Bangalore is among the most successful cities in India and the developing world. Its population growth has been dramatic and it has generated vast amounts of wealth and prosperity. Bangalore’s economic success reflects the ability of cities to connect smart people who then work together and learn from one another. In the developing world, places like Bangalore also serve as conduits for knowledge and capital and services across continents. The vitality of Bangalore contrasts vividly with the continuing poverty of rural India. That contrast reminds us that cities are a crucial part of economic development. It makes far more sense to directly address the challenges of urban growth, such as unclean water and congestion, rather than to artificially constrain the expansion of mega-cities like Bangalore.

Both Bangalore’s successes and failures suggest implications for policy both at the national and local level, in India and elsewhere. The enormous successes of Bangalore and other great Indian metropolises remind us that the present and future belong to cities. There is no future in rural poverty; developing countries that bet on their villages are missing the fact that the road to wealth comes from connection with the developed world and cities are the places that make those connections. Moreover, the advantages of cities are tied closely to the amount of skills assembled in those urban areas. Investing in education may be the most important means of enabling city-led economic growth.

Yet Bangalore’s growth also exposes the weaknesses of its public infrastructure, particularly in the areas of water, sewage and transportation. Bangalore faces a battle to retain talent, just like any other city, and quality of life factors matter in that fight. The city’s long commutes suggest the value of congestion pricing, on at least some of its roads. The limitations on clean water cry out for more investment in health-related infrastructure. Bangalore is a model of connected entrepreneurship, but so far, its public sector has failed to deliver core urban services that match its private talent. 

Download the full Making Sense of Bangalore report.