My Thoughts and Expressions
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Bangalore Can Be India’s Smartest City

Image Courtesy: Flickr/Google
As a city recognized by the world for its IT excellence, Bangalore has a global brand appeal.  Bangalore has leveraged its technological capital to create the world's second fastest growing start-up ecosystem, attracting venture capital at the highest pace of investment in the world according to Compass, a San Francisco based Global Start-up Ecosystem Ranking Agency.

Thanks to its technology led economy, Bangalore boasts the highest per capita income in the country, with 80% of Fortune 500 companies running operations in the city, supporting one of the fastest growing real estate markets in India. In fact, Bangalore has everything that is needed to make it the smartest city in the country and a model for others to emulate.

To transform Bangalore into a world class city we need all the city’s key stakeholders: the government and its citizens, to stand on a common platform to drive better governance and an improved quality of life by collectively addressing the challenges of the city in the areas of social, civic and physical infrastructure.

  • Bangalore cannot become a smart city if schoolchildren spend 5 hours traveling to and from school every day.
  • Bangalore cannot become a smart city if over $6 billion worth of man-hours are lost annually because of traffic gridlocks.
  • Bangalore cannot become a smart city if it is forced to contend with crippling power outages every day.
  • Bangalore cannot become a smart city if 96% of its treated water is wasted and the majority of its 150 lakes are allowed to dry up.
  • Bangalore cannot become a smart city if we continue to rank alongside Delhi and Mumbai in the number of crimes against women and children.

If we really want Bangalore to realize its potential of becoming India’s smartest city we need a development roadmap. We need fresh thinking, collective efforts and innovative solutions to solve the city’s myriad problems. The goal should be to find new solutions for old challenges and come up with creative ideas for delivering a good quality of life in a sustainable and enduring manner. This is of crucial importance as the city’s population is projected to exceed 16 million by 2020 from 10 million today.

Towards A Smart City

A smart city is one that offers citizens an optimal work-life balance through seamless and efficient mobility, round-the-clock safety and security and long-term environmental sustainability.

We must therefore measure ‘smartness’ on the metrics of health, sanitation, safety and mobility.


Bangalore has a road density of 8.2 km per square km compared with Delhi’s 21.6 km per square km. With 5 million vehicles on Bangalore’s roads, vehicle density in the city is almost at par with Delhi. As a result, the average speed on the city’s roads during peak hours is as low as 15 km per hour.

As there is very little scope for expansion of roads, Bangalore needs to construct elevated corridors to ease the traffic pressure. The elevated corridor on Hosur Road has proved to be a huge boon for IT workers travelling to Electronic City as it has drastically reduced their commute times.

The Karnataka government is in the process of implementing an ambitious plan to ease traffic congestion by constructing elevated ‘road on road’ North-South and East-West corridors.  Given that time consuming land acquisition is avoided using this approach, the Government must aim to speedily implement this project by 2018.
The Bangalore Metro rail was intended to provide an efficient and cost-effective solution for suburban commuters, but the project is woefully behind schedule. Not even 50% of the 42 km network envisaged in the first phase of the Metro rail project is functional.  Construction for the second phase totalling 115 km is yet to start.  The government must get serious and expedite the completion of both phases of this vital mobility link and simultaneously augment the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation’s (BMTC) bus fleet to boost the city’s public transport system.

As for the roads of Bangalore, these are the eternal brunt of scathing criticism from the deadly pot holes to spine injuring speed breakers.  Bangalore’s TenderSURE roads are a pride of the city as they are well designed and world class.  The Government has announced an additional 50 roads to be developed under these design specifications.  However, it is a matter of grave concern that many of the first set of TenderSURE roads are still unfinished and ones completed have been dug up again!  This reflects poorly on the BBMP and its supervising engineers.  If projects are shoddily done, we cannot be smart!

The government also needs to make Bangalore a pedestrian-friendly city in the next few years by constructing 200 km of well-designed and standardized footpaths every year. TenderSURE has already paved the way!


