Over the past few weeks, the Indian chattering classes have been all astir about a remark President Barack Obama made at a forum about India’s decreasing friendliness towards foreign investment. We’re totally still friendly! politicians across the political spectrum protest (while corporations tend to agree with the criticism).
One place, however, seems to go blithely about its business: Bangalore, which has been a byword for American outsourcing for decades now, and shows no signs of slowing down. If the billboard above is any indication, the state of Karnataka seems to understand its comparative advantage, and won’t let any silly protectionist impulses get in the way.
Much of the actual tech work—the maintenance of billing and customer management systems for giant companies—goes on in sprawling tech parks outside the city. (Some of which, like Electronics City, are really communities unto themselves). I spent my time in Bangalore’s urban core, which is much more crowded with government, university, and military functions than call centers and corporate headquarters. Compared to Chennai, it feels managed, with functioning intersections, well-swept avenues and immaculate public gardens.
Even there, of course, a foreigner sitting on a bench will be approached by young men who want to chat about taking the GRE and hoping to get into a good engineering school in America. Here, that’s just the definition of success.