The Government of India is focussing on the development of tier II cities, a notion that was evident in the Union Budget of this year as well. Financial support is being provided for the revival of regional airports and proliferation of in-bound tourism to lesser known destinations (read India 2016 for a detailed understanding of the impact of the Budget on travel published in our April issue).

To keep up the momentum of burgeoning tier II cities, the government is working on an “urban renewal and retrofitting programme” called the Smart Cities Mission. This initiative envisions the modernisation of mid-sized cities and position them as satellite arms of tier I metropolises.

This five-year plan begins this year and will be completed by 2020. Some of the features of these smart cities are: assured water and power supply, e-governance, efficient IT connectivity and well-planned urban mobility.

A list of 100 cities has been shortlisted and a total of 480 billion has been assigned by Cabinet for this visionary mission.

This list entails an eclectic mix of cities that are experiencing a wave of change; the transformation of villages into cities, an influx of foreign investment and the streamlining of traditional businesses. Together, these cities are contributing to India’s economic growth in their capacities and pride themselves with a unique balance of culture and trade. They mirror India’s diversity and take forward the country’s vision of emerging as an economic superpower by 2020.

Here’s an overview of ten of these cities and their evolving urban landscapes.


With a rich history of over 3,000 years that has been retained in its places of worship, Bhubaneshwar is known as the “temples city” of India. It is considered to be one of India’s first planned cities, as it was designed by a German architect alongside Jamshedpur and Chandigarh. A growing hub of IT and education, Bhubaneshwar received the number one spot in the country’s smart city mission list. While Bhubaneshwar’s economy was supported by its handicrafts industry until the 1990s, it is only in the early 2000s that it experienced a surge in investments in the fields of real estate, retail and infrastructure. It also ranked as the best place to do business in India by the World Bank in 2014. The city is attractive for commerce, especially for the manufacturing sector. Interestingly, Odisha (Bhubaneshwar is its capital) accounts for 17 per cent (worth 33 crore) of the total live investments attracted by the manufacturing sector of India. One of the fastest growing IT centres of India, it also houses some of the best educational institutes of the east, including the acclaimed Indian Institute of Technology. Tourism plays a major role in its economy as well, with the number of tourists crossing the one million mark each year. Around 95 per cent of its population is employed within the service industry, specifically its Information Technology sector. The government has been instrumental in facilitating this growth by setting up IT parks such as Infocity-1, Infovalley, STPI-Bhubaneswar and JSS STP. The high standards of education also yield in a quality workforce that enjoys a host of employment options. Taking into account Bhubaneshwar’s economic growth, demographics and infrastructure, Cushman and Wakefield has rated it amongst the top ten emerging cities of the country.


Pune has many names and facets. From “Detroit of India” to “Oxford of the east”, the western Indian metropolis has evolved tremendously in the last 50 years. Once just a weekend destination, Pune leads the way for India in the automobile and Information Technology industries. A number of home-grown and international Information Technology companies invested in its software technology parks in the early 21st century. Today, Pune’s IT industry, estimated at US$10 billion, employs more than two lakh people across 2,000 companies. The city well-known for its automobile industry, is home to some of the largest Indian and multinational heavyweights such as Tata Motors, Mercedes Benz, Bajaj, Volkswagen, Fiat, General Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra. Auto-part manufacturing companies such as Continental AG, Frost & Sulivan and Visteon are also head-quartered here. A strong presence of auto ancillary industry and connectivity to Mumbai’s airport also benefits the functioning of automobile facilities. India’s forging industry (estimated at 20,200 crore) is the fundamental backbone of its automobile industry. It is no surprise that the Association of Indian Forging Industry (AIFI), established in 1965, is also based in Pune. While the IT and the auto industry have thrived in Pune, medical tourism is currently at its nascent stage. Not as widespread as the industry in Chennai, Pune only has a few but notable hospitals that attract medical tourists. The emergence of Pune as an economic power player has encouraged the addition of flights to Pune’s international airport in the next three months. The Pune airport plans to commence flights to the Gulf and South-East Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Currently, the city’s airport connects to three international destinations daily namely — Frankfurt, Abu Dhabi and two flights to Dubai. Passengers from Pune drive to Mumbai to catch an international flights to other cities. 


Considering that there aren’t any tier I cities in Assam, Guwahati, over the years, has taken the position of being a pivot for all industries that have mushroomed in the state. It is a cauldron of a number of trades and industries that have recognised the core-strengths of the region, and work in synergy to create advantages in entirety for the state. Assam contributes nearly 55 per cent of the country’s tea production and 80 per cent of India’s tea export. Guwahati, being the business centre of Assam, has been conducive to this industry over the years. Along with its tea trade, the city also headquarters Oil India Limited, a government undertaking, that has over the past five decades become one of the biggest natural resource aggregators of the north east. The Guwahati-based company engages in the exploration, development and production of crude oil and natural gas, transportation of crude oil and production of LPG — a key natural resource in India. Oil India Limited holds an authorised share capital of 2,000 crore and provides employment widely across Guwahati. Recently, noted airlines such as AirAsia, Vistara and SpiceJet commenced flights to this commercial and financial centre of Assam. This city also saw its first five-star hotel, Radisson Blu open last year. JW Marriott and Vivanta by Taj are to follow, which exemplifies the rising importance of this eastern hub. Guwahati will also have a mass rapid transit system (MRTS) in place by 2021, that will compensate for the lack of public transport in the city until now. Its rich antiquity and proximity to national parks makes it an interesting pitstop for business travellers visiting the east of India as well. 


