India’s “Second Tier” Cities: Where Innovation is Happening

Two days in a row this week, I coincidentally found myself in conversations on innovation in India’s second-tier cities. These areas are quickly attracting forward-thinking businesses and are home to inventive new design projects, too. The first conversation was a group discussion with Dev Patnaik, principal of innovation-strategy firm Jump Associates. The second was a one-on-one chat with Jay Bhatt, the senior vice president at Autodesk who oversees the company’s architectural software products. Both recently returned from India and dropped by to share their observations.

Dev talked about how India’s second-tier cities are using the “green” card to attract new businesses away from cities such as Mumbai, making the argument that they’re not polluted and are open to eco-friendly design and practices. Pune, for example, is quickly becoming an IT, auto-making, and industrial hub. It’s also the future site of a planned “environmental township,” scheduled to open by 2016 and designed by hip architects Chris Lee and Kamil Gupta (as we reported on last year). The architects have designed a series of buildings equipped with solar panels and other eco-friendly details.

Jay discussed how rural areas and university towns (like Pune) are developing at a quick pace, and how Autodesk clients in these areas of India are increasingly interested in new types of collaborative, architectural modeling and information-management software to cope with rapid growth and construction. They’re using these tools to quickly design new buildings in an earth friendly manner, too. (Using collaborative architectural software cuts down on paper usage, for example, because fewer blueprints and other hard copies are necessary. And such computer programs allow building data can be flowed into energy-usage-analysis software fast, early on in a project's life.)

I’m just barely skimming the surface, of course. I would love to start a discussion with readers on how attitudes toward and the practice of design and innovation are developing in India’s “second-tier” cities. Any reports from the field?

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