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READ: Bangalore — City of High Tech

The article below uses “Three Close Reads”. If you want to learn more about this strategy, click here.

First read: preview and skimming for gist

Before you read the article, you should skim it first. The skim should be very quick and give you the gist (general idea) of what the article is about. You should be looking at the title, author, headings, pictures, and opening sentences of paragraphs for the gist.

Second read: key ideas and understanding content

Now that you’ve skimmed the article, you should preview the questions you will be answering. These questions will help you get a better understanding of the concepts and arguments that are presented in the article. Keep in mind that when you read the article, it is a good idea to write down any vocab you see in the article that is unfamiliar to you.
By the end of the second close read, you should be able to answer the following questions:
  1. What problems did British colonialism cause for the Indian economy? Did decolonization fix these problems?
  2. What big technological innovations changed India’s economy in the 1990s? What were its impacts?
  3. How has globalization transformed Bangalore?
  4. What evidence does the author offer for the positive impacts of globalization in Bangalore?
  5. What evidence does the author offer for the negative impacts of globalization in Bangalore?

Third read: evaluating and corroborating

Finally, here are some questions that will help you focus on why this article matters and how it connects to other content you’ve studied.
At the end of the third read, you should be able to respond to these questions:
  1. How has globalization since the 1990s changed communities, networks, and production and distribution in Bangalore? Write down one example of globalization’s effects on Bangalore from each of the three course frames. Now look at your list. Are these examples of positive or negative impacts of globalization?
  2. This article is pretty optimistic about the potential of globalization for Bangalore. Using evidence from this article and others you have encountered in this unit, do you agree? Is intense globalization likely to lead Bangalore to a bright high-tech future?
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to read! Remember to return to these questions once you’ve finished reading.

Bangalore: City of High Tech

Aerial photo of the city of Bangalore at sunset. Cars can be seen commuting down the highway.
By Whitney Howarth
In 1991, India liberalized its economic policies, ushering in a new era of globalization. The city of Bangalore embodies both the opportunities and hazards of globalization.

Globalization and India

India is no stranger to globalization. Two thousand years ago, India was one of the world’s biggest economies, accounting for almost 20 percent of the world’s production and 17 percent of the world’s population. But by 1750, British colonialism had already changed India’s economy. And by 1900, with rapid industrialization still transforming many parts of the world, India had become one of the most under-developed and de-industrialized nations in the world. Despite having immense natural resource wealth and human capital, India’s growth had reversed.
1890 photograph of Main Street in Bangalore. Palm trees line the sides of the road and people can be seen walking.
Main Street, Bangalore, 1890. From the British Library, public domain.
India gained independence from the British Empire in 1947, but government-imposed tariffs (taxes) and restrictions on foreign investment continued to inhibit the country’s economic growth. Imports and exports were limited mostly to machinery and raw materials. All this changed in 1991, when new laws and policies “liberalized” the Indian economy. Economic liberalization just means the removal of governmental regulations. These new free-trade policies have attracted more foreign investment in India as large multi-national corporations continue to open offices and invest in the country.
In the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of young Indians migrated to Europe, Canada, the United States, and the Middle East to go to university, start hi-tech businesses, and build careers in Information Technology (IT). Some of them stayed abroad, but others returned home to India. Many Indians working abroad sent money back home to their families. With this money, they and their families bought property and invested in businesses.
Those migrations coincided – though it’s no coincidence – with the arrival of the internet. Since then, globalization has moved like lightening through cables, rather than ships across oceans. Travel, investment, communication, and the ability to conduct business globally have all been made much easier with the Internet. Many Indians welcomed these new opportunities and became experts in new technologies and data systems.
You probably already know that the internet created lots of jobs in Europe and North America. It also brought new technology jobs to India as tech companies around the world outsourced start superscript, 1, end superscript certain types of labor there. Soon, millions of highly educated Indian engineers, coders, and data specialists found themselves in the center of one of globalization’s most exciting stories: the hi-tech boom!
Photo of an IBM commercial building. “100 Years of Progress” is written on a large banner the covers the front windows.
Since 1991, overall economic growth rates in India have been impressive, but some regions of the country and some sectors of the economy have not fared as well. Today, for example, multi-national businesses and the technology sector are doing quite well in India, but most farmers are struggling to feed their families.
And in general, unemployment has increased. Population and migration trends will see this pattern continue, especially if India continues to grow its hi-tech economy and fails to develop other sectors of its economy like agriculture and manufacturing. The boom for some is a bust for others.

