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Best cities, or so we say

Bangalore gets pummelled, Delhi climbs, and Mumbai stays put at #1. The surprise gainers in this year's survey: Ahmedabad and Surat. Both the cities are improving urban mass transport, and businesses like Reliance Retail see big opportunities there.

Print Edition: August 26, 2007

You are laughing. Laughing at the superlative, laughing at the irony. Yeah, we know. More than once last fortnight, you spent some three or four hours stuck in traffic. You live in Mumbai or Delhi. One is India's commercial capital-and the #1 city for business, according to our survey-and the other is its political capital. There aren't any other cities bigger or better than them, we are told. But any city that treats you like this, ought not to be described in superlative terms. We agree. So, thank you, readers, for not burning us, along with this issue, at the stake.

Yet, incredible as it might seem, Indian cities are getting better. Delhi, gearing up to host the Commonwealth Games in 2010, has unclogged its so-called Ring Road (the chaos that you see in the picture above is recent and at an intersection that leads to the airport); it has added, and fairly successfully, a metro service that has eased everyday commuting for thousands of people; and it has also cleaned up its air. Those are some reasons why Delhi displaces Bangalore as the #2 city in the BT-Synovate survey of India's Best Cities for Business 2007. 

Mumbai remains #1 not because of its upgrade in infrastructure, although the state government has set an ambitious investment target of Rs 2,30,000 crore and the top bureaucrat in charge of its special urban projects says that the city ought to be comparing itself with Dubai or Singapore, and not Hyderabad or Bangalore.

Mumbai is top of the heap simply because it continues to be the jet engine of commerce-and because of its stoic but sanguine denizens. But people are getting fed up with Bangalore. CEOs in our survey have knocked the city a notch down to the #3 position; self-employed professionals, who rated the Garden City as their #1 choice last year, have slammed it to #3.

Far away from the glare of national media, Gujarat seems to be getting its act together. Ahmedabad has dislodged Pune to claim the #7 position, while another Gujarat city, Surat, has also gained a rank to jump to #9. This is no coincidence. As the following story explains, Gujarat has taken up urban renewal seriously. Both the cities are improving urban mass transport (now, CNG buses ply on their roads), and businesses like Reliance Retail see big opportunities there.

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