Wednesday, November 29, 2006

WalMart will be here

India's Bharti Group (yes, the same group that owns Airtel - the largest mobile service provider in India) struck a deal with US retail giant WalMart to launch the first mega-retail store joint venture in the country. The joint venture is apparently planning on several hundred stores across the country.
Other mega-retailers in the Indian market: Big Bazaar is a chain of super-stores in India currently with 29 outlets, owned by the Pantaloon Group. Reliance Fresh of Reliance Industries opened new retail stores in Hyderabad earlier this month. European-based Metro AG launched its wholesale Cash & Carry stores in Bangalore in 2003.

In a city like Bangalore, there really isn't the kind of space for a super-store within city-limits. That will push these stores to the periphery. The roads and the traffic make commute to and from anywhere a nightmare. That said, I am not sure how much of an effort a regular guy would make just to get to a WalMart. However, the current Big Bazaars are attracting a decent amount of crowd. People, I think, are making the extra effort to get to a Big Bazaar just for the novelty of it.

It is said that India has over 15 million small shops, the highest density of retail outlets in the world. The tie-up between WalMart and Bharti is meant to be a direct assault on these small shops. I don't see the super-stores completely taking over the small guys, only cause the small shops are such a part and parcel of everyday Indian life. People are used to just walking to the nearest mom-and-pop store to buy stuff. But if the retail giants do manage to uproot the smaller guys, that will change the Indian city scenario. I will definitely miss the India specific shopping experience if WalMarts become the norm. Ugh!

Regular small shops in Bangalore

The Bharti-WalMart venture promises low prices, especially for the estimated 300 million-strong middle class. It is reported that the regular shops are too small to offer the choice or discounts available to a major retailer that buys globally like WalMart. Yes, that maybe true. However, the personal feel of a small store can NEVER be got at a WalMart. It does look like the price and the novelty of a super-store is likely to decide the future of the Indian retail industry.

Big Plus: WalMart has been sourcing clothing and textiles worth billions of dollars from India. The continued exporting opportunity will definitely benefit India and Indians.

"The secret of successful retailing is to give your customers what they want" Sam Walton wrote in his autobiography. How much of that will hold true for the Indian consumer is to be seen!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Service at your doorstep

One of the best perks of living in Bangalore is that literally everything is delivered or available at your doorstep. The local grocers are more than happy to take your orders over the phone and get their boys to deliver the grocery right at your doorstep for free! So is the local pharmacist now. Trust Chemists and Druggists is a pharmacy chain in Bangalore. (I am not sure if they have stores in rest of India.) If you call and ask for a refill of your medicines or order over-the-counter medicines, you can have them delivered at your doorstep between 9 am and 9 pm. The only clause is the distance from the store to your home. As long as it is within reasonable distance, they will do it for free. The milk vendors deliver milk everyday for a nominal charge. And the newspapers are ofcourse delivered to your door.

Not to mention, the variety of hawkers/vendors who do their business on the streets. They sell all of these and more at your doorstep - vegetables, fruits, flowers, puffed rice, stainless steel pots and pans, plastic boxes and containers, cleaning supplies, sarees, some electrical appliances, etc.
A local vegetable hawker

Hawkers are a familiar sight on any Indian city/town street and often sell their produce/goods for a cheaper price than the store prices. The produce that they sell are fresh and good. One must not discount the personal interaction that comes with such a setup. Typically, hawkers have some regular customers, and provide their loyal services to these regulars. (The boy in the above pic comes by everyday to check if my mom needs any produce!)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Greater Bangalore

The State Government has set in motion the proposal to constitute a Greater Bangalore Authority by merging the following areas:

1. The areas already in the jurisidiction of BMP
2. City Municipal Councils (CMC) of
  • Rajarajeshwarinagar
  • Dasarahalli
  • Bommanahalli
  • Krishnarajapuram
  • Mahadevapura
  • Byatarayanapura
  • Yelahanka
3. Kengeri Town Municipal Council (TMC)
4. 111 villages
  • 1 village in Anekal taluk
  • 46 in Bangalore East taluk
  • 37 in Bangalore South taluk
  • 27 villages in Bangalore North taluk
Image Courtesy: The Hindu

The new authority will have 140 wards compared to the existing 100 of the BMP.

