First Trip to Bangalore: Photos and Impressions (Updated)
I arrived in Bangalore at 1:30am Monday and left and 3:30am Friday, normal flight schedule given the time zone in India and flight schedules from North America and Europe. My itinerary left Washington Dulles Saturday afternoon and stopped over in Frankfurt. There have been books written about the Indian IT services explosion, and four days in Bangalore is not enough to add much to that story. Suffice is to say that Accenture has more employees in India than any other country and its largest single office building is in Bangalore. Accenture is in fact typical, I lost track of the Fortune 500 logos on usually very large buildings. For the size of the IT services business in India, I was still surprised to learn that it is a relatively small portion of the Indian economy. Indian GDP is about $1.2 Trillion, and only $50B of that is IT services. Economic development in Bangalore, and all of India, is occurring much faster that the development of underlying infrastructure. I would love to be selling diesel electric generators there, because every office building has its own. Traffic is congested and chaotic (but I actually don't think it takes longer to get around than it does in LA). The mix of vehicles is fascinating. Swarms of scooters and motorcycles, small cars, trucks, buses and ubiquitous yellow 'auto rickshaws' (little three wheel taxis with what sound like 125cc motorcycle engines). There are also still cows roaming the city, and I could not figure out what they were eating. Dairy products are an important part of the local diet (cheese and yoghurt) and all the cows I saw appeared to be for milk. The cows roam the roads, and create their own traffic challenges. I had a driver named Anbu during my visit, and he was excellent and endless source of information about Bangalore and what we saw driving around. It turned out that Anbu collects scooters, and he was excited about the yellow vespa-ish scooter in the photos. He said it was a 1976 and considered a classic. We also saw an old Lee Enfield motorcycle that Anbu said was made in India and also an old classic (it had a lovingly restored look). I loved pretty much all the food I had in Bangalore, mostly Indian except one evening Thai at the excellent Thai restaurant at the Oberoi Hotel. There were generally two Indian food choices, North Indian and South Indian. North Indian is usually what one sees in Indian restaurants in the US (chicken tikka masala etc). Southern Indian is more rice and bean oriented. In addition, the majority of people at least in Bangalore are vegetarian. The tray of food in the photo is typical of the lunches I ate every day. This one was from the food court across the street from the Accenture Bang4 office. All of the food I had was good, and I was surprised that even cafeteria food tasted freshly cooked and well spiced. My Indian colleagues kept asking if the food was too spicy for me, but it was no hotter than most Thai or Indian food in the US (though I am told by friends that some specific dishes are scorching hot). Bangalore is currently 9.5hrs ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. Because of the time difference days were long (awake early to check the prior afternoon's US email, work all day followed by dinner with colleagues, then back to the hotel to get morning email from the US). I did take a two hour break Thursday afternoon, and Anbu drove me by the Karnataka Parliament House and Law Courts, as well as to a couple of good gift shops. Both gift shops had stacks of business cards from prior Accenture customers and told me how many of my co-workers bought rugs that they shipped back to the US. I was much more modest. There are a lot of festivals in India, and an important one Rama Navami which occurred this year on 24 March. I saw many of the floats from the celebration on the way to the office Wednesday, but the photos do not do them justice. Anbu explained that people stayed up all night partying and dancing to celebrate, and I wondered what this did to productivity the next day.
I stayed at the Leela Palace on Airport Road, which seems to be centrally located, though not actually close to anything. Bangalore is a very spread out city with an occasional denser spot, often where the city has encroached on a preexisting village as it grows. The Leela is very popular with expats coming to Bangalore, and there are not that many choices for good business hotels. I actually think I saw half the business class cabin from my flight checking in with me when I arrived at the hotel. The service at the hotel was excellent, and as I was leaving early Friday morning the man working the front entrance to the Leela offered to have his picture taken with me. He and everyone else I met went out of there way to be helpful. I asked about his uniform and he said it was in a
Rajasthani style, though I think interpreted by the British.
Professionally this was an extremely productive trip, and I have no doubt I will be going back. When I do I will build in a little more sightseeing time.