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Noida vs Gurgoan: Battle of 'burbs


CLOSE RACE: Outsourcing maintenance to private players has led to civic woes in Gurgaon while Noida has followed a more centralised and efficient approach

The unveiling of the state-of-the-art Formula 1 racing track in Greater Noida and the world class Yamuna Expressway leading to it have sent a frisson of concern coursing through Gurgaon on Delhi's southern border. Suddenly, there's a buzz about the poor cousin from the east side. Almost overnight, the badlands of Mayawati Pradesh have transformed into a Shanghai miracle with a scale and quality of construction not seen before in India. And it's threatening to put swanky Gurgaon in the shade.

Often touted as India's Millennium City because of its metamorphosis over the past decade from a barren village into a modern urban sprawl dotted with gleaming glass and steel skyscrapers, neon-lit malls and luxury apartment complexes, Gurgaon has fallen victim to the perils of rapid and unplanned growth. Soaring real estate prices, poor infrastructure and a severe water shortage have erased some of its sheen and recent labour troubles in the Maruti factory have prompted automobile manufacturing units in the area to consider relocation.

No wonder then that Gurgaon is shaken by the post-Grand Prix hype about Delhi's eastern suburb. "The Noida-Greater Noida belt has the potential to eclipse Gurgaon in three years, " says Amitabh Kant, CEO of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, where smart cities and industrial hubs are being set up to boost manufacturing through foreign investment. "World class urban development needs a good master plan and superb trunk infrastructure. Greater Noida has both. "

But Kant adds a caveat. "No city can grow without economic drivers. Noida and Greater Noida have excessive residential development and not enough commercial and industrial hubs. They must concentrate on creating these to attract Japanese and Korean companies looking for investment opportunities in India. If they do, they'll boom. "

Gurgaon is streets ahead of the competition in this respect. Its high-value commercial centres continue to draw multinational and Indian companies. And with young managers flocking to work in these companies, it has developed premium spaces for them to work, live and play. There is then a vibrancy about Gurgaon that is missing in Noida. The latter has an ageing population of retired bureaucrats and professionals for whom a sedentary life in quiet neighbourhoods surrounded by green golf courses is infinitely preferable to the hustle-bustle of a booming city.

Gurgaon is also blessed with an international airport nearby - a core infrastructure necessity that Noida lacks. Mayawati's efforts to get the central government to sanction one for Greater Noida have failed so far, preventing the area from taking off as a hot investment destination. Still, the showcasing of Noida-Greater Noida through the F1 race may spur the demand for an airport and give the area the fillip it needs.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the F1 experience is the affirmation that governments need not be a roadblock to quality urban development. In sharp contrast to the experience of other cities, where politics often interferes with urban planning to create messy concrete sprawls, Greater Noida has forged ahead because of an unusual degree of cooperation between the UP government and private developers. Says Rajiv Talwar, group executive director of DLF, the company that virtually built Gurgaon, "It is a stellar example of a government putting its faith in the private sector and allowing it to function without interference. The F1 track and the Expressway are one more feather in their caps. "

The emerging Noida-Gurgaon rivalry has its roots in the vastly different manner in which they have developed and grown. Gurgaon was the result of a private initiative of DLF boss KP Singh, who set about transforming this village on the outskirts of Delhi into an urban jungle of office and residential high rises, shopping malls and multiplexes. Since it was purely a private enterprise, Gurgaon developed without an urban master plan, which is probably the reason for the civic and other troubles it faces today.

In the 1970s, DLF acquired 3, 500 acres directly from farmers to develop modern townships in phases. Later, other developers like Ansals and Unitech also entered the Gurgaon market as the demand grew. But it was Singh who marketed Gurgaon to multinational companies, kicking off the process by inviting his personal friend and General Electric's top boss, Jack Welch, to visit in 1989. GE started its back office operations in India from DLF's Corporate Park in DLF City III. Soon, a number of business process outsourcing (BPO) offices came up in Gurgaon and transformed it into a BPO hub. As the absorption of office space accelerated in Gurgaon, the requirement for residential units also rose.

Unfortunately, the development in Gurgaon did not keep pace with infrastructure requirements. Private developers took on the responsibility of creating internal infrastructure within sectors. But external infrastructure such as connecting roads, water supply from reservoirs, sewage disposal systems and drainage were left to the state government, which failed miserably on this score. Today, Gurgaon faces problems of terrible traffic jams and inadequate water and electricity supply, issues that the Haryana government has now woken up to address. Kant calls it "retro-fitting", something that is difficult to execute when buildings have come up in a haphazard manner.

