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BW Businessworld

Rise Of The Dark Knight

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Gurgaon — a part of the National Capital Region — is fast catching up with its bigger neighbour, Delhi. It is now among the top three competitive cities in India, behind only the national and the financial capitals of the country. Its ranking rose three places in 2014, with an overall score of 64.10 as against Mumbai and Delhi, which scored 70.06 and 73.13, respectively.

According to the India City Competitiveness Index 2014 — published by the Institute for Competitiveness — Gurgaon fared well on indicators such as communication environment and business incentives.

That is quite a surprise as, until a few years ago, Gurgaon was far from being a popular destination for doing business. Every summer, the city faced frequent and long power cuts. It, in fact, mostly survived on private power back-up. The situation improved only after some local industrialists met with the government in October 2013 to find a solution. The government, which promised to improve the situation by January 2015, installed 16 new substations. It spent Rs 581.82 crore to bring the city out of ‘darkness’. Now, Gurgaon boasts of a renewable energy park, which cost around Rs 2 crore to build. Result: The city scored a total of 93.54 points in business incentive.

But power was not the only problem the city was beset with. Despite being the city with the best of the IT industry, Gurgaon was often criticised for its poor infrastructure — seen as a restricting factor to growth. People living or working in the city had no option but to travel in poorly maintained private buses or highly unsafe ‘shuttle’ autos. Things didn’t change much even after the Metro reached Gurgaon as many, not living in the vicinity of Metro stations, continued to have a tough time making the best of this modern transport system. The government’s long-term planning has, however, started bearing fruit. The monorail, launched in November 2013, now connects different commercial hubs in the city and provides the last-mile connectivity with the Metro.

The situation is likely to improve further as the municipality, in its 2014 budget, has allocated Rs 500 crore solely for infrastructure projects like underpasses, flyovers, roads and bridges out of the total budget of Rs 889 crore. The government has also started a low-floor bus service in the city, which will provide relief to Gurgaon’s burgeoning population.

All Sparkle: Gurgaon scored a total of 93.54 points in business incentive and has largely overcome its power problem (Photograph by Sanjay Sakaria)

“The infrastructure in Gurgaon has improved drastically over the past few years, and today, I find it much more convenient to travel in Gurgaon than in Delhi’s Greater Kailash,” says Rattan Kapur, chairman, Haryana state council, CII.

One area where the city’s ranking has slipped is ‘institutional support and supplier sophistication’. It ranked 17th in 2014, compared to its 11th spot in 2013.

The city still suffers during the monsoon as large swathes of its residential as well as commercial areas face water-logging which, in turn, lead to massive traffic snarls.

Gurgaon can, however, improve its performance on parameters related to finances, communication, administrative capacity and innovation, where it ranks 11th, much below Chennai, which ranks third in these particular areas. In ‘income distribution’ and ‘demographics’, Gurgaon scored 67.24 and 58.52, taking the seventh position in the index.

Although Gurgaon has seen a marked improvement in its ranking, to rise further, it will have to deal with the challenges of increasing crime, a skewed sex ratio and the high cost of living. Kapur believes that with resident welfare associations and the police working together to control crime, Guragon will do well in the future on these parameters too.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 01-12-2014)