J. Vishnu Shankar
I was working for an industrial adhesives firm those days and was based out of Bangalore. I had a dealer in Bhalki, a non-descript Karnataka village 30 kms from Bidar. The guy was doing great business and I wanted to see how he was selling so much sitting in such a remote place.
So one day in 2002, I flew to Hyderabad and landed at around 10 AM. I checked into Viceroy Hotel (now Marriott) opp the Hussainsagar Lake. I loved its lake facing rooms and the morning walks on the Tank bund. I called for a taxi. The idea was to go to Bhalki and return by late night. I asked the driver to take me via Madhapur. My last visit to Madhapur was more than 2 years earlier and I was trying to catch up with new developments. By then the Microsoft story had already unfolded. The two most important Bills of the world, Gates and Clinton, had already paid their respects to Hyderabad.
I went past NIFT and Cyber Towers and took left turn there to see what was happening further on the road. Cyber gateway was already built and the massive Raheja Mindspace campus was nearing completion. The driver drove past Mindspace and took me to Durgam cheruvu. I was pretty impressed with its serene waters. The place was still unpolluted and except for a small restaurant called “Something Fishy”, nothing else dotted the area around the lake. After savouring the look of the clean waters, I went on to see how the other land marks that were coming up looked like. I went to IIIT, to the upcoming ISB campus, to the National games village in Gachibowli and to the area where Emaar-MGF’s Boulder Hills golf project was supposed to come up. The entire area was witnessing huge construction activity and several buildings had already sprung up proudly displaying the names of their reputed corporate occupants. Thousands were already working out of these campuses. I came back to Cyber gateway, stopped in front of Shilparamam, took a right turn and went to have a glimpse of HITEX.
It was when I entered HITEX that this overwhelming feeling struck me. What a phenomenal makeover for a city!! The kind of institution building that was taking place in Hyderabad was simply incredible and unmatched. There was nothing here in 1997 and come 2002, it is a different place altogether. And all this in just a short span of 5 years!!
Today’s Hyderabadis may take these for granted, but one has to go back to the late 90s to understand things in perspective.
- AP was the only big state in late 90s which did not have an IIT or an IIM. TN, Maharashtra & Delhi had IITs and Karnataka, UP & Gujarat had IIMs. West Bengal had both. Bihar (now Jharkhand) had XLRI and a string of TATA institutes. The centre was not doling out IITs and IIMs by the dozens then. Left with no choice, Naidu lobbied big time with India Inc’s who-is-who to get ISB to fill the void of not having a premier management institute in the city. NALSAR too came up in 1998.
- IIIT- HYD is India’s first IIIT. It came up in 1997 much before the Y2K days. That certainly called for some vision.
- NIFT- HYD came up in 1998 after great lobbying. NIFT was then present only in the 4 top metros and HYD NIFT in 1998 was not very much behind NIFT Mumbai or Chennai which came up in 1995.
- HITEC city offered Telugus the 1st opportunity in history to find employment in their own state. Till then educated Telugus had to migrate to Bombay or Madras in search of jobs. Ameerpet meanwhile, was well on its way to become the biggest centre in India offering myriad courses in software.
- Shilparamam opened up in 1998 and was much grander than Delhi Haat, the only comparision it had then.
- But the most visionary thing for me was HITEX. Those days many people would not know what a convention and trade centre meant and why it was required in the first place. Pragati Maidan was India’s only convention centre for many decades. Mumbai’s BCEC came up in 1991. Chennai and Bangalore did not have proper convention centres. Babu was a true visionary who understood the necessity of a proper convention centre. HITEX was sprawling and was magnificently built.
There was a lot happening in other parts of the city too. Hussain sagar was being cleaned, excellent roads like Necklace road were being laid and SP road flyovers were built at a furious pace. Not many know that there used to be a thermal power station dumping pollutants into Hussain Sagar at the place where Prasad’s IMAX stands today. Prasad’s too came up during this period. It was India’s first and still remains the best. Hyderabad also got its first proper lung space only in 1998 when Chiran palace was acquired by the state and converted into KBR Park, Jubilee hills.
As I started travelling on the Bombay highway, I saw that areas on the Bombay highway too were witnessing rapid industrialization. Mahindra was ramping up the Zaheerabad plant and Kirby building systems put up India’s first pre-fab factory at Rudraram. I was thrilled that Hyderabad was no more an “also ran city”. It was creating landmarks in all fields. Be it education, office complexes, sports, culture, cinema, roads and public facilities. It was not trying to catch up with other cities; it was simply leap frogging at an incredible clip.
I went to Bhalki and met my dealer. The young guy sitting in a remote village was very inspiring. Besides capturing large markets in North Karnataka he was also making inroads into Hyderabad. “Your Hyderabad dealers may complain on me”, he said. He was mirroring the leap frogging ambition that I saw in Hyderabad that very morning.
It was late night by the time my car re-entered Hyderabad’s ever increasing boundaries. The traffic was wearing thin. On the way back the driver played songs from RP Patnaik’s musical “Nee Sneham”. The songs were great, particularly chinuku tadiki sung mellifluously by Usha, and made my day even better. The car cruised past freshly tarred roads of Patancheru, BHEL gate, Sanatnagar, Ameerpet, Khairatabad flyover and reached Viceroy Hotel via Necklace road.
I went back to my room and upped the window shades. It was nearing midnight. The waters in the lake were clear and were beautifully reflecting the bright lights of Tank bund and Necklace road. And the city seemed to whisper in my ears “Vishnu, I am no more an also ran.. I have arrived and arrived in style!!”
That probably was the day I was most proud of Hyderabad in 14 long years. I am sure I must have had a sound sleep that night.
But little did I realise that those moments were short lived..