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Beryl Lieff Benderly , ,

Bangalored

The minute you get off a plane at Bangalore (or, more correctly, Bangaluru), you know you’re someplace different from the general run of Indian cities.  The terminal is sleek, immaculate, and elegant, devoid of the mild chaos that generally seems to characterize Indian public places.  The drivers and guides waiting to pick up their expected arriving passengers hold signs not for tour companies but for international corporations.  The expressway out of the airport is up-to-date and full of private passenger cars and modern taxicabs rather than the motorbikes and tiny motorcycle based vehicles that serve as taxis in other places.  There’s not a cow or an elephant (not usual sights on Indian streets and roads) to be seen.

Your correspondent did not get to spend much time in the city that Indians proudly call their Silicon Valley, but the high-tech prosperity of this digital boom town was obvious in the plush high rises and modern office buildings, not to mention the heavy traffic and billboards advertising lavish residential properties. The influence of this influx of good jobs is obvious throughout the country, in the countless schools and colleges, ranging from fine universities to small places in country towns, that claim to provide education in the arcane arts of high tech.  In addition, ubiquitous billboards promise academic success for graduates of these institutions.. 

Holders of engineering, medical, and other technical degrees, especially those “well-settled” with “MNCs” (multinational corporations), also dominate the matrimonial ads that are a standard feature of Indian newspapers.  In these ads, the parents of both men and women tout their eligible children’s undergraduate and graduate degrees.  Families demand nothing less of the prospective spouses who answer their ads. In addition to the traditional proper caste standing and horoscope, some even specify a desired medical specialty.

The tech-based wealth of Bangalore is so great that the city has begun to suffer from the ills that eventually affect all boom towns.  Bangalore has grown from about 2 million people to an estimated 5.7 million in just the past decade. Crowding, traffic, and high costs, especially for real estate, are daily realities.  The high cost of living is forcing companies to raise salaries in order to continue attracting desirable employees to Bangalore.

American technical workers whose jobs have been “Bangalored,” — outsourced to India — may enjoy the irony that increasing pay is already causing some Bangalore-based jobs to be “Phillipined” or “Vietnamed.”  Those countries have educated populations that in the former case generally know English and in the latter have a language that uses the Roman alphabet, which makes it much easier for them to learn the language than their Far Eastern competitors.  A couple of years ago, an engineering professor in Vietnam told me of plans to create a “mini-Bangalore” in Saigon.

Some Indian observers note, however, that the jobs moving from nation to nation are generally filled by lower-level scientific and tech workers.  The heavy-duty research, they say, remains in the United States.