We need to make Bangalore one of the safest cities in the country for women and children by taking strong and decisive measures.

As a technology rich city, the government must leverage mobile apps and GPS systems on all forms of public transport from cabs to buses and connect them with the Police to deliver a quick emergency response to crime and accidents.
Other measures should focus on traffic discipline, rules that ban tinted glasses and cancellation of licenses pertaining to drunken and rash driving.  We should emulate the point system followed by many western countries that leads to licenses being revoked. 

The Government would also do well in supporting women drivers for schemes like B.PAC’s ‘Gulabi Auto’ which seeks to ensure the safety of women in public transport by having women own and drive autorickshaws.

The government should implement a zero- tolerance program using the tools of education, social sanction, public shaming, speedy police and judicial action and timely provision of safety related infrastructure.


Waste management is key to building a smart city. However, Bangalore has failed to manage its waste scientifically despite being the science capital of India. Various citizens’ initiatives have been pressed into action for over a decade, time and again to sensitize citizens on the importance of effective waste segregation through Kasa Muktha etc but lack of political will and strong truck mafia has never allowed such initiatives to be successful, thus turning  our ‘garden city’ into a ‘garbage laden city’ . This is extremely alarming as it poses a serious health threat to people in Bangalore. We need to address this issue on war-footing if indeed we want our future generations to breathe in fresh air and live a healthy life.

Another environmental challenge facing our city today is the gradual extinction of lakes which were a lifeline to the flora and fauna of our city for decades. Its most unfortunate that today Bangalore is grabbing international attention on account of its polluted lakes which puts all Bangloreans to shame.

The government needs to implement lake restoration plan in a time-bound, cost-effective manner ensuring the decongestion and restoration of the storm water drain network that feeds these lakes. The depleting water table is another issue facing Bangalore. While rain water harvesting scheme was introduced a few years ago, weak implementation has resulted in it being a scheme on paper with no measurable impact on the ecosystem. This needs immediate correction with citizens participation.
Similarly another important intervention in the direction of ecological sustainability is to promote the use of green power or alternative energy.

Karnataka is blessed with bright sunlight throughout the year, and Bangalore is best suited to become a role model in the area of effective use of solar energy. ‘Going green’ with the use of  electric energy for automobiles is another area where Bangalore has already taken the lead. Last year, the government launched an ambitious project of generating power from the rooftop, under which all households and commercial set ups were encouraged to install solar panels on the rooftop. The energy thus generated can be used for their captive needs or sold to the grid. Subsidies from the government on the purchase of equipment could go a long way in encouraging more and more citizens to come forward and adopt this ‘green’ energy.


As an IT hub, Bangalore has been at the forefront in adopting technology for ‘ease of use’ of standard services. ‘Bangalore One’ has been once such initiative which has consolidated the availability of some of the civic services under one roof with a click of a button.  There is an urgent need to expand this use of technology to ensure transparency and better governance that will go a long way in building trust between the government and the citizens.

Use of smart technology can help us find innovative solutions for many of the archaic processes.  The digitization of land records can make all transactions traceable, as well as prevent building, road and lake encroachments.

We need to build robust platforms for e-procurement, e-tendering, e-documentation which will bring in transparency and accountability, and will ensure greater accessibility and efficiency.

The Jan Dhan Yojana, introduced nationwide recently, is a good example of how technology can lead to better outcomes. It is already helping the poor get access to direct financial aid, thus improving the effectiveness of existing financial inclusion strategies.

Making e-governance the basis of delivery across a plethora of services will bring in a paradigm change in the lives of Bangaloreans.  

Transforming Bangalore

As citizens of Bangalore we need to take ownership of restoring the past glory of our city. We must collectively make a concerted effort to engage with the political system to ensure that all the necessary issues are addressed. So far with our apathy, we have been a part of the problem; with engagement, we need to be a part of the solution. We must reinvent Bangalore. And to do that we the citizens need to reinvent ourselves.

