It is, of course, not all depressing. There are plenty of things to be happy about also. Take for example the wonder that is Tata IndiOne. This is a hotel which offers Smart Basics for under Rs 1,000 a night. I had read about the one in Bangalore and this time I stayed there. The hotel is in Whitefield, diagonally across from SAP. Considering that most hotels today charge upwards of Rs 2,000 for a decent room (probably a lot higher in Bangalore where occupancy rates are close to 100%), this was one stay I was looking forward to with expectation.
The room itself, though small in size, has everything that a business traveller needs. The hotel has done away with room-service. However, there was no reason for me to pick the phone and call for any help. I paid Rs 900 + 8% tax for a single room. A double room would have cost me Rs 50 more. The breakfast buffet cost me Rs 50. I paid Rs 67 for a 30-minute WiFi connection (an hour would have cost Rs 100).
Tata IndiOne is a great example of bottom-up innovation. They set the price point first, and then worked backwards, redesigning everything from scratch to make sure they reached the target price. Will I stay there again? You bet! And I hope they rapidly set up hotels in all the other Indian cities also. (There are plans to set up 100 such hotels across India.)
Magarpatta City in Pune was another revelation. Situated at the eastern end of Pune, it takes some time getting to. But once you are in there, it is a different world. Artfully constructed residential apartments and glassy office buildings complement the greenery around. It is like being in a different world.
Palm Meadows in Bangalore falls in the same category. The newly opened domestic airport terminal in Mumbai extension is another shining example of if we want, we can do things well. The irony, as a friend put it, is that even as we are constructing world-class private spaces, our public spaces remain, for the most, quite pathetic. Nowhere was this more apparent than the Adlabs in Kalyaninagar in Pune. Great interiors and exterior but just take a look at the road outside. Why, oh, why?
This is the question I was pondering on my journey back home from Pune. On the one hand, as we see the quality of new homes and offices being constructed in the cities, they are extraordinarily good. And yet, when we look at the infrastructure around, it is depressing. One can understand that India is in growth mode, but that is no excuse for messing things up. My thoughts wandered to technology and us citizens. Is there something we can do pro-actively to helping build a better India? After all, we are all living in it!
Tomorrow: What We Can Do
TECH TALK Building a Better India+T