Friday, March 14, 2014

More Chronicles from Central India

When I meet old friends, particularly from Bangalore, they often ask curious questions about Indore. In today’s post, I’ll try to give a flavor of some of the things that make Indore tick.

Industry & Commerce in Indore

Like Ahmedabad, Indore was once a major textile hub, but textiles no longer dominate Indore’s commercial activity. Today, Indore is a centre of the soybean industry, and a trading hub. I saw a number of huge cold storage facilities in the vicinity of IIM Indore and wondered what they stored. I found out that the Malwa region to which Indore belongs is favourable to potato cultivation with the long sunny days helping potatoes from this region have a high proportion of dry matter. The owner of a cold storage plant I met uses 80% of his space to store potatoes which are then sold to food processing companies. (See a picture of potatoes being stored in an Indore cold storage facility below).

The industrial suburb of Pithampur was once promoted as the Detroit of India, and is host to the Volvo Eicher truck joint venture and Force Motors. But, today, other regions like Gurgaon-NCR, Chennai, and, more recently, Sanand/Ahmedabad have moved far ahead on the automotive map.

Indore is home to a large number of small and medium enterprises including engineering companies. Some of these making agricultural implements are located close to the IIM Indore campus.

There is some pharmaceutical activity (Cipla, Ipca Labs, etc.) in Pithampur as well, but luckily this appears to be focused on the less polluting formulation activity and not on the production of bulk drugs.

One reason for the slow development of industry in this region could be the absence of balanced infrastructure – the IIM Indore campus is located on one of the roads from Indore city to Pithampur, and there is a one km stretch of the road near Rau which is full of huge potholes. But I suspect the other, more prominent, reason could be the shortage of skilled manpower in the region.

There is a small but growing IT sector in Indore. I saw a couple of IT parks in the city, but with unfamiliar names on them. That will change soon with both TCS (at an advanced stage) and Infosys setting up development centres in Indore. In fact Infosys Chairman Narayana Murthy visited IIM Indore when he came to Indore to lay the foundation stone for the Infosys development centre (see picture aove). There has been BPO activity earlier (Mphasis has had a presence here for some time), but it never took off as far as I can make out.

The state of Madhya Pradesh has many things going for it including the image of a dynamic state government, availability of power and water, and a land bank of property already available with the government. Parts of the state lie on the proposed Mumbai-Delhi “Super corridor.” If things go well, this could mean an explosion of growth in the near future. This will pose some new challenges.

Planning & Urban Development

Indore is already a large city with a population of about 2.2 million (2011 census). Like most other Indian cities, the actual population may be higher, particularly during the day time when the city acts as a magnet for people in the neighbouring areas seeking employment.

One of the challenges Indore (like many other Indian cities) faces is planning for the future. The Indore Development Authority seems to be active – there are signboards across the city underlining its presence. Newer areas of the city like Vijay Nagar have wide roads, and there have been several drives to create green belts across the city. There is a current initiative to draw up an Indore Master Plan. But, rapid growth could very well overtake the current planning processes placing the city in a perpetual catch-up mode. We saw this happen before our eyes in Bangalore!

Citizen Activity

Luckily, Indore has a citizenry concerned about the city’s future. Recently, a local NGO, CEPRD, organised a weeklong series of environment-related talks, and it was good to see them well attended. The theme on the day I attended was “Garbage-free City” and featured a presentation on efforts that Ahmedabad is taking to manage waste better (see newspaper coverage below).

The good news about the Ahmedabad “solution” is that it looks at the problem “end-to-end” and is very systematic in its approach with good aggregate data on the types of waste being created and how these should be dealt with. There is a campaign dimension to it as well and they have some cute films showing the problems created by a failure to deal with urban waste. But the danger I could see was that the solution seemed to be technocratic with inadequate attention paid to the behavioral changes that are required to make integrated waste management work. With urban Indian lifestyles moving rapidly towards processed foods, tetrapaks and the like, the problems of waste management are going to become only worse. The other challenge is that in many cases urban middle class Indians depend on domestic help to keep things clean, and waste disposal is in the hands of the help rather than the family itself. This makes the problem of proper waste disposal even more challenging.

Indore still has the chance to develop effective waste management solutions. But, if it fails to do so, it runs the risk of going the Bangalore way from a Garden City to a Garbage City!


The route I traverse most frequently in Indore is the route from IIM to the airport. For the most part, the road is wide, and as you get closer to the city, it gets more crowded. Indore city has apparently seen many greenery drives - the evidence is in the form of areas along the road cordoned off by fences for growing trees. Most of these are not lush and green but brown and somewhat scraggly; let’s see how they look at the time of the monsoon.

Traversing the main roads doesn’t give one a clear sense of what happens in the colonies within, so I was happy that some recent pipe-laying activity on one of the main thoroughfares prompted our driver to take a detour through Manish Nagar, a colony on the road to the airport. The homes are somewhat like Delhi, with shared walls, and I could just imagine that one day, with increased prosperity, Manish Nagar could look like a south Delhi residential area, packed with large cars on both sides! Today, mercifully, most homes have only a small car (typically, a Maruti) and this makes the bylanes quite navigable.

[The views expressed here are the personal views of the author.]

1 comment:

  1. Good to see so many things going for Indore. I hope it can do a better job in planning than Bangalore.