Jamsetji Tata’s dream to setup a world class university
The founder of the Tata Group, an Indian conglomerate. Jamsetji was born in what is now Gujarat, and the majority of his business was conducted in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Karnataka did not exist at the turn of the nineteenth century. The state of Mysuru, then known as the State of Mysore, included Benglauru, or Bangalore, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this region of India was not on Jamsetji’s radar. Yes, he wanted to see India prosper, and more specifically, he wanted to aid India’s technological advancement by promoting education and research, but Bangalore was still a British garrison city, a cantonment with clubs, churches, shops, and cinemas, not a centre for Swadeshi technology or innovation. But when Jamsetji told the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, who, I should add, had just arrived in Colonial India the day before this meeting, that he wanted to establish a world-class university in Bombay and that he was willing to set aside more than a dozen buildings as an endowment for this project, the response he received was less than ideal.
the British Raj didn’t trust Jamsetji’s assessment of Bombay as the right place for this institution, and so a Scottish scientist was called to survey the country and find a suitable place for this university, which by the way, the Viceroy had mixed feelings about because he didn’t think there would enough qualified Indian people to even attend this Even if they did graduate from the advanced institution, which was the first of its kind, he believed they would be overqualified for any jobs in a country like India, but eventually, after some careful consideration and maybe a bit of window shopping on South Parade, known today as MG Road, the scientist recommended that Bangalore would be the perfect spot for Jamsetji’s university, the Indian Institute of Science.
Jamsetji Tata died before IISc was founded, but it was essential in Bengaluru’s transformation from a garrison, a garden city, and a playground for the British to a centre of creativity and production.
HAL and ISRO’s contributions to establishing Bengaluru as a technology hub
The institution was producing some of India’s greatest brains by the 1940s, and Walchand Hirachand viewed this as an opportunity.
Walchand was an industrialist with companies in construction, sugar, and shipping, but after meeting an American aircraft company manager in 1939, he decided to build India’s first aircraft factory, and he chose Bengaluru as its headquarters because he knew he’d need talented scientists and engineers to design and build his planes, and the Indian Institute of Science was less than 5 kilometres from his first office on Cunningham Road – and by the time the war broke out, the Indian Institute of Science was less than 5 kilometres This was Bengaluru’s and India’s first aircraft factory, and it was a huge thing. Because HAL was created during World War II, the Crown need planes. Aeronautics was still a developing discipline on a global scale, and planes were now being employed for combat, an activity that inevitably pushes the frontiers of science and technology everywhere it goes.
Bengaluru became India’s largest aircraft manufacturer in the 1940s because to HAL, and when India gained independence in 1947, Bengaluru was chosen as the country’s designated manufacturing centre, partly because of IISc and HAL, but also because it was strategically located. It was neither a coastal city that might be attacked from the sea, nor was it close to any land boundaries, thus the Government of India believed that the goods created in Bengaluru were safe. They could not be kidnapped or taken by a foreign power. As a result, Bengaluru was designated as India’s space city in 1969.See, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 in 1957, kicking off the worldwide space competition. Everyone wanted to launch its own satellites, and India, which had just been partitioned a decade before, was suffering a lot of tension along its borders. HAL, which had now been nationalised, had given the country authority over its sky, but they now intended to go higher, and take charge of the stars, which they did with ISRO in 1969.
India’s First Electronic City-India’s Silicon Valley and Ram Krishna Baliga
All of this progress, all of this technology emanating from HAL and ISRO had a significant influence on the minds and imaginations of the people who lived there, A man named Ram Krishna Baliga was one of these people.. Ram, who was originally from Mangaluru, had gone to Bengaluru to pursue his master’s degree in power engineering at IISc, which by this point had gained international acclaim for its academic quality and bright alumni.
General Electric, in particular, was actively seeking talent at the institution and approached Ram to see if he’d want to come work for them as an engineer in the United States. He accepted their offer and spent the first six years of his professional career living and working in the United States. This experience had a significant impact on his career trajectory; upon his return to Bengaluru, he began looking for a place to apply the knowledge he had gained in the United States; in 1960, the most obvious choice was Bengaluru’s thriving defence and aerospace sector, so he joined Bharat Electronics Limited, a government-owned company that manufactured electronic technology used in military hardware and vehicles. And you’d assume that as chief engineer, he’d be designing circuits, radar technology, transmitters, and semiconductors.
But, in truth, he spent a lot of his time creating cities. Because BEL was such a large employer, with thousands of employees, and many of these employees working on sensitive government projects, they couldn’t go to and from work with confidential documents or prototypes in their pockets or briefcases, so Ram was tasked with building a 1,400-house residential colony for the company’s employees. This project was so successful that Bharat Electronics encouraged him to follow it up with another, even bigger than the first, and while this job was satisfying professionally, Ram’s goals had begun to move outside of BEL’s walls. He’d heard about Silicon Valley, a magnet for electronics production and technological development in the United States, a country of semiconductors and computer chips – and he realised Bengaluru would be the ideal location to establish India’s own electronics cluster.
