Living London, Loving Chennai

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chennai vs Kovai

No this post is not about which is a better city (my bias should be obvious) nor my intention to divide the people of Tamilnadu. This is about the potential of Coimbatore (Kovai) to seriously rival Chennai as an industrial and economic powerhouse of Tamilnadu in some distant future. Even today if we consider the extended urban area, Coimbatore is the closest rival to Chennai economically. It's per capita income, affluence and consumption is on par with Chennai, more so on the luxury goods. On absolute terms however, the comparison is skewed due to the sheer difference in size, with Chennai being 5 times larger. Any talk of rivalry will have to wait.

Coimbatore has many things going for it to get there. The entrepreneurial nature of its people is well known. Almost all the developments in the region has happened because of its people with minimal government / PSU support. It is a major educational centre with excellent emphasis on engineering. Weatherwise, it is the most livable city in TN and one of the best in India. It is already well known for its engineering and manufacturing prowess. Textile Industry, the traditional strength of Kovai is seeing huge investments post quota abolition. But more than any other factor, what is really causing all this
new buzz around Kovai is its potential as the next big thing in IT and services sector. Its been there for the last couple of years without really fructifying into anything meaningful. Last year however saw two biggies CTS and TCS finally getting in (in a small way) and hopefully kickstart the deluge that has been threatening. The real estate market has already jumped ahead and started constructing the apartments for techies to come and live. It is getting good media coverage on its potential as a medical tourism centre. Although not a tourist centre by itself, it is strategically located for easy access to ooty belt and Kerala belt. The airlines may not be making a beeline, but there is quite a queue to expand in Coimbatore. The ingredients are there, the impetus is there. All it requires is a good chef to put all the ingredients together and cook up a great dish.

I personally would like to see alternate commercial centres develop in Tamilnadu apart from Chennai. Kovai by all accounts has the possibility to become one.


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