Globalization’s boom city

One city that has transformed since India’s economic liberalization is Bangalore. In the 1950s and 1960s, Bangalore was known throughout India as the “Pensioner’s squared Paradise” because it was seen as an ideal spot for retirees looking for a relaxed city with a mild climate and lush green parks. In 1955, the city’s population was just under one million. Most of the city’s working population were educated and worked in government offices and research institutions. But in less than fifty years, globalization, urbanization, and liberalization transformed Bangalore into one of the most over-crowded and cosmopolitan cities in all of Asia.
The city of Bangalore is now home to one of the most highly educated workforces in the world. Known as “The Silicon Valley of India”, this city of nearly 12 million rivals New York City in size. It is the third-largest city in India, a country of over a billion people. Bangalore is home to some of the most successful technology companies and leading universities in India. Offices of Microsoft, IBM, Infosys and Wipro – giants of the software and IT world – stand shoulder to shoulder in towering glass structures within guarded, gated, pristine campuses on the outskirts of the city. Their campuses keep their employees separated from the dusty roads, endless construction, noisy crowds, and wooden carts and cows that wander the city streets. Bangalore is one of the fastest growing cities in India, and city planners have predicted that Bangalore’s population will continue to increase dramatically, reaching 20.3 million by 2031. Bangalore embodies the post-1991 boom.
Bangalore in 2011. By Muhammad Mahdi Karim, GFDL 1.2.

Globally connected and creative

Bangalore is big, yes, but it’s also hip and innovative. People flock to this city for the cosmopolitan lifestyle and global diversity they find here. Noted as one of the most liberal and progressive cities in India, it also has a history of religious pluralism. The city has had an LGBTQ pride march every year since 2008. Bangalore was the seat of the British colonial administration in the region and a center of military, railroad, and telegraph infrastructure. In 1906, Bangalore became one of the first Indian cities to have telephone lines and electricity. Diverse populations have, for centuries, inhabited the city. Today it is home to over 1,000 Hindu temples, 400 Islamic mosques, 100 Christian churches, 40 Jain houses of worship, 3 Sikh gurdwaras, two Buddhist viharas, one Parsi Fire temple, one Baha’i worship center, and a Chabad, home to a growing Hasidic Jewish community with ancient roots.
Bangalore’s global connections have also made it a creative hub. It’s home to the Kannada-language film industry, featuring mega-stars whose salaries rival their Hollywood counterparts. Over 60 million people speak Kannada around the world. The films produced in Bangalore are released on screens in over 25 countries world-wide. There are over 225 screens showing Kannada films in Bangalore alone. You’ll also find some of those screens showing Hollywood block-busters, German films, Kung-Fu classics, and the latest independent films from art houses in Paris. Music production centers, animation studios, and video game developers are all thriving in Bangalore.
Bustling with pubs and clubs, the city is known for its night life. Bangalore is also a Mecca for young, urban, Indian youth seeking high-paying jobs in the new “knowledge economy”. Many young, educated Indians find work in one of Bangalore’s hundreds of call centers and multi-national corporations. At night, Commercial Street glows with neon lights advertising shops that sell Benetton, Adidas and Calvin Klein. Bangalore was home to India’s first Pizza Hut (1996) and India’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken (1995). Smart phones and stereos fill the electronic markets on SP Road, where fashionable young Bangaloreans come to spend paychecks their parents’ generation could only dream of earning.
Photo of a busy street at night in Bangalore. Billboards, neon signs, and various different businesses line the sidewalks.
Commercial Street, Bangalore. By GatesPlusPlus, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Too big, too fast?

Bangalore looks like one of the most successful globalization stories of the last 30 years, but that success has come with a cost. The booming industries, vibrant culture, and mild climate have attracted migrants at a surprising rate. Bangalore is growing so fast that the town’s water and electricity infrastructure can’t keep up. Most days, the city endures hours of scheduled and unscheduled power outages. This makes life hard for people who can’t afford generators. Some neighborhoods report 12-hour outages at the peak of summer, when temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
These energy problems have been made worse by the depletion of India’s natural resources. Bangalore, once known as “the Garden City,” is now facing water shortages as its natural water supplies are drying up. Poor city planning and rapid development have caused extensive deforestation. As the world’s climate changes, rainfall in India is diminishing each year. Since the city’s lakes and wells are drying up, people depend on expensive tankers that ship in water from distant locations. Some planners predict that if the city continues to grow at its current rate, it may be uninhabitable by 2030. Outdated sewage infrastructure and air pollution create health hazards in poor neighborhoods. Urban crowding and housing shortages create serious problems, especially for the many people not making top salaries in the hi-tech world.
Still, the excitement and promise of this global city continues to attract job seekers and young dreamers from all over India. Over a million Bangaloreans live in the slums, but the city also claims over 8,000 millionaires and 33 billionaires. This is a city with an educated and innovative population, capable of seizing the opportunities of globalization in the twenty-first century—if they can overcome its challenges.
Author bio
Whitney Howarth, is an Associate Professor of History at Plymouth State University where she specializes in modern world history and the history of India. Dr. Howarth has taught world history at the college level since 1999 and was, for nearly a decade, a research fellow at Northeastern’s World History Center, where she assisted in the research, design and creation of professional development programs for high school world history teachers, hosted seminars by top world historical scholars, and produced multi-media publications (1995-2004).

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