional roots. We hit MTR for breakfast at 0830 and were ushered into the Deluxe Family Room upstairs (behind the water cooler).
• We of course managed to overcome the MTR visit with a visit to the MTR1924, a hipper version of MTR, started in Malls. We gorged into sumptuous Rava Masala Dosa (Masala being a separate potato vegetable called Sagu), “actual” Masala Dosa, filter kapi.
• Sankay Tank (lake) in Malleswaram is a beautiful jogging spot for the TamBrahms living closeby. One could jog in Lalbagh or in Cubbon Park too. But none of them could match the class of Jogger’s Park or Priyadarshini Park in Mumbai (OK, OK, both man-made, I admit).
• Very few street eating joints like Vada-Pav stalls or Bhelpuri-Panipuri stalls like in Mumbai and Delhi. Possibly because rent is low here and such people can rent a small shop instead of running an illegal stall, as in Mumbai.
• There were at least 10 Biryani chains and 100 outlets I came across the drive from MG Road to Bommanahalli on Hosur Road, a 10-km drive. Ammi’s Exec Biryani and Ambur Biryani topped the list of maximum number of outlets.
• Other than Biryani (or Biriyani, as spelt in many outlets), one finds Bakery shops as every 10th shop on the streets. I remember the chain of Iyengar Bakery outlets from my stay here 20 years back. There are many more now, of course. Bread and Cakes remain a popular choice of Bengalurites even now.
MG Road-Brigade Road is still the same, art gallery along MG Road is a superb stunt, traffic is terrible, bikes jostle for space with cars. Energy is definitely on the rise!!

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