Singh says that the government should act as an enabler, facilitator and regulator but not as a developer. He believes that development work should be done by the private sector to expedite growth. And this is a model that the UP government seems to have perfected in Noida, and particularly in Greater Noida where trunk infrastructure has been built almost entirely by private developers under the supervision of the Noida authorities.

Noida was set up under an Uttar Pradesh government act, the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority Act of 1976. Kant points out, "Its development was helped by some good administrators who drew up a master plan and set about implementing it. These civil servants planned for the creation of superior trunk infrastructure and they were allowed to function with relatively little political interference from the state government. " While the previous Mulayam Singh Yadav government may have set the tone, it was the present Mayawati government that gave the push to the expressway projects that have put the Noida-Greater Noida belt on the national map.

Here, the authorities acquired the land from farmers and after developing external infrastructure like connecting roads, electricity supply, water supply and a sewage disposal system, parceled it out to private developers. With Mayawati taking a personal interest in developing the area (she hails from Badalpur, which is in Greater Noida), the government has ensured that the projects are completed on time and measure up to international standards.

Today, while the road to Gurgaon is a nightmare of traffic jams, the connectivity from Delhi to Greater Noida is an amazing ride.
The driving time from south and central Delhi to areas along the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway is around 30 minutes.
The driving time to the Sports City on the Yamuna Expressway, being developed by Jaypee on 5, 000 acres of land, is another half-an-hour. The city is being developed as a self-contained town on the principle of "walk to work". Besides Jaypee, a number of other developers like Amrapali, Supertech, Gaursons, Logix group, ATS, 3C, Eldeco, Gardenia and Paras Buildtech are developing large residential projects in Noida and Greater Noida.

Gurgaon, though, has a headstart and the Noida belt has a lot of catching up to do, despite the ongoing frenzied construction activity in the area. A senior officer in the Noida Authority (NA) said that a certain number of companies will have to shift to create a critical mass before the Noida-Greater Noida region can outshine Gurgaon. The authorities are on overdrive, offering incentives to corporates to open their offices here. He acknowledged that an international airport is essential, without which Noida may never achieve its potential. But this has become a political issue, which may only be settled once the 2012 state assembly polls are over. But before Noida can rest on its F1 laurels, we pit the two suburbs against each other.


Gurgaon's zooming real estate prices underline the fact that it has arrived as a leading commercial and residential hub while Noida and Greater Noida continue to lag behind. Commercial space in Gurgaon today fetches a monthly rent of between Rs 120 and Rs 140 per square foot. In Noida, the same space is available for a paltry sum of Rs 35 per square foot.
The same is true for residential space. Gurgaon's new sectors command a handsome price of Rs 4, 000 per sq foot, but in Noida the price is between Rs 2, 000 and Rs 2, 500 per square foot. Getamber Anand, CMD of the ATS group, which has built a number of premium segment residential projects in Noida, says although the infrastructure is superior to that of Gurgaon, it has not impacted real estate prices. He attributes this to the unending availability of space, which has resulted in an over-supply of flats and offices. But Anand believes that in three to five years, there will be substantial appreciation in Noida too because of the ever increasing hunger in Delhi for property.

It is with this in mind that developers are building big for the future. A large number of high quality commercial and residential projects are being developed on the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway. A couple of upmarket residential projects are being constructed around 18-hole golf courses, which can rival similar projects in Gurgaon. The residential project in Greater Noida by Jaypee Greens on 452 acres of land with a 18-hole golf course at the centre provides a world class residential option for top corporate honchos. Gurgaon, on the other hand, has only the DLF golf course to boast of.

A senior officer in the NA said that what the belt lacks is a visionary promoter like DLF's KP Singh. They are trying hard though and have flaunted their superior connectivity to Delhi to entice companies like HCL, Wipro, Sun Microsystem and Metlife Insurance to set up offices on 100-acre campuses.


When it comes to metro rail-based connectivity, Noida and Greater Noida score over Gurgaon. The authorities have collected money from end users and created a huge corpus of around Rs 9, 000 crore for extending the existing lines up to Greater Noida. But, there is no similar mechanism available in Gurgaon. Here, the construction of metro rail has to be funded by the state government, whose priorities are different. Interestingly, DLF is constructing a private metro of 6. 2 km for its own residents in DLF Cities. But, small developers in the area cannot afford to do the same.


There's not much to choose between the two, though Gurgaon has more white-collar crime. Both state governments need to bring down the crime graph.


Gurgaon's swankiness is confined indoors. The sewage main lines are missing in most localities especially in the new Gurgaon sectors where sewage is dumped in vacant plots. But things are slowly changing. After developing 56 sectors, the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) has adopted the Greater Noida model where individual companies are awarded the task of constructing and maintaining the infrastructure sector-wise in the upcoming sectors.

