Kunwer Sachdeva’s life has more than its fair share of similarities with author Arvind Adiga’s lead protagonist in the Booker prize winner The White Tiger.
For starters, both had humble beginnings, aspired to make it big and realised their multi-millionaire dreams in Gurgaon.
You could sweep aside all the similarities as mere coincidences except for the last bit of fact. It’s no serendipity that both rags to riches story happened to have come true in Gurgaon.
The city is a source of fodder to thousands such dreams, thanks to its meteoric development and the ability to accept one and all.
“This city has given me what I aspired for,” says Sachdeva with a satisfied smile, while doing a mental recap of his 10-year-old fairytale journey.
Standing with his arms crossed in the balcony of his 16th floor flat at the posh DLF Aralias residence, the 50-year-old managing director of Su-Kam Power Inverters Limited epitomises the characteristics of the aspiring Gurgaon.
From saving a mere Rs.10,000 a month from making cable TV equipment to raising a Rs.1,000 crore company, Gurgaon is the magic wand that turned around Sachdeva’s life as the transformation happened after he moved here from a nondescript rented house in west Delhi’s Janakpuri.
Home to nearly 250 Fortune 500 companies and scores of others vying to have a presence here, Gurgaon feeds on the collective ambition of young India.
It’s a hub of over 500 big and small IT and BPO firms which employ nearly two lakh white collar executives.
It first made waves during the heady early 2000s after Time Magazine hailed it as the Millennium City. Located just 30km from the national Capital, this suburban city symbolises affluence not just in the backdrop of the predominantly feudalistic society of Haryana but also in India.
It boasts of the country’s first-of-its-kind private initiatives such as Rapid Metro and pod taxi service.
The last few years have seen 10 new five-star hotels coming up in Gurgaon, eating away the business of their counterparts in Delhi. Some major international events such as the Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation and World Economic Forum were held here in December last year.
However, the astronomical rise has come at a cost -- the suburb is staring in the eye of a serious catastrophic collapse of civic infrastructure.
No wonder, a Hindustan Times–C fore survey earlier this month revealed that 62% of the residents believe that despite being tagged as the Millennium City, Gurgaon is at least five to 10 years away from being in the same league as cities such as Shanghai or Dubai in terms of infrastructure and quality of life.
The city throws a curious case of being precariously poised between the rise of employment opportunities and affluence on one hand and crippling basic infrastructure such as roads, transport, power, water, sewage, among others.
So what keeps the city’s economic quotient afloat despite all odds? “Gurgaon is a brand,” says Dr Prabhakar Sahoo, associate professor at the New Delhi-based Institute of Economic Growth.
“Despite all its problems, it has emerged as a city which has clusters of economic activities such as the IT industry, BPOs, international auto manufacturing units and MSMEs. Presence of such clusters creates conducive economic ecologies for others to move in. An influx of youths looking for jobs follows. And since all of them want to live close to their workplaces, the city has to expand its horizons to new lengths, breadths and heights,” explains Sahoo.
“It is this ‘over-demand’ phenomenon which is responsible for both its rise and civic infrastructure chaos at the same time,” adds Sahoo.
Shweta Sharma moved here from Jalandhar in 2007 to work in an international BPO. In her own words, she “slogged it out in the graveyard shift” for a good six years before climbing to a managerial post.
“When I was hired, I knew Gurgaon was my calling even though I had heard horror stories of how the city was unsafe for women. Its high life allures me to no end,” says the 27-year-old.
According to Nasscom, around 15,000 women work in night shifts in Gurgaon’s BPOs. Sharma says the figure is a reflection of how despite all hardships, the youth feel that Gurgaon is the vehicle which will turn their dreams into reality.
“No matter how much one cribs over the problems here, no one in my knowledge has left the city after setting up a base here,” says Su-Kam’s Sachdeva.
“And I am even talking about those who could have financially afforded to settle down anywhere in the world,” he says as an afterthought. (With inputs from Himabindu Reddy and Snehil Sinha)