Bangalore's gated communities

Namas Bhojani - Special to GlobalPost March 27, 2009 07:45 ET

India: Bangalore morphs into Silicon Valley?

Swimming pools, gated communities, and a flood of Americanized Indians.

By Saritha Rai - GlobalPost
Published: March 27, 2009 08:02 ET
Updated: March 27, 2009 08:39 ET
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BANGALORE — Ragini, 14, and Malini, 11, are California girls — some might even refer to them as ABCDs.

The acronym stands for American-Born, Confused Desi (Desi is slang for people of Indian origin). But they hardly seem confused. Ever since they were transplanted to their father’s native Bangalore, they've found a balance between America and India. And every weekend they strike that balance with a ritual.

On Sunday mornings, the girls tie up their cleats and head for the soccer fields, which in India are an almost exclusively male preserve.

And there in the suburb of Sarjapura these hearty ABCDs, who came of age in the youth soccer programs of Silicon Valley, kick it around with the children of other returnees and expatriates.

The girls’ father K. Srikrishna, 46, (who goes by a single name, as is common in some parts of India) left the country for the United States two decades ago, first in pursuit of a Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley and then to build a career in the semiconductor industry.

Three years ago, Srikrishna gathered up his family and returned to India, for three good reasons: job prospects, to be close to his elderly parents and to offer his daughters a chance to get acquainted with the land of their ancestors.

Bangalore, particularly, as well as Mumbai and Delhi, are magnets for Srikrishna and the thousands of others like him who are increasingly being pulled from America back to their native India by emotional ties to family and financial opportunities offered by the recently buoyant Indian economy.

Beyond all the over-achieving and the high-earning — signature characteristics of so many ABCDs — they ultimately miss their native land, culture and families.

Cities like Bangalore have a particular draw because they offer western-style work environments, competitive paychecks and comforts not entirely different from those the returnees are used to in San Jose or New Jersey.

Some years ago, returning Indians routinely packed diapers and dental floss for their short visits home. Now they bring resumes and referrals, said Prakash Gurbaxani, who returned after 14 years in the U.S. construction industry.

“The quality of life has changed dramatically,” said Gurbaxani, who has been a serial entrepreneur since his return some years ago, first in the outsourcing industry and now in real estate. “And the serious growth of the past decade has thrown up tremendous entrepreneurial opportunities.”

“The possibilities, the excitement, the adrenaline … India is the place to be” said Srikrishna, who founded Zebu Communications, a still-in-stealth-mode software start-up, a few months ago.

At Bangalore’s Read-Ink, a document analysis and handwriting recognition start-up launched by retired Stanford University professor Thomas O. Binford, a quarter of the employees are returnees.

Binford’s wife, Ione, co-founder and CEO of the firm said, “Many returnees desire to extend their U.S. experience by working on the very latest technologies.”

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