No analysis on the top Indian cities can be complete without a mention of the suburbs around them. Typically, a suburb is a residential area or community outlying a city such that those living in the suburb can commute to the main city for their economic needs.
Internationally, the term suburb conjures up images of a relatively unspoilt, less densely populated and predominantly residential community close to a city. In India, it is difficult to find such conditions. Whether it is Gurgaon, or Salt Lake, we find them to be economic entities quite independent from the larger city near which they are located. For instance, Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, and Gurgaon are much more than mere suburbs of New Delhi. But they are also not large enough to be called New Delhi’s twins. These are younger cities which may, one day, even overtake New Delhi.
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There are quite a few such locations in India. There is Salt Lake near Kolkata, Navi Mumbai in Thane district, the communities on Bangalore-Hosur and Bangalore-Mysore routes in Bangalore rural district, Pimpri Chinchwad near Pune, and so on. And there are many more across the country, not as well known yet, but will be known soon enough.
These cities typically fulfil an important need that the larger city was unable to offer. In the initial phase they may have been unidimensional but over time they have gained a distinct character and momentum of their own. The lack of office space in New Delhi, the lack of new residential areas in Kolkata and expensive real estate in Mumbai have contributed to the growth of Salt Lake, Gurgaon, and Navi Mumbai. Now all three are more than just real estate alternatives to larger neighbours.
These sibling locations include communities that may be large such as Navi Mumbai or small such as Salt Lake or spontaneously arisen such as large tracts of Ghaziabad, with good urban planning such as Noida or without quality infrastructure such as Gurgaon. Some have a large concentration of high-income households such as Gurgaon, others like those around Kolkata have a large number of poor, still others such as Navi Mumbai tend to have a large middle class.
There is only one thing in common between them—they are in the geographical vicinity of a larger city. And they are increasingly becoming more important than their older sibling.
Demand Curve is a weekly column by research firm Indicus Analytics Pvt. Ltd on consumer trends and markets. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Graphics by Sandeep Bhatnagar / Mint