BANGALORE - The
By Aparna Datta
Over the past decade, Bangalore has acquired a distinct position
as IT capital, and the visible landmarks by way of real estate
largely define the new character of the city. The urban landscape
is changing rapidly, with the south-east quadrant of Bangalore,
comprising Whitefield, Sarjapur Ring Road and Koramangala,
providing the momentum. There are opportunities galore for
entrepreneurs – the symbiotic existence of real estate
developers and business people has seen Bangalore develop
into one of Asia’s fastest growing cities.
The decade of the 1990s had been a roller-coaster ride for
developers – after years of reasonably steady growth,
the market reached dizzying heights in the mid-nineties and
then came crashing down in 1997-98. In retrospect, the market
was indeed overheated, and savvier players now admit that
a correction was badly needed, and that the current situation
is far more realistic. To be sure, a number of people got
hurt, however, in the process, the market has matured, and
genuine customers are now realizing more value in their transactions.
For one thing speculative activity, which characterized the
so-called boom phase, has virtually ended. Developers acknowledge
that most buyers today – be they institutions or individuals
– are end-users, and servicing these customers leads
to a mutually satisfying relationship. This has also raised
the bar in terms of professionalism, since buyers can afford
to be more particular, and developers have accordingly upgraded
their service standards.
Boom in IT sector drives growth
The key driver of the recovery has been the sustained demand
from the Information Technology (IT) sector. Since 1998, Bangalore
has been on a new trajectory. If there’s one event that
marked the shift, it has got to be the ‘Bangalore IT.com’
– the mega-show mounted by the Government of Karnataka
in November 1998 that turned the tide and put Karnataka firmly
on the growth track. Since that milestone event, which is
now an annual show, there is no doubt as to Bangalore’s
position as the IT – nay intellectual - capital of India,
as some people would fondly have it.
The IT sector comprises not only software and hardware, but
also a whole range of IT-enabled services such as call-centres,
medical transcription and back-end operations for insurance
firms. And today, the buzz-word is BPO, short for Business
Process Outsourcing, for which Bangalore is rapidly becoming
a global hub. Over the past four years, many Indian companies
have started up, many others have expanded their businesses,
and multinational corporations have increased their presence
manifold. U.S. companies continue to move some of their operations
to India to take advantage of lower costs. Human resources
being a key element, the hiring and housing of people, both
at their workplaces and homes, take on critical proportions;
creating spaces, for people to live and work in, becomes infrastructure
development that is essential for growth.
New dimensions in real estate
Over the last five years, the market has seen qualitative
shifts in real estate development, with promoters increasingly
enamoured with the opportunities offered by the IT sector.
Ten years ago, “Group Housing” used to be the
‘in’ thing; today the buzz is “Software
Park maadi”. Design concepts have evolved to international
standards and institutional clients now vie with each other
to create establishments that reflect their image and stock
valuations! The trend today is to set up campus-style establishments,
owned outright, with a distinctive corporate stamp, rather
than operate in leased spaces in commercial complexes. Asset
creation has taken on new meaning – Spartan, functional
office blocks are giving way to ‘intelligent’
buildings and landscaped exteriors worthy of a world-class
business center, for indeed, Bangalore ranks amongst the top
ten IT centers of the world. In recent years, the International
Tech Park at Whitefield, the Infosys City in Electronics City
and the Wipro corporate office on Sarjapur Road – to
name just a few projects - have become distinctive additions
to the urban landscape of Bangalore, such that Sri Atal Behari
Vajpayee, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, during a
visit to Infosys, Bangalore in January 2001, said “…I
must add here that, previously, foreign dignitaries were never
satisfied without a visit to the Taj Mahal. Now they are not
satisfied without visiting a wonder of modern India –
namely, the IT Centres in Bangalore…”
Prime areas of development
The locations of these new ‘temples of modern India’
give a clue to the emerging direction and concentration of
real estate development in Bangalore. Most developers aver
that the ‘IT corridor’ starting in Whitefield,
arcing through the Koramangala – Sarjapur Road area,
into the Hosur Road/Electronics City – Bannerghatta
area, is where the maximum development is taking place.
The action on the corporate front, however, belies the potential
for retail housing for individual home-owners. Much of the
new wealth that the IT sector has created is also flowing
into property, and developers insist that demand remains strong
for apartment ownership. This certainly gladdens the heart
of property developers who remain committed to creating homes
for individual buyers as they believe that this is the route
to a long-term customer relationship.