Apparently, there has been a long-pending demand for including the areas around Bangalore into the corporation area to ensure a comprehensive and uniform development of the city. The Government has taken the first steps by setting in motion the proposal to constitute a Greater Bangalore Authority. Now, the progress and the success of this authority remains to be seen! *rolls eyes cynically*

Info Courtesy: The Hindu

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Desi food in Des! Slurp! Slurp!

Nothing to beat it. Hot and Spicy ... very nice! From the 5 star hotels to the road side dhabhas/darshinis, food available here is simply superb. I had always HATED the coconut chutney served in the US, no matter how good the rest of the food was. And now here, I get to have the best spicy/hot coconut chutney. Finger-licking good!

The coconut chutney that eluded me! Yummy!

Not to mention having access to your mom's, MIL's, aunts', cousins' foods! And of course the temple and wedding foods! Yum, yum, yum! The full-fledged authentic meals served on banana leaves, now THAT is something you will never get in the US! If it was the banana leaf meals that I missed, it must be something else for another US Indian.

Special banana leaf meals

The bay area does have a decent number of temples and these temples do offer lots of food for people visiting the temple. However, the authenticity was what was missing from those foods, IMHO. Nothing like the specialty pulliyogre, laddoo, vada, etc that you get in the temples in India. This doesn't mean that I am a regular temple goer, hardly! But, when I do go, I definitely enjoy the authentic and yum-tasting prasads.

Lastly, being a vegetarian doesn't limit you in anyway when you are on the Indian road. :)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What am I missing out on right now being here?

The price war for toys currently happening between Walmart and Toys"R"Us. I would have loved to buy toys for the next year if I were there. I am told about the toy shops here, but I am yet to visit a store. I do know that the regular American toys sell for about 4 times the retail price in the US!

PS: Hub and I also missed watching FOX news when the Republicans lost! We did get to watch CNN International here, but nothing like watching FOX when the Reps lose!! :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Why not to choose Bangalore

Before the 'why not to', let me briefly say why we chose Bangalore. Actually, there really wasn't a choice. Being from Bangalore, having family and property here, and with all the job opportunities here, we wouldn't have moved back to any other city in India.

, if we didn't have family here, we may have thought long about moving to Bangalore. Simply because it is unnecessarily expensive and very very clogged. Going anywhere in the city is such a task! The roads are clogged almost all the time of the week. Just a few wee hours and a few hours on Sunday is all the break you get from the bumper-to-bumper chaotic traffic.

The real estate is a whole different story. The prices go up every day!! A 3 bedroom apartment will cost you about 60+ (everything inclusive, not just the basic cost) lakhs today to buy, if its cost was about 50+ lakhs 6 months ago!!! Unbelievable! and the typical finishes given are just vitrified tiles and flush doors! I was told by some property developers that there are two reasons for the prices to be soaring high:
  1. The government put a clamp on converting agricultural lands. So, the land that is already available is all there is for development.
  2. Apparently, a lot of Mumbai based developers/business people are investing in properties in and around Bangalore, solely for the sake of investment. So, there is an artificial demand of sorts that is hiking the price.
The 60+ lakhs properties are pretty much from the tier 2 developers. If you want quality 3 bedroom apartments from tier 1 developers like Adarsh, Sobha , Total-environment, Prestige, you will not get one for less than 75 lakhs (everything inclusive, not just the basic cost). The prices go upto as much as 1 crore+ for 3 bedroom apartments, depending on the floor number, luxury/super luxury, size of the apartment etc. Now, isn't that atrocious by all standards? And since there really is no land for mass development within city limits, all these developments are happening on the city periphery. So, please also account for the commute to and from work if you reside in these places.

All this said, there isn't much logic trying to set up a place here from scratch if you have no family or property here. Personally, I don't see the point. Yes, the job opportunities, and the weather are pretty good. But, the traffic, real estate prices, lack of immediate family, school costs (another post) are all huge deterrents for non-Bangaloreans trying to re-locate to Bangalore from elsewhere.

PS: If you are reading this and want any kind of additional info, pl let me know.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Weather! Can't say enough!