To quote the greatest theoretical physicist of our time, Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Strengthening the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in the ‘Ideas Economy’

Image Courtesy: Google 

The global economy is today faced with the spectre of rising unemployment. According to the International Labor Organization, the world economy will need to generate nearly 280 million new jobs between 2015 and the end of 2019 to make up for the ground lost during the last recession and ensure new entrants to the labor market can find work.

It is this realization that is driving policy-makers the world over to increasingly recognize the job creation potential of start-ups. Germany is looking at a start-up initiative to create more than 100,000 new jobs by 2020. UK has an Entrepreneurial Action Plan which has seen tech start-ups increase from 200 in 2010 to 1,200 in 2013. Israel is running a ‘Startup City Tel Aviv’ program to create an early stage innovation ecosystem that can extend to Europe and beyond.

India, on its part, needs to create 10 million jobs per year for the next 10 years to sustain acceptable Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.

To generate such a large volume of employment, the job market of the future will not be able to solely rely on the traditional pillars of lifetime employment in large companies and the public sector. Clearly there needs to be an alternate channel that creates these multiple jobs. The recent success of some of the start-ups in India indicates that more of such enterprises can lead to creation of millions of job opportunities. However in order to unleash this entrepreneurial potential we need a robust ecosystem, which is currently in a very nascent state, primarily because culturally we are a risk averse nation.

The need of the hour therefore is to create an enabling ecosystem that encourages a  flourishing ‘start-up’ culture in the country.

As a first generation entrepreneur who started my own business in response to an unsuccessful job pursuit, I can attest to the advantages of self-employment. I turned to entrepreneurship quite by accident and became a job creator rather than a job seeker. Instead of the one job that I was seeking then, I have created over 7,500 jobs today. If I add the ancillary businesses that my company relies on or supports, it has had a multiplier effect.

In building my company Biocon, I was a beneficiary of the visionary political leadership in the state that led to the creation of an enabling context for the incubation of successful start-ups in Bangalore.

The financial support lent by the Karnataka State Financial Corporation in the early 1980s to pioneering companies like Biocon and Infosys, promoted by first generation entrepreneurs with no business track record, has led to Bangalore’s emergence as an ‘IT & BT Hub.’

Key differentiators such as the availability of venture capital funds through initiatives like the Karnataka Information Technology Venture Capital Fund (KITVEN) and the presence of premier academic institutions such as Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have also contributed to make the city a fertile field for innovative start-ups to bloom.

Bangalore today accounts for nearly 30% of the country's start-ups. The city provides a conducive entrepreneurial ecosystem that links research, capital and technology-led ideas to the market place.

India needs a similar innovation ecosystem that enables entrepreneurs to propel ideas into sustainable businesses, which in turn will have a multiplier effect on job creation and value accretion for the economy.
The Ideas Economy

Today technology is unshackling innovation through entrepreneurial zeal like never before. No longer is value creation linked to scale but to the power of the idea.  

Information technology, communication technology and biotechnology are rapidly and disruptively changing the way we communicate, educate, medicate and eradicate.  

In 2014 the global Biotech sector raised $40 billion through venture funds, private equity and IPOs - the highest ever to date. Add information and communication technology (ICT) and this number zooms to $200 billion. These “technopreneurs” are all focused on breakthrough ideas and money is chasing every one of them.

Not everyone will succeed but we are already seeing fantastic valuations being ascribed to young entrepreneurs who are as smart as they come in terms of innovative business models. Eg. Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Amazon and Uber to name but a few. This has created the 'start-up' revolution the world over from Boston to Bangalore, from Sydney to Singapore and from Trondheim to Tel Aviv.

We are today witnessing the birth of the “ideas economy,” where the value of a company is measured by its “innovation quotient” rather than traditional metrics such as revenue, profit, physical assets etc. The potential of the WhatsApp messaging platform to change the way the world communicates led Facebook to pay an “innovation premium” resulting in a blockbuster deal value of US$19 billion. The power of the idea is being reinforced by the dizzying valuations being commanded by companies like Snapchat (US$16 billion), Uber (US$40 billion) and Xiaomi Corp (US$45 billion)!