Reputed builders create quality housing stock
Over the last decade, some developers have emerged as front-runners
in the real estate market in Bangalore. Much like the IT superstars,
these builders too have created landmark properties with a
distinctive stamp, and may also be credited with raising the
profile of Bangalore in terms of housing. Prominent among
these are the Prestige Group, Puravankara Projects, Rahejas,
Brigade Group, Embassy, Gopalan Enterprises, India Builders
Corporation, Shobha Developers, to name just a few. These
builders have contributed significantly to Bangalore’s
reputation for quality construction, which in fact scores
higher than that found in the cities in the North and West
Apart from the architectural profiles, many developers have
consistently made innovations, improving the standard features
in each project, and also display a sense of mission and values.
Says Mr Rezwan Razack, Managing Director of the Prestige Group,
“We have a strong commitment to preserving the heritage
Developers today also contribute to the upgradation of infrastructure
in the surrounding area. The section of Hosur Road near the
Prestige Acropolis in Koramangala has a surface that is vastly
superior compared to adjacent sections; indeed, Prestige were
also instrumental in getting the bridge near Mico widened.
Most quality builders today subscribe to CRISIL ratings,
and this factor is increasingly beginning to distinguish the
big players from the small. With the earthquake in Gujarat
having raised awareness on quake-proof structures, and with
Bangalore too having suffered a mild tremor as an after-shock,
people having been questioning the safety of high-rise buildings.
On which Mr Ravi Puravankara, Chairman of Puravankara Projects
Ltd., had this comment: “Buildings don’t kill
people – bad construction does”.
Bangalore is in the low-risk seismic category; even so, most
quality builders confidently state that their projects incorporate
the necessary reinforcements for safe structures.
Security also ranks high on the potential home-owners check-list.
Puravankara has a large NRI clientele and recognizing the
need to “lock up and go” now incorporates superior
safety and security systems in all their projects, including
the upcoming Purva Fairmont in HSR Layout and Purva Parkridge
on the Ring Road near Marathahalli.
Lung space is an important criterion and many high-rise residential
buildings leave a large amount of open space. Purva Riviera,
coming up on Airport-Whitefield Road, the Prestige projects
such as Langleigh, and the planned Ozone and Palms in Whitefield,
and the Shobha Developers complexes in south suburban Bangalore,
have created large recreation spaces for all age groups, which
prove to be very attractive for families. All quality residential
complexes, of course, have club-houses and party rooms, not
to mention swimming pools and other sports facilities. Environment-friendly
systems for rainwater-recharging and waste disposal are increasingly
finding a place in the amenities.
New specs for new customers
Over the years, the customer profile for retail housing has
changed dramatically. During the 1980s, the prospective buyer
would have been in his fifties. Today, 23-year- old women
professionals are in the market! Evidently, the IT boom has
created a new segment of customers, who look for different
features in the homes they plan to purchase. For this customer,
connectivity and the back-up infrastructure to enable SOHO
(small office home office) enterprises are important aspects
and this means that telephone and internet facilities are
fast becoming standard fixtures.
Evidence of new equations in the real estate sector also
comes from the ease in which new players such as Richard Ellis,
Jones Lang LaSalle and other property consultants have integrated
into the market during the last five years. Catering to corporate
clients and high net-worth individuals who look at investment
opportunities in real estate, these multinational firms have
also contributed to greater sophistication and professionalism
in the marketplace. From advisory services in investment property
acquisitions and dispositions to facilities management, these
firms have brought in internationally-accepted practices which
have helped many MNCs decide on Bangalore as a base for their
New facilities for new lifestyles
Apart from technology businesses, the services and entertainment
sectors are also developing rapidly. There is now a greater
thrust towards developing world-class properties. The Innovative
Multiplex on the Outer Ring Road near the Marathahalli junction
and the Kingfisher Speed Zone on Whitefield Road, Mahadevpura
are big attractions on weekends.
The city is currently seeing something of a retail boom.
While Foodworld supermarkets have kept pace with the expansion
of the city over the last five years, a number of other retailers,
such as Fabmall and Sunday to Monday in Koramangala, have
opened up as well.
The most recent trend, of course, is mall mania! The Forum
Mall on Hosur Road is the city’s latest landmark, housing
some of the world’s best-known brands, along with state-of-the
art parking facilities, with an 11-screen multiplex due soon.
If the first phase of Bangalore’s development came
with the PSU colonies in the north, the most recent phase
is the ‘new economy’ infrastructure in the south.
Living and working within a particular area has its own advantages,
and new Bangalore offers all that, and more.
© Aparna Datta, 2004