Ram contacted Karnataka Chief Minister D. Devaraj Urs with the proposal of an electronics metropolis, which he thought would grow into India’s Silicon Valley. The proposal was ambitious, but the Chief Minister agreed to back him up, naming him Chairman of the Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation and entrusting him with the construction of the city, the first phase of which was finished in 1978. Electronics City was India’s first of its sort, and it grabbed national news. It signified to India’s modest IT sector that Bengaluru was the place to be if you wanted to work with computers, software, and electronics. And one individual in particular, an electrical engineering graduate and IITan, found this news very intriguing.
Infosys comes to Bengaluru
At the same time when Ram Krishna Baliga was creating Electronics City, N. R. Narayana Murthy was residing in Pune, then known as Poona. He was in his late twenties at the time and dreamed of using computer algorithms to revolutionise India’s business environment, but India wasn’t ready for him in 1976.
Softronics, one of India’s first startups, was a flop. In India, computers were still a novelty; they weren’t inexpensive or user-friendly, and personal computers were still a few years away. Microsoft was only a team of six individuals in 1976, and they didn’t even know how to spell their own company’s name correctly. And, given that Steve Jobs had just sold his VW Microbus to fund the development of the Apple 1, he was riding his bicycle around Los Altos, it’s no wonder that Narayana Murthy was having trouble with Softronics in India. After a year and a half, he shut it down and went to work for Patni Computer Systems, his first corporate job.
It wasn’t what he wanted to be doing, but it gave him the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of developing software for international clients, and it was at PCS that he met six of his future co-founders. In 1981, they met for the first time in Narayana’s living room. They want to create a business comparable to Softronics, but with foreign clientele rather than Indian ones. Of course, there were a few problems, the most serious of which was that none of them had a computer. They attempted to import one, but this wasn’t the India of today, with Amazon and Flipkart, but rather the India of the 1980s, when the government was extremely restricted when it came to foreign trade and commodities importation. It took them three years to import the computer, by which time six of the seven co-founders had already flown to America. They had come to the conclusion that if they couldn’t deliver the computers to Infosys, Infosys would have to bring the machines to them.
They wound themselves in New York City, where they slept in run-down lodgings and walked to meetings with corporations for which they planned to develop software. For a time, the most typical response they received from these firms was, “We’ll call you,” which they never did. But one day, the team sat down for a meeting with a business called Data Basics, and their hard work finally paid off after years of struggle. Data Basics allowed Infosys to sign them as a customer after witnessing what they could achieve, ensuring them future business, and they carried that business back to India with them. But it was now 1983, and Ram Krishna Baliga’s Electronics City was booming. Startups who couldn’t afford to set up shop in the Electronic City were migrating to Bengaluru nevertheless, expecting to find wealth and like-minded individuals, and it was for these reasons that Infosys relocated its headquarters to Bengaluru as soon as Data Basics was signed. They wanted to put themselves in the best possible position for success, and this looked like the most reasonable way to do it.
More IT firms and tech talent are flocking to Bengaluru.
In 1991, India’s economy was liberalised, removing many of the constraints on computer imports and software exports that had previously prevented Infosys from expanding rapidly. With the government’s assistance and Bengaluru’s tech-focused culture, Infosys forged ahead, securing one American customer after another, and its development was only hastened by the United States’ Internet bubble and India’s subsequent provision of public internet in 1995. But Infosys wasn’t the only firm profiting from the dot-com boom at the time.
Their company was booming, and a slew of other IT businesses sprung up in and around Bengaluru in an attempt to compete with Infosys for American clients. Corporations like as Wipro and TCS began developing and selling software to American companies, employing thousands of software engineers and IT professionals in Bengaluru, to the point that India’s IT sector increased from $100 million to a billion dollars between 1990 and 1996. And it wasn’t just Indian firms; several of the industry’s biggest names were involved.
were really American corporations that regarded Bengaluru as the ideal location for their India operations. These were international behemoths such as Texas Instruments, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Intel, and with such a dense concentration of both Indian and American IT enterprises, job possibilities for educated, technologically savvy Indians were plentiful.
And you could be thinking, “Wow, that all sounds amazing.” Employment, progress, and technology are all wonderful phrases, but by the late 1990s, some of the zeal for Bengaluru’s expanding IT industry had died down.
What about India, for example? Since Narayana Murthy tried and failed to launch Softronics, times had changed: India now had a sizable middle class, and with the advent of public internet, many doors that had been closed to young, aspiring entrepreneurs in the 1980s were now wide open to young, aspiring entrepreneurs in the 1990s. Businesses and individuals alike were purchasing computers, and India was embracing technology, prompting these trailblazers, these young brains, to wonder, “Why are we creating for the United States?” Why is all of this vitality, innovation, and zeal being expended to help another country prosper? “How about India?” you might wonder. This question, and its ramifications, marked a turning point.
It was the beginning of the end for Bengaluru as America’s Silicon Valley’s backend support, software developer, and outsourcing city, and it signalled the beginning, the true beginning, of India establishing its own hotbed for entrepreneurship and tech startups, innovating and solving problems to benefit the Indian market, not the American market. This was the beginning of India’s Silicon Valley, the Land of Heroes.