Bangalore is widely regarded as India’s Silicon Valley. It is the cradle of India’s tech and outsourcing success story, the city where Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani first told columnist Tom Friedman that the world was flat (yes, you can blame Bangalore). It’s also the city that has become a verb for the forces of globalization that ships American jobs overseas—i.e. “You’ve been Bangalored.”
It is against this backdrop that the restaurant-review site, Zomato, has decided actually it is New Delhi—the capital city maligned for its obsession with power, bureaucracy, and real estate—that deserves to be the innovation hub and true Silicon Valley of India.
And starting today, it is making a provocative and unusual open offer. It is inviting Bangalore-based IT professionals—coders, project managers, user interface designers and others—to move to Delhi. The company will pick up the tab for an entire family’s air fare, help find an apartment, and pay for deposits and broker’s fees. There’s also free stay in a company guest house with a private swimming pool till a house is found and a compensation package that could include equity.
“We think India needs an ecosystem like Silicon Valley. The tech talent is currently scattered. All the good people should be in one city. That is when ideas and solutions emerge,” says Deepinder Goyal, founder and CEO of the website (and app) that now operates in 12 countries and was valued at $150 million last year.
His main argument is that most of India’s hot and influential Internet startups are Delhi-based. “The only two listed Internet companies—Info Edge and MakeMyTrip—are Delhi-based. Then you have SnapDeal, PayTM, Jabong, HealthKart, Goibibo and of course, Zomato. Bangalore has FlipKart, Myntra and RedBus, but I would argue Delhi is where it is all coming together.” (InfoEdge, which runs the popular jobs portal Naukri, is a majority shareholder in Zomato.)
Bangalore also has ClearTrip, a prominent ticketing website. But RedBus, the Bangalore-born company he lists, has now been acquired by Delhi-based Ibibo Group (backed by South Africa’s Naspers).
Zomato plans to unveil a campaign that lists cheeky reasons why Delhi is better than Bangalore. An excerpt: “Our roads are wider, which means you spend less time on the road and more time on the right things—work and family. Also, btw, our traffic is all online.”
Zomato’s original plan was to collaborate with other Delhi companies to do the campaign. The logistics didn’t work out, even though the others are all looking to hire. It is pushing ahead—and north—regardless.
There are skeptics. MakeMyTrip founder and CEO Deep Kalra said that his experience has been that it is difficult to get people to move cities.
And there are the offended. Bangalore evangelist and former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai seemed surprised by the suggestion, and said Bangalore was undoubtedly India’s Silicon Valley. “The fact is, they are unable to find good talent in Delhi. The ecosystem in Bangalore is getting better day by day. Delhi has some e-commerce companies that are essentially transaction engines. That is not high engineering. They are good with marketing,” he says. “The world’s best companies are setting up development centers in Bangalore and I suggest that they should also do that.”