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The City Beautiful and the Chandigarh Gateway

It's odd how things happen here in northern India. I had arrived with stodgy British punctuality for a meeting only to find when being ushered into the room of the very important person that the earlier meeting was ongoing! "No problem, I was assured, stay and join us".

The discussion was about how one "sells" a city like Chandigarh, especially in the context of the global knowledge market. All that I could contribute was that all our friends in Delhi raved about the City Beautiful and all seemed to prefer to shop here rather than in Delhi or, even, Bombay. It seemed to me therefore that if we were to take into account also Chandigarh's proximity to the Shivalik Hills and on to places like Kasauli and Shimla in the very foothills of the Himalayas, its road and rail network and the enlightened leadership of its Governor Lt General Jacob - who at 84 young still likes to "drop in" unexpectedly at odd hours on local facilities and demand to be shown that they are functional and clean - then the selling point must be around "quality of life"!

Of course Chandigarh has its plans for a high tech park at Kishangarh but it has also tree lined boulevards, good rail links, a great road system (though totally abused by the worst drivers and the most motley collection of vehicle types I have experienced in 40 countries over 35 years), wonderful parks and its very own lake. It also has STPI (Software Technology Parks of India) who provide great support, exactly the bandwidth you pay for and a willingness in its local team lead by Dr Sanjay Tyagi to help get things moving for new business. Thus it was that two years ago we met with the good Doctor and Vivek Atray (Director of IT and Education) on the Monday, again on the Tuesday. On the Thursday we moved into the Business Centre of the Punjab Engineering College and, on the Monday were plugged into the satellite hub, our team installed and operational, albeit that our furniture had arrived by bullock cart and cycle rickshaw. But, it worked and doubts that my own city of Cambridge could match that (although Cambridge has introduced cycle rickshaws!)

The point is that Chandigarh has the all the facilities and, because it is late in entering the race to compete with the cities in the south long made famous for IT Services, it has to be different and is doing something to its advantage with those challenges by turning them into opportunities for the city and its citizens. If the key to the knowledge market is people and if people like to live and work in places that are attractive to them and their families and if the infrastructure is present, especially reliable and cost effective bandwidth then what better attraction for new, inward investment. Goodness, the city's fathers have a duty to tell people about these things less they miss out!

The Chandigarh Gateway is designed then to do two things - one to tell the outside world especially businessmen and women about the place and, having like the sirens on the rocks lured them by its many attractions to offer a one stop shop to help them become established. Its second purpose is to promote and facilitate partnerships and collaborations between local and foreign business, enterprise and educational establishments to help them by working together "punch above their weight in the global market".

Clearly this is an exciting and innovative initiative which may show the way forward and be the model for future city development - a virtual community of business and training, of government and the private sector working together in an enterprising venture to promote itself to the advantage of all. Said Brigadier Sarbjit Ahluwalia who has agreed to establish the board of the city's "great and the good" who will make flesh the Gateway "the key will be quality - we have to and we will make sure that the city is fully capable of supporting inward in-ward investment and will also have to make absolutely sure that all of the participants whom we help into the global market are fully committed to quality in a health and safety conscious environment. We will do this by creating a club under whose rules all members will be granted a mark of quality and we will ensure that mark will be taken away and the links to the Chandigarh Gateway web site broken for any offenders who transgress the rules of the club. That is how it must be - only the very best will do as HE Lt General Jacob has made clear on the welcome page of our new web site"