Lucknow is expanding. The city’s suburban areas have developed considerably in recent years and it now has a population of about 4.5 million. Infrastructure is rushing to catch up as well. The 7,000 crore Lucknow Metro Rail, slated to launch by 2017, will help ease the traffic, while the 302km long Agra-Lucknow Expressway, estimated to cost 105 billion, is being built to connect the two cities, cutting the travel time by half. The Lucknow Development Authority has a model for the city until 2031, which includes not only improving road and rail, but also housing and commercial development. The plan is for Lucknow to house an Information Technology park spanning an area of 100 acres, on Sultanpur Road (the road connecting Lucknow to Sultanpur city in south Uttar Pradesh), which will create 25,000 fresh jobs in allied sectors. On the other hand, shifting from contemporary to traditional comes easy to Lucknow. Hazratganj and Gomtinagar embody its new face, areas such as Aminabad and Chowk in the Old City represent its rich antiquity. Uttar Pradesh has always been a significant manufacturer of handicrafts and Lucknow’s position as the capital champions this to sustain skills such as carpet weaving, kite-making, embroideries and earthen pottery that originated during its Mughal reign. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for Make in India, is to realise self-sufficiency by increasing exports and reducing imports. To boost Make in Lucknow, Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav has announced the construction of Lucknow Haat, a 25-acre land at Avadh Vihar that will provide a platform to handicraft workers of Lucknow. By encouraging the growth of locally manufactured handicrafts, the Uttar Pradesh government is setting a fine example for the rest of the country. With the advent of new infrastructure, underway development and powerful, Lucknow is gradually emerging as one of India’s finest cities.


Jaipur was established as a formal city in 1727 and is a marvel in India’s history and architecture. The country’s “pink city” has evolved into an economic powerhouse, and strikes an effortless balance between heritage and business. Jaipur’s strategic position in the corridor of national investment and manufacturing zone and closeness to Delhi makes it a viable destination for commerce. The city has also been christened as the “Counter Magnet City” by the planning board of the National Capital Region (NCR), in order to ease the pressure on Delhi. (Counter magnets are cities developed to disperse economic activities in tier I metros. This also attempts to reduce the mass migration of people to big cities.) Along with Information Technology, Jaipur’s economy is supported by tourism and its gem industry (manufacture and cutting of gem-stones). It is estimated that every third foreign tourist visiting India, travels to Rajasthan through Jaipur. The city’s charm is sustained in its art and crafts, that are an integral part of Jaipur’s trade as well. Along with traditional retailers of antiques, textiles, gems and handicrafts, Jaipur is also one of India’s largest manufacturers of hand-knotted rugs. A report published by UN-HABITAT on the “State of The World’s Cities” in 2013 estimated that Jaipur will be the 10th most populated city by 2025. A large floating population of six lakh tourists also travel each year to Jaipur. With the metro and accelerated development underway by the Rajasthan Infrastructure Development Act (RIDA), the city will provide a better quality of living to its citizens. Jaipur has experienced monumental changes at an unprecedented rate in the past decade, and its economic growth rate 40 per cent competes with tier I cities like Mumbai and Kolkata.


The current state of affairs of “modern Ahmedabad” is the outcome of the transformation the city underwent in the past 15 years. It was ranked by Forbes as the third fastest growing city in the world in 2010, and by the Times of India as the best city to live (in India) in 2012. The Gujarat Development Model executed by the government in the last decade is world-renowned for establishing high-standards in the city. Rapid urbanisation and massive changes to the infrastructure took place in the early 2000s, and Ahmedabad evolved from being a sleepy village to a futuristic metropolis. As of today, this tier II city is investment friendly and a plethora of versatile industries flourish here. There has been a huge influx of foreign investment in automobiles, pharmaceuticals, textiles and chemicals. While the factories are set up in the outskirts, their ancillaries thrive in the heart of the city. When it comes to manufacturing facilities, Ahmedabad offers the whole package — industrial land can easily be acquired and power is also readily available. The service sector is also gradually emerging in Ahmedabad — professionals in law, medicine, telecom, financial services, real estate and banking have either moved from other parts of India or moved out of their traditional set-ups. But family businesses continue to dominate this part of Gujarat. It has been ranked by the RBI, as the seventh largest deposit and credit centre nation-wide, in 2012. Ahmedabad is also known for its educational institutes (including the The Indian Institute of Management) and has centuries worth of history encompassed in the old part of the city. Its reasonable real-estate, low rates of crime and high rates of literacy, make it an ideal choice for young urban Indians moving from other parts of India in search of employment.


