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Editor’s note: Why Gurugram matters

Gurugram is not a satellite of Delhi as some still believe it to be. It is a city in its own right.

gurgaon Updated: Jun 01, 2018 11:34 IST
Sukumar Ranganathan
Sukumar Ranganathan
Hindustan Times
Gurugram,Gurgaon,Gurugram city
The Rapid Metro in Gurgaon.(Praveen Kumar/HT File Photo)

Gurugram is a city of over nearly 2 million residents, a buzzing retail hub that serves not just its population but also that of neighbouring Delhi, a thriving manufacturing centre that houses, among others, the factory of India’s largest car maker, home to multinational companies, and the birthplace of India’s business process outsourcing (BPO) boom.

It is not a satellite of Delhi as some still believe it to be. It is a city in its own right. And it is a city that has gotten where it has in just around two decades, although its real beginning goes back to the early 1980s.

That’s when Maruti Udyog Ltd, as the company was then called, a joint venture of the Indian government with Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp, set up its first factory in 1983. As is the nature of automobile manufacturing, parts makers supplying to Maruti set up their own factories in the vicinity of the car plant. It would take a little more than a decade for the company to truly hit its stride, but the seed had been planted.

Maruti Udyog Ltd, as the company was then called, set uo its first factory in Gurugram, then called Gurgaon, in 1983. (Babu Ram/HT Archive)

Around the same time Maruti was remaking India’s car industry, another company was trying to do the same with real estate. The name of DLF Ltd is synonymous with Gurugram and it was in the 1980s again that DLF started building both office and residential properties in the city. Again, it wasn’t till the late 1990s that people would really take to Gurugram (and it would take another decade for the city to become, first the hottest, and then the most over-heated real estate market in India).

Back in the 1990s, Delhi didn’t really have great office space; so, it wasn’t surprising when multinational companies (and local ones) started moving to Gurugram when the first commercial buildings started sprouting there in the mid- to late-1990s.

In the late 1990s, General Electric Co, disappointed that the Indian market had not lived up to its expectations, was looking for ways to make its presence in India worthwhile and discovered that the country had what it takes to become a back office to front offices in the US. The BPO industry was born. It was in Gurugram that GE set up its first centre. Even today, Gurugram is to the BPO business what Bengaluru is to IT.

DLF Ltd started building both office and residential properties in the city in the 1980s. (Rajiv Gupta/HT Archive)

As more companies – Gurugram has the kind of diversity in industries that would be the envy of any city, manufacturing, IT, BPO, financial services and retail, consumer products, advisory, advertising and marketing, real estate and construction, electronics – set up base in Gurugram, and more modern gated residential blocks came up, more people moved to the city, from Delhi, but also from all over India, even the world. Today, Gurugram is home to perhaps one of the biggest expat populations in the country.

These were the best things that happened to Gurugram. They were also the worst. In the absence of proper city planning, and inadequate thinking about the resources – power, water, roads, hospitals, police force – required to provide for this growth, Gurugram has been hobbled by traffic jams, power cuts, water shortage, flooding during the rains (many residents still haven’t forgotten 2016’s ‘Gurujam’), poor health infrastructure, crime, and pollution.

Even as the chief minister of Haryana emphasises his commitment to the place some call Millennium City – see interview in today’s paper – he has dedicated allies, Gurugram’s communities. From resident welfare associations to like-minded groups of mothers or CEOS or even fitness enthusiasts, Gurugram has a fair number of active and engaged communities who want to make things better. That’s another thing that makes Gurugram a city in its own right, not an extension of Delhi.

HT’s Gurugram edition will strive to be this city’s paper, its heart, and its voice.

First Published: Jun 01, 2018 10:57 IST