The fact that this "innovation premium" is getting larger over the years is illustrated by a Bloomberg analysis that traces this through the Amazon and Netflix public offerings in 1998 and 2002 at values of just US$450 million and $750 million respectively, followed by the Google IPO in 2004 at a value of US$23 billion, which in turn quadrupled to the US$100 billion IPO that Facebook had in 2012. Whilst all these companies have similar risk-return profiles, the investor appetite for “new ideas” has emerged only recently. 

India is also experiencing the changes being brought about by the birth of the “ideas economy.” According to market reports, the Indian start-up sector received more than US$4 billion in funding in 2014, compared to US$1.8 billion in 2013 and US$760 million in 2012. What’s more, Flipkart (valued at about US$11 billion) and Snapdeal (valued at about US$5 billion) are now worth much, much more than the total market capitalization of India’s major brick-and-mortar retailers.

Unleashing Entrepreneurial Energy

In order to capitalize on the evolving trend, we need to build an enabling ecosystem that unleashes the entrepreneurial energy. An ecosystem that relies on: the ease of starting a business, availability of skilled workers, reliable infrastructure, and has access to capital.

Fast-tracking Approvals Process

Companies today prefer to register their start-ups in the US and Singapore, where it takes significantly less time to start a business compared to India. A multiplicity of laws and regulations has a choking effect on business, which explains India’s 142nd rank on the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index for 2014.

Therefore, the need of the hour is not more regulation but smarter regulation. The government needs to focus on a number of regulatory reforms that will address the ease of doing business, reduce transaction costs and expedite approval timelines. A time-bound approvals system can help fast-track projects, businesses and start-ups, thus improving the business climate in the country. 

Addressing Skill Deficit

There is also an urgent need to create high-skilled jobs that add long-term value to the economy. So far, our academic institutions have focused on churning out a large numbers of graduates with very basic skills. They lack the quality attributes that will make them employable. As a result, manpower in general unskilled category is abundantly available in India however high‐skill areas are facing a talent crunch. It is vital to fix this skill deficit through advanced learning avenues that bridge the gap between industry and academia, science and business. 

Building Reliable Infrastructure

If businesses are to flourish then there is also a huge need to improve roads, rail, ports, power and other infrastructure. India’s infrastructure could require investment of up to US$1.7 trillion by the end of the decade, the World Bank has estimated. Also, low broadband penetration in India means the country is still some distance away from leveraging the Internet for commerce, information and development. We rank a poor 89th among 143 countries on the World Economic Forum's global Network Readiness Index, far behind China’s 62nd position. It is imperative, therefore, that work on the ambitious National Optic Fibre Network to connect 20,000 Indian villages to the Internet via broadband is speeded up. We also need a robust regulatory framework to address concerns over privacy and data safety in the digital space.

Creating a Virtuous Financial Cycle for Innovation

Indians fail to take ‘ideas’ to ‘market’ because unlike in the West, capital is virtually inaccessible here. There isn’t enough public funding available for academia to pursue discovery and invention. Similarly, critical risk and seed capital needed by entrepreneurs to translate concepts into ‘proof of concept’ is hard to come by. Moving ahead in this cycle, industry also finds it difficult to obtain private funding from financial institutions, venture funds and capital markets to innovate and commercialize. India, therefore, needs to create a virtuous financial cycle to realize the nation’s huge entrepreneurial potential. This financial ecosystem will work only if all three components – academia, entrepreneurs and industry – work symbiotically and in tandem.

To set the wheels spinning and make the model self-perpetuating monetization needs to happen at every stage of this cycle. Academia therefore needs to create intellectual property (IP) through its discoveries and inventions that can be licensed to either entrepreneurs or directly to industry with royalty payments upon commercialization. Entrepreneurs need to create value-added IP that can be licensed to industry with royalties upon commercialization. Industry needs to monetize through successful commercialization that enables the payment of royalties.
Laying the Groundwork

Recently, capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India has moved to ease rules and allow start-ups to list and raise capital from domestic stock exchanges through the Institutional Trading Platform. This will open up fresh funding avenues for budding entrepreneurs.

