Pune, Maharashtra’s second largest city after Mumbai, has been a hub for the engineering industry for over five decades. But it is in the last two odd decades that it has seen a virtual metamorphosis, evolving from a quiet peaceful town that offered harried Mumbaikars a pleasant weekend getaway to a mini metro bustling with industrial activity.

Today, Pune wears many caps — leading IT destination, logistics hub and a renowned centre for the auto, design and white goods industries, amongst others. 

 On the industrial front, the progress first began with the setting up of Kirloskar Oil Engines, Tata Motors and Bajaj Auto in the 1950s and 1960s. The Swedish Group Sandvik Asia, Atlas Copco, Alfa Laval, SKF Bearings followed suit andwere amongst the earliest settlers on the erstwhile two-lane Bombay-Poona Road.

  Industrial activity grew gradually as more units were established, including Finolex Cables, Forbes Marshall, the now defunct Garware Nylons and Bajaj Tempo (now Force Motors), amongst others on the same stretch. The road itself is now a wide four-lane boulevard with a series of underpasses and fly-over bridges to ensure a smooth, unhindered drive from the city centre to its industrial outskirts.

The proliferation of the auto industry gave a fillip to a host of auto ancillaries to mushroom. The Pune region has a buzzing auto components industry ranging from innumerable micro, small and medium scale units to Bharat Forge, now the largest forgings company in the world.

IT revolution

With the coming of the Information Technology Age, the last decade of the 20{+t}{+h} century saw Pune discover newer pastures. The Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) set up a software technology park where many IT businesses were incubated. The State government persuaded home grown IT major Infosys into setting up base at the freshly minted IT industrial estate of Hinjewadi, and the rest, as they say, is history.

 Around the same time, Anand Deshpande, returned from overseas to set up Persistent Systems, while Ravi Pandit established the forerunner to what is now KPIT Cummins. A significant part of the success of these enterprises, and a multitude of smaller IT and ITES companies can be attributed to the skill sets generated within the city.

 In the years since, almost every significant name on the national and international IT map has set up a campus here — Wipro, Tech Mahindra, Cognizant, IBM, Mphasis, Veritas, BMC Software to name a few - have set up large campuses, and a large fraction of India’s IT revenue is generated from the Pune region.

 While India’s largest vehicle manufacturer Tata Motors and second largest two-wheeler maker Bajaj Auto have been residents of Pune for decades, it was the arrival of global OEMs like Mercedes Benz, Piaggio, Skoda, General Motors, Volkswagen and Fiat that helped forge its identity as an important destination in India’s, and, indeed the world’s auto story. Predictably, there are many elements to Pune’s growth story and its now significant position on the Indian industrial chart.

In addition to its geographical advantages, the importance of its proximity to Mumbai and accessibility to ports for the entry and exit of raw materials and finished goods cannot be understated. And of course, it is much cheaper to set up a business here than in any of the metros.

The setting up of new well planned industrial estates by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation in the last few years has helped manufacturers find land for setting up of units. This has also played a major role in the development of Pune as an industrial hub. MIDC’ss industrial estates at Ranjangoan, Hinjewadi, Hadapsar and in the Talegaon-Chakan belt, are relatively recent feathers in Pune’s cap.

 An integral part of the eco-system needed for the proliferation of industry is the adequate availability of unskilled, skilled and managerial workforce and opportunities for recreation for its employees. The large number of institutions of higher learning, are supported by the presence of several Industrial Training Institutes that churn out an industrially trained labour force. To boot, the city has seen no significant labour troubles for over 25 years.  

(This article was published on December 11, 2012)
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