Visakhapatnam is the largest city and trade hub of truncated Andhra Pradesh (the north-western part of the state was bifurcated to form Telangana). After the division, Vizag’s (popular name) importance as the commercial backbone of the state has risen considerably. Its GDP stands at $26 billion, and is estimated to grow by $17 billion by 2025. Visakhapatnam’s location and port make it an attractive destination for investment opportunities, particularly in the petrochemical industry. In terms of cargo handling, it is India’s fifth busiest port. Its shipyard gave rise to several large-scale industries that were set up by private companies. It also has vast Special Economic Zones and industrial corridors that are located in and around the city. Vizag is also turning into a hub for Information Technology and the banking industry, with an established SEZs and incubation centre. The global bigwigs — Google, IBM, Accenture and Infosys — are also looking to set up offices in the city soon. The government is looking to position Visakhapatnam as an appealing destination for tourists as well, and has sanctioned around 10,000 crore worth of projects on the Vizag-Bhimili beach road. These projects will help boost its tertiary sector. Considering Vizag’s intrinsic connect with Buddhism, it prides itself with relics from the Buddhist empire that ruled here in fifth century BC. Known as the “Goa of the east”, the city’s beaches are attractive to the international traveller.


Kochi: the jack of all trades and paradoxically even the master of a few. Referred to as the commercial capital of Kerala, since it contributes to 15 per cent of the state’s GDP. Its safe to say, Kochi is experiencing an industrial boom. Its Special Economic Zone sprawls across 103 acres and accounted for the third highest exports from a SEZ in the country at 16,306 crore in 2013. Heavy investments in the past few years were conducive to the setting up of 160 industrial units that range from textile, gem, agro, food-processing to electronic hardware. Availability of resources including fresh water, long coastline and banking facilities have been instrumental in facilitating this colossal industrial growth. For years together, it has also been the capital of India’s spice trade, accounting for 90 per cent of the country’s spice exports. Kochi has also seen staggering figures in seafood processing and export zone, resulting in one-third of the annual 1,400 crore exports nation wide. Amongst all this, its tourism numbers are just an additional feather on its cap; Kerala’s backwaters attract tourists from around the world, and Ernakulam district (where Kochi is situated) has the highest inflow of domestic tourists visiting the state. The influx of tourism has also paved the way for the hospitality industry, and bigwigs such as the Oberoi Hotels and Resorts, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, and Hyatt Hotels have expanded here in the last few years with their luxury properties. Both — tourism and hospitality further contributes a significant 20 per cent to the city’s economy. A market leader in many trades, it is no doubt that Kochi is moving fast.


One of the lesser known cities of India, centrally located Indore is the largest economy of its state — Madhya Pradesh. Known as mini-Mumbai, the city bears similarity with the western commercial capital with regard to the lifestyle of its residents. It’s also a cultural amalgamation of different communities like Mumbai. Indore is situated ideally at the crossroads of western and central India and contributes to the commerce of western India, along with MP. Its once booming textile industry is now being replaced by a plethora of manufacturing units including metal products, jewellery, Ayurvedic pharmaceuticals, iron, steel and chemicals. Indore is also the business city serving Pithampur, a near by town that is know for its burgeoning automobile industry. It also has a number of surrounding industrial areas including the massive 3,000 Indore Special Economic Zone. Its banking industry is the powerhouse of all the revenue that gets generated in central India, a position that has helped Indore develop into an important financial centre in the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor as well. Its position as a finance hub can be reiterated by the Global Investors’ Summit held every year, an event attended by potential investors from countries including United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan, Germany and the United States of America. Indore aces ahead in Information Technology too, with the presence of the likes of IBM India and Computer Sciences Corporation, and expansion worth 100 crore planned by Infosys in the city.


Ludhiana received the status of being the easiest city to commence a business in, by International Finance Corporation (IFC) in 2009, while the World Bank ranked Ludhiana’s business environment as the best in India in 2009 and 2013. This analysis was on basis of parameters such as industrial and commercial permits, notifications, property registrations and taxation. The biggest city of its state, it contributes significantly to the economy of Punjab. This northern state has grown slower compared to the rest of India, and accounted to a 5.3 per cent growth in 2014-15 compared to 5.7 per cent last year. In the midst of the declining agricultural industry, Ludhiana paves the way for monetary snowballing with its small-scale industrial units, including manufacturing facilities for garments, machinery and auto parts, household appliances and industrial goods. This relatively small city is the hub for bicycle manufacturing and is the trusted centre for the production of the exclusive parts for German auto giants such as Mercedes and BMW. Some of the best woollen garments are produced here; Ludhiana is acclaimed for housing some of the top Indian woollen apparel brands. BBC christened Ludhiana as “India’s Manchester” for the similarity it bears with the English city in terms of its textile industry, especially post the rise of Indian hosiery that resembles Mancunian cotton.