Beautiful weather. So pleasant, so lovely. But ofcourse, having been brought up here in Bangalore, I know that it has changed a lot over the years. No more fog-filled slow mornings (sigh!), an actual need for a fan/AC (!!!), absolutely no need for warm clothes, and very hot Apr/Mays!!! Things have changed, but in spite of all that, the weather is AWESOME! I want to kiss this place. I can wear capris in December! Woo Hoo! Somehow, I find that so hard to get.

In contrast, winters in North Cali suck! The wet, very cold, dark days with nothing to do with the kids. And the colds and fevers! Gosh! Hated it! Hated especially the darkness from 4.30 pm till 7.00 am! Ugh!!!!! Depressing, gloomy days! Alright, alright, will stop with that! But, I am so thrilled to be here with so much of light and activity in Nov. Seriously, how can anybody be depressed or gloomy in India? :)

PS: Springs in Cali are so beautiful, they make up for all of winter's bad and more! :)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Traffic! Less said the better!

OK, to begin with I must confess that I am a Bangalorean and love Bangalore, always have and always will. So, I am not going to do any 'Bangalore bashing'. However, it is really hard not to be frustrated with the traffic.

I am alright, in the sense, I am home most of the time and try and work/do stuff from home. But my hub needs to go to work on all weekdays. And by gosh, it sucks! His work place is a mere 12 kms from home, or 7.5 miles. And it takes him 45 mins one way on a good day. And it has taken him 2 hrs sometimes to commute 7.5 miles!!!! On most days, my hub is pretty tired coming home in the traffic. Then alone, he really is almost keen to move back to the SF bay area, where the commute and traffic are supposed to be "bad". We were about 10 miles away from his work and it took him anywhere between 15-25 mins to commute.

My cousin who lives in Nagarbhavi must commute to Whitefield on an everyday basis for work. Nagarbhavi is on the extreme west and Whitefield on the extreme east, but the distance is no more than 30 kms or about 19 miles! And he has a company provided van that picks up/drops off a bunch of people from his neighborhood to and from work. They leave really early to beat the traffic and it takes him about an hour in the morning, and about 2.5 hrs in the evening!!! Averaging about 3-4 hrs everyday on commute.

Work around for hub: Work from home on broadband. Leave home at 11.00 am and leave work at 4.00 pm. He is yet to put this plan into action. When he does, I will keep the blog updatted.

Familiar road sights ...

Can you imagine the plight of the patient in that ambulance?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

School, the first order of business

Our oldest one was going to a montessori school in the bay area for almost a year when we moved. And since we moved in the middle of an academic year, Oct, school was pretty much our first priority on coming back to Bangalore. Since my parents live in Bangalore and since we were going to be staying with them for a start, I had asked them to look around for schools in their neighborhood even before we left Cali.

I made note of a few schools, but had pretty much made up my mind about the pre-school. She would go to one of the many Eurokids schools. Eurokids is a chain that provides Pre-School education in India. Eurokids website

Our daughter had already done phonics, writing and reading some 3 letter words. In comparison, she was doing slightly easier things at Eurokids. For her age (3+), she was eligible only for the nursery level. So, we went with it. Yep, she was going to forget a bit of her writing and reading, but that's all she was going to get for her age in any school here.

The reason for our move in Oct was also to be here for the application process to Kindergarten for next year into some of the good schools in Bangalore. The process starts now for Jun, next year. She turns 4 on Jun 1 and will be eligible for LKG. Since, we also plan to settle in the Outer ring road/Sarjapur road area, we will be applying for schools in that neighborhood. (Another post :) )

She started school here a couple of days after we landed! So far, she seems to like it at Eurokids. That's all we care right now. :)

Returned to Bang bang bangalore!!

Hub and I had always wanted to return to Bangalore from the U.S for a variety of reasons. There was not the typical x+1 factor for our move. We came up with the basis for the timeframe of our return ..... when the second child was about 1.5 yrs old. :)) We worked towards the move from around the time our second child was born. I am not wasting too much of my blog space for the pre-move, but am pretty much dedicating the blog to our post-move experiences. Hoping the postings will help the couple of souls who may find this blog!!