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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Taking stock of Chennai’s problems

In one of my earlier posts regarding Chennai, I received an anonymous comment from a person who has recently relocated to Chennai. I though of highlighting the same as Chennai / TN is attracting lot of new investments and more people are expected to move to Chennai in the near future. These issues need to be addressed so that Chennai can position itself as an ideal place for people to come and settle down

Water Problem – Politicians talk about this whenever there is an election. Nothing much happens after that.

Commuting (Autowallahs) – Yes, the auto drivers do cheat and for people coming from Bangalore this can be a rude shock. The auto drivers may not be able to speak Hindi or English. If you are an outsider, it is highly likely that you'll be fleeced. However not much can be done about this in the short run (unless the govt. steps in and brings in stringent measures to ensure that the Auto drivers ply by the meter).

Night Life & Pub Culture – Although Chennai can’t emulate Bangalore, Chennai does have it’s (minority) share of nightspots (some of them have sprung up in the recent past).

Renting a house – Landlords normally prefer to rent their houses to families. Hence most of the bachelors might find it difficult to find a place. This was the situation a few years back. I don’t know how this has changed in the recent past.

Climate – Radio Mirchi’s tagline says it all: Sema Hot Machi!

Ma Foi Report on Job Opportunities

Ma Foi Consultants recently published a report which said that Chennai leads the pack as far as the growth rate for job opportunities is concerned. The report also stated that people hesitate to move to Chennai because of the lifestyle and the climate.

Business Today report on the investment climate in TN

Business Today (dated 8th May) looks at the investment climate in TN. According to this BT report Infosys is building its biggest ever campus at Mahindra City, which is coming up at the outskirts of Chennai. MNC’s like St. Gobain and Hyundai, which have put in huge investments in TN are on expansion mode and they are pumping in more money to augment their capacity. Patni Computer Systems is also building a campus in Chennai.

Some of the positives outlined in this article are locational benefits (such as sea port, air port etc), availability of skilled manpower, limited interference from trade unions, lower cost of living and lower attrition rate

Let’s now look at the problems that Business Today has outlined–
  • Water scarcity
  • Threat of auto ancillary firms moving to the North
  • States like West Bengal wooing IT firms
  • Laid back work culture; not enterprising
  • Corruption is rife in the system

Although we can’t negate the first 3 problems, I beg to differ to on the last 2 problems. The corruption factor is not unique to TN and hence the state can’t be singled out on this front. I don’t quite understand what made the author decide that TN has a laid-back work culture.

If we don’t make adequate changes to make Chennai a conducive place for newcomers to come and settle down, we might just lose out on some of the opportunities that come our way.


  • some corrections

    water problem: actually JJ has fixed up the veernam project and we are receiving decent amounts of water. plus, the desalination plant is in the works. till, then hold on to your ozone 20 ltr cans!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:41 PM  

  • commuting: agree on the autowallas. but the call-taxis are becoming more and more popular. if more ppl will start rejecting the autos, probably those drivers will start behaving.

    don't forget the efficient pallavan and suburban trains.

    note: i spoke to some autowallahs. actually, they lead a tuf life, most money they earn goes to their owners (most cases policemen as benami)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:44 PM  

  • actually one problem the article missed out is lack of a "Tier-II" cities. Most of of IT/ITES of TN is done in Chennai. Especially BPO is ruthlessless cost-conscious. So Chennai cos need to move up the value chain and leave their basic BPO operations to cities like Coimbatore, Madurai, etc.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:49 PM  

  • first time at your blog - good post - as a person from madras (who has moved out), I can identify with everything you have mentioned here - madras is a better place for investors as compared to say, Bombay or Bangalore where the infrastructure is collapsing - but the attitude of the government is too laid back and there are too many problems - including politics (either caste politics or one successive government ater the other settling scores with the earlier one) and commuting the auto system is one of the worst in the country... even for a professional like me, thee is no incentive to go back to Madras ever....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:56 PM  

  • hey! this is the same anon whose comment prompted the second part in this series by kaps!
    Well, my 2 cents on the civic problems in Chennai-
    1. Water - acute and solved purely by citizen's own initiatives so far. Apartment complex where i stay practice recycling of waste water, rain water harvesting and what not. The govt just doesnt care! Maybe privatization would help here too. I buy drinking water and so do lakhs of people in Chennai. Let the private sector give some sweat to the corporation here too.
    2. Commute - Auto drivers are hopelessly underemployed. Its very easy to find an auto at even 1 in the night. If people boycott autos, the tendency to fleece is likely to go up and not down (if u make lesser transactions, u maximize whatever transaction value u get, etc). This is the situation already -boycotting will make it worse. Only chance of rectifying this could be if the govt is strict about metered fares. Ironically, for medium to long distances (10 kms and more) fares work out the same or even cheaper on odd chance, than, say bangalore. But for short distances, its a loot!
    Buses- the lesser said the better.
    MRTS - rode it once, was a revelation. Frequency and the shape of the stations leaves too much for it to be a useful alternative.
    3. "chennai night life" is the shortest three letter joke in india. Btw Kaps, a 'distil' in Connemara and a Pasha @ The Park alone cant help chennai qualify as having a decent level of nightlife. Contrast with bangalore or pune - affordable entertainment everywhere! And choices of entertainment too!
    4. Renting a house - i am fortunate to have a house owner who's a pro like me and understood that it would be safe enough to rent the apartment to a single, north indian male. Most others are not so fortunate. Ads pasted on the notice board in my office- one of the swankiest offices in chennai- demand that the occupants be 'vegetarian families'! Where's the rest of the world supposed to camp? Next to that stinking mess called 'buckingham canal' i suppose??
    5. Climate - i seriously dont see why that should be an issue. As a pro, you have controlled climate everywhere you go. S'pore is the same climate, isnt it? Do people have issues relocating to s'pore?
    Nuff said ...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:24 PM  

  • I absolutely agree with laks.Chennai maathiri varathu.It's a great city compared to any other in India.Or even Singapore for that matter.With MRTS project also coming up almost 8.4 kms underground train and rest overhead. the delhi metro thing coming to chennai is a laudable effort. Hope it turns into reality soon.The problem in TN is political parties fighting each other out i/o focussing on developments.As for Autowallas, the govt should intervene and do something about it. The mumbai model is good and the taxiwallas and autowallas are better than chennai.But I believe they will improve as time progresses.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:07 PM  

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