On the power front, both witness power outages of around 8 to 12 hours during summer. Residents are dependent on costlier power supplied through gensets. Water is where the east scores since it has more ground water availability. The Gurgaon water table is dipping and the city's dependence on ground water extraction is not sustainable in the long run. However, the water supplied in Noida is saline despite being mixed with Ganga water. Future plans for Gurgaon envisage a sufficient quantity of water from the NCR channel. Noida, on the other hand, has plans to provide 100 per cent Ganga water by 2020.


Cyber City is where the very centre of corporate razzle-dazzle in Gurgaon lies. Though you wouldn't have guessed that if you go by the pockmarked and water-logged roads here. Take the example of Udyog Vihar. It is the region's industrial hub, with over 2, 000 manufacturing units doing thousands of crores worth of business. But there's no sign of a parking facility. Drive through the plushest of residential colonies, Sushant Lok, and marvel at the great heaps of garbage lying uncollected for months.

The stories are the same throughout Gurgaon. And who is to blame for this? Private developers in some cases but usually private firms to whom all basic maintenance and upkeep activities have been outsourced. In Gurgaon, everything from building roads to sweeping them is outsourced to private firms. Indeed, the public-private-partnership model of development was adopted by the Haryana administration amid much fanfare. But the PPP model, now, is seen as a mere face-saving measure. When there are profit-driven private players involved, there is hardly any accountability. Mismanagement, too, doesn't weigh heavily on government officials. They just cancel the contract and move on to another firm.

Private builders and developers also have to hand over maintenance of their areas to the civic body once the development work is complete. But this isn't followed, and as a result, many residents are made to pay maintenance taxes to both the civic body and private developers, and more often than not, receive services from none. Noida, on the other hand, follows a better approach to town management. NA and GNA are the single-window administrative and civic services. The suburb has well laid-out sectors with wide roads, flyovers and under-passes and plenty of local shopping complexes in each sector. NA recently announced its decision to allocate Rs 4, 997. 65 crore for various development projects, of which about Rs 2, 000 crore will be spent on creating and developing the required infrastructure for the township's allround development, besides providing basic services like healthcare, transport and water supply. However, the downside is that most of these projects currently are under construction. This has led to very heavy traffic on certain routes, dug up roads and mushrooming of dusty construction sites everywhere.


If you're the kind that needs a 'special' coffee place, eat out every other day or just unwind with a pitcher of freshly brewed wheat beer, then we've just the place for you: Gurgaon.

Whatever Noida may have on Gurgaon, its Haryana counterpart steals a march when it comes to entertainment and eating-out options. There are over 15 malls - a conservative estimate - spread all over Gurgaon with cinema halls, restaurants and international brands. Compare that with Noida where all the action is centred around Atta Market or Sector 18. From boutiques to fast-food chains to salons, everything is on two sides of the main road.

If spending a weekend at the mall isn't your scene, then Gurgaon has plenty of fine-dining restaurants - standalone and in hotels - late-night dhabas, quiet coffee places, a superb bakery or even ahatas where you can take your booze, order some food and sit back while a Jimi Hendrix concert plays on the big screen. Innumerable microbreweries have sprouted in Gurgaon giving beer drinkers reason to cheer. Clubs in Gurgaon always attract crowds after 1 pm. Why? Because they're open till late, read at least till 3 pm. Even liquor shops are licensed to stay open till 2 am and some will even deliver to your doorstep.

There is culture, too, with venues like Epicentre hosting some of the best theatre groups in India and the Devi Art Foundation, the first private contemporary art museum in India, boasting of an amazing collection. Art galleries like Art Alive have also opened.


When it comes to schools, Gurgaon boasts of the bigger names like Sriram and Heritage. They're about equal in terms of hospitals too, with large facilities like Medanta, Fortis, Artemis and Paras coming up in Gurgaon. Noida has its share of hospital chains like Fortis, Max Healthcare, Apollo, Metro and Kailash.

Gurgaon has the posh hotels thanks to its proximity to the airport. Now, Noida wants to play catch-up. NA has auctioned around 10 plots for five-star hotels. The Max group is also planning to construct a large hotel in Noida and the Logix group will come up with two properties on the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway.


Driving Noida's steering wheel is Mayawati, who has moved beyond her Behenji image, and is burning a lot of rubber to win the race. Team Hooda has the sheer advantage of pole position. Even if they seem a bit out of form now, maybe a pit stop is all they need.

Perception plays a huge role on track as well as off it. Like any service providers, cities compete against each other for investment, shoppers, tourists and talent. Till recently, Gurgaon was seen as a VIP city because of its plush corporate offices, swanky malls and luxury apartments. And Noida was still a middleclass suburb notorious for crime.