The Narendra Modi government has also shown that it is in sync with the aspirations of a New India and wants to give a big thrust to entrepreneurship in the country.

The government has unveiled The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015. Among other things, the policy seeks to promote a culture of innovation-based entrepreneurship for generating wealth and employment in the country. Besides educating and equipping potential entrepreneurs, the policy also seeks to connect them to mentors, incubators and credit markets.

To improve the employability of the nation's youth Prime Minister Modi has also unveiled an ambitious Skill India Mission that seeks to upskill 402 million workers by 2022 through additional skills and vocational training.

The government has also launched an online portal to speed up the regulatory processes required to start and run businesses.

Moreover, the government has also announced a US$1.7 billion (Rs. 10,000 crore) fund for start-ups, a US$1.2 billion (Rs. 7,000 crore) budget to fund smart cities, and a US$90 million (Rs. 500 crore) fund for a National Rural Internet and Technology Mission. 

These new measures are well timed as the youth of today has begun to opt for an entrepreneurial journey enabled by the technology of the day.
The Path Ahead

India’s daunting challenges throw up unlimited opportunities to innovate and create business solutions. Therein lies the entrepreneurial potential.

In the economic reality of a developing country like ours, we require innovative start-ups and businesses that think locally but have the potential to make enormous global impact.

The government must realize that encouraging technopreneurs in the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector will create a compelling opportunity to take innovative ideas to global markets. In doing so, we will be able to move up the value chain from ‘Make in India’ to ‘Innovate in India.’

For that to happen, we will need a robust ecosystem that allows the flourishing of a vast number of fast-moving companies that are small, nimble and entrepreneurial. This, in turn, will create a vast and vibrant market place of millions of small, medium and large enterprises symbiotically interconnected to deliver superior and sustainable solutions.  

A large reservoir of entrepreneurial energy in India is waiting to be tappedIt is by investing in breakthrough ideas and embracing entrepreneurship as an economic model of growth that India will be able to unleash the power of innovation to ensure a better life for its billion-plus citizens. 

My Mentor

Ms. Anne Warrior
“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards,”said Anatole France, the famous French poet, journalist and novelist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Parliament Logjam: India Speaks Out

Image Courtesy: Blogspot/Google

The nation has been witnessing an unprecedented long lasting parliament logjam that has seen a complete washout of the monsoon session.

I wrote a post for LinkedIn on this situation and if indeed this is the Kind of India we can be proud of?

As expected there has been an overwhelming response from a diverse group of people who have echoed my views and strongly spoken out against the chaos in Parliament. Sharing herewith some of these reactions.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Is This the India We Can Be Proud Of?

The recent disruptive Parliament standoff between the Congress-led Opposition and the ruling NDA is undemocratic and unconstitutional. Preventing the Parliament from functioning is a profound governance issue.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Challenges Aside, an Eventful First Year

PM Narendra Modi is completing a year in power, and in the last 365 days he has been able to achieve a fair amount.

His global ‘Make in India’ campaign has set the tone for transforming India into a global manufacturing hub; his ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ has taken financial inclusion to the heart of rural India; his ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ has put cleanliness on the top of the nation’s agenda; and his ‘Digital India’ initiative has laid the groundwork for a digital empowered society and knowledge economy.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

New Land Bill: Not a Zero-Sum Game

Image Courtesy: Google

It is unfortunate that the debate over the new land acquisition rules is being reframed in the context of the so-called ‘rich-poor’ and ‘industrialist-farmer’ divide.

Those who are giving this issue a divisive colour in the pursuit of narrow political ends are actually doing a great disservice to the nation.

In the hullabaloo, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that the larger agenda in front of the country today is poverty eradication.