http://blogs.birminghampost.co.uk/business/

A Postcard from Gurgaon

By Mike Loftus on Oct 23, 11 06:40 PM in


Along with pretty much everything else in India, a ride in a taxi brings its own particular delights and novelties. Your driver will agree very confidently as you give him the address and set off chatting and purposeful. Generally all goes well until you are a kilometre from the destination, when the fine tuning of the journey becomes a little more inventive.

Pretty soon it's a fairly comprehensive effort involving passers by, security guards from nearby buildings, and other taxi drivers who are all part of the intensive joint effort to locate and direct the driver to the precise spot you require. After a few taxi journeys you get acclimatised but the first time is a bit disconcerting particularly as in my case that first time was a journey through a Mumbai almost emptied by an ongoing terrorist outrage and where it was far from certain what might lie in waiting round the next wrong turn.

Though the taxi driver's life isn't made any easier by a somewhat cavalier approach to addresses. An appointment today was at no 1, xxxx Marg. Number 2 ( and indeed sitting next to number 2, numbers 3 and 4) was found with the usual communal effort but of no 1, no sight. It was eventually revealed to be about half a mile further down the road. As this was the HQ of one of India's mega-corporates, I can only assume that only 'number 1' could possibly serve as an address and so was usurped from its rightful plot and attached instead to the top company's building.

Anyway, my initial taxi journey took me to the new city of Gurgaon which sits just outside the Delhi boundary about an hour - on a good-ish day - from the Dehli centre. Its worth recalling that when the centre of Delhi was laid out by the British in the early 20th century , it was with monumental buildings, fine treelined boulevards and a sense of style and dignity which is still very apparent even if a little frayed at some of the edges. Dehli wasn't built to be capital of India but to be the alternate capital and second city of the global British empire - from where a large part of the empire would be administered.

Post independence, Delhi became essentially a city of government. When India's new growth became more apparent in the late 1990s and began to have a physical impact in Mumbai and other cities, you get the impression that Delhi found all of this commercial activity a bit beneath its dignity. The growing Indian businesses and those from overseas eager to stake a claim in the capital instead found a less prim attitude to development in Gurgaon - and in Noida to the north of the capital.

And it is here that India got its own dose of the Pudong-Dubai virus with rampant development and a skyline festooned with tower cranes. However India doesn't seem to have been taken with the relentless skyward thrust of these competitors. The new development is Gurgaon is remarkable for its sheer bulk and mass - many of the buildings resemble nothing more than lines of small hills - the Malverns from a distance, say. Once you lower your eyes to street level, however, its all very emphatically still India.

And at that level what is it that is most occupying the man in the street in Gurgaon - and elsewhere in India ( when he isn't advising stray taxi drivers). The print and electronic media are fairly clear - its a new and heightened attempt to deal with corruption in public and commercial life. A campaign initiated by veteran activist Anna Hazare earlier this year with a Gandi inspired hunger strike had led to proposals for new legislation and an ongoing campaign. The Chief Minister of Karnatka is currently in jail seeking bail in the light of corruption allegations; the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu has been resisting attempt to bring her to court in neighbouring state.
India has to an extent suffered from having moved from an over-regulated economy - where 'corruption' was a way round the rules to get anything done, to one where the real benefits of rapid growth are overlaid with the urgent desire to make money quickly. There now seems a greater willingness to recognise openly the extent and impact of corruption - almost every conversation I have had raises it directly or by allusion - and among the more confident a sense that there is ground swell among many that may begin to make some impact.

As with so much else in India, change and new opportunity is the recurring theme - delivering change and securing huge opportunity is the challenge.

Business authors

David Bailey

David Bailey - Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School, Birmingham
My postings | David Bailey's RSS feed My feed

Stuart Pemble

Stuart Pemble - Construction Lawyer, Mills & Reeve
My postings | Stuart Pemble's RSS feed My feed

John Clancy

John Clancy - Birmingham City Councillor and director of mediafuturesalert.com and justliteracy.com
My postings | John Clancy's RSS feed My feed

John Samuels

John Samuels - Professor of Business Finance, Birmingham Business School
My postings | John Samuels's RSS feed My feed

Chris Tomlinson

Chris Tomlinson - Chris Tomlinson is the founder of social media and online PR agency Friend (frienddigital.com)
My postings | Chris Tomlinson's RSS feed My feed

Andrew Whitehead

Andrew Whitehead - Senior partner at law firm SGH Martineau, leading the firm's Energy & Climate Change practice.
My postings | Andrew Whitehead's RSS feed My feed

Keith Gabriel

Keith Gabriel - A Birmingham-based PR Account Manager
My postings | Keith Gabriel's RSS feed My feed

Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen - Lecturer, Design Management, at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BCU
My postings  | Beverley Nielsen'a RSS feed My feed

Mike Loftus

Mike Loftus - Director of News from the Future Ltd. Writing on the trials of setting up your own business
My postings | Mike Loftus's RSS feed My feed

Richard Halstead

Richard Halstead - Midlands region director for EEF, the manufacturers organisation.
My postings | Richard Halstead's RSS feed My feed

Karl Edge

Karl Edge - partner at KPMG in Birmingham, specialising in automotive, manufacturing and house building sectors.
My postings | Karl Edge's RSS feed My feed

Peter Owen

Peter Owen - Managing director for construction firm Willmott Dixon Midlands.
My postings | Peter Owen's RSS feed My feed

Dr Steven McCabe

Dr Steven McCabe - director of research degrees for Birmingham City Business School.
My postings | Dr Steven McCabe's RSS feed My feed

Francis Greene

Francis Greene - Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at the University of Birmingham.
My postings

Alan Gilmour

Alan Gilmour - Director at Cogent Elliott, experienced in marketing, brand development and customer relationship management.
My postings

Paul Noon

Paul Noon - Paul Noon, OBE, West Midlands International Trade Director at UK Trade & Investment.
My postings

Latest Birmingham Post Lifestyle blog

Lifestyle Blog

Birmingham Post staff and guest bloggers from the midlands give you the lowdown on what's happening in your region and some musings on culture in the UK and beyond.

Keep up to date

Sponsored Links