But now, suddenly, the future looks great for Greater Noida, while nothing is new about New Gurgaon. Noida, which used to supply less than one-third the number of properties as Gurgaon till 2007, now supplies six times more properties than its competitor. It has better connectivity with three expressways and has successfully hosted the F1.

"Brand Noida is suddenly shining. It looks more like Chandigarh even as Gurgaon has become a mess in the absence of town planning, " says adman Prahalad Kakkar. "In the next five years, Noida will become the Gujarat of north India. Mayawati has realised that while UP is too big and complex a state to be showcased as a development model in a single term, the same can be done with a city next to Delhi. "

For many, it may be surprising to know that the employment growth rate in Gautam Budh Nagar is 14 per cent, way higher than the 11 per cent in Gurgaon. It shows where the business is headed. Arvind Singhal, chairman of Technopak, a company that advises MNCs on India entry strategies, says new entrants are looking at Greater Noida and the Noida Expressway for expansion. "Gurgaon started developing quality office space before Noida and that led to development of luxury housing and lifestyle here. But that perception is changing in favour of Noida. " Singhal, who works out of his Gurgaon office, says the Noida master plan is much better than the Gurgaon one, which seems to be non-existent. But all is not well with Noida. More than 50, 000 apartments were put at risk during the Noida Extension land dispute, which is yet to be resolved. If the realty bubble does burst, middle class investors will be the biggest sufferers. And the Millennium City isn't easy to beat. Gurgaon, home to many Fortune 500 companies, has a per-capita income 43 per cent higher than Noida. It's a rich town. For branding veteran Alyque Padamsee, Gurgaon is a Coke while Noida is a Thums Up. "Noida needs to project five-star style if it is going attract MNCs. " The chequered flag is still out of sight. Which city would you bet on?

(With additional reporting by Vinay Sarawagi, Ruhi Batra, Vineet Gill, Tanusree Roy Chowdhury & Vandana Keelor)

POPULATION Over 16 lakh
SEX RATIO 852/1000
POPULATION DENSITY 2, 463 per sq km

Employment growth rate: 14% Per Capita Income: Rs 85, 519 per annum Highest number of per capita seats for MBA and Engineering courses Noida could generate an additional 12 lakh jobs by 2020: Assocham Only 77% of houses have electricity connections in the Noida region


UP has earmarked 7 lakh sq m for industry in the Noida region Within the NCR, Noida's share of housing is over 50%. In 2008, it was about 12%


Connected by three expressways - DND Flyway, Greater Noida E-way, and Yamuna E-way DND toll bridge was India's first BoT bridge project $400 million spent on bringing F1 to India, including acquisition of 2, 500-acre land City is not directly connected by airways or railways Taj Airport at Greater Noida has been put on the backburner due to political reasons A helipad is being constructed in Sector 128


POPULATION Over 20 lakh
SEX RATIO 853/1000
POPULATION DENSITY 1, 241 per sq km

Nearly 300 Fortune 500 companies have corporate presence in Gurgaon Gurgaon attracts 78% of the foreign direct investment that flows into Haryana Gurgaon generates more than half of Haryana's tax revenues Annual turnover of the industrial sector in Gurgaon has crossed the Rs 50, 000-crore mark Per capita income: Rs 1, 22, 212 p. a. (3rd highest in country after Chandigarh and Mumbai) Employment Growth Rate: 11% Credit growth rate: 25% (2nd highest in country) About 55% of city residents have incomes above Rs 3 lakh p. a. City has 43 malls, 3rd highest after Mumbai and Delhi 137 new cars are being bought in Gurgaon every day


About 550, 000 people directly or indirectly employed by IT industry About 14, 000 private security guards work here. City has 3, 100 policemen and 4, 800 more are required

Cross-country runners
I would never move to Gurgaon. Even though I commute daily from Noida to Gurgaon, and spend hours stuck in traffic, I would plumb for Noida as home any day. For starters, Noida is cleaner and greener and the roads are much better. Noida's biggest plus point is the strong sense of community it has. People here live in houses and not in high-rise buildings. We know our neighbours, celebrate festivals together. The local grocer knows us. It's a much more comfortable and secure way of living
SUPARV CHOTMARADA | Contract Advertising Pvt Ltd

I live in DLF but my office is in Noida. I end up travelling a lot every day but still I would prefer to stay in DLF. That's because despite its crumbling infrastructure, Gurgaon continues to be a more happening place. There are more entertainment options here - films, theatres, malls. At the same time I have to confess that Noida is shedding its image of a 'retirement colony'. The infrastructure there is solid, especially roads in Greater Noida. F1 has really boosted its image
KULBHUSHAN MISRI | Freescale, Noida

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