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by Peter Gotsch and Ing. Susanne Kohte

On the outskirts of the city of Hyderabad a new urban landscape is emerging. This landscape is characterised by an eclectic mix of landmark office buildings and streets markets, high-rises and goatherds, large apartment complexes and improvised camps, gigantic advertisement billboards and temples, villas and old hamlets, decorated office buildings and slums. Cyberabad, as this dynamic, heterogeneous and complex mixture is called in a marketing ploy, is an illustrative example of the urban development policy in contemporary India. The following text explores the underlying strategies and processes.

Hyderabad, the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, boasts about 6 million residents. This makes it the sixth largest metropolis in India.2 In the 1990s the city registered a decadal population growth of 32 percent – the largest after Delhi and Bengalooru. The city’s peripheral districts have experienced even larger growth rates of between 50 to 100 percent. This enormous population growth, however, has so far not been matched by an adequate supply of jobs, housing or infrastructure. The supply of power as well as water is limited to two hours per day in many districts of the inner city, less than 20 percent of the households have a sewage connection and two out of five of Hyderabad‘s residents live in slums. At the same time, the young and increasingly well educated population forms the basis of the city’s economic potential. The average age is below 25 years, and more than 65 000 engineering graduates enter the job market of Andhra Pradesh every year. Moreover, the average wage is among the lowest in India.

In the mid 1990’s, Hyderabad made headlines as the ‘most business-friendly place in India’.³ Former President Chandrabu Naidu had introduced massive fundamental liberal economic and governmental reforms. Andhra Pradesh became an internationally known liberal development model.4 Above all, Naidu’s policy focused on the attraction of new information technologies and related services (so called IT and ITES) by providing the right regulatory framework as well as state of the art infrastructure at selected locations. This policy was successful: Along with Bengalooru and Chennai, Hyderabad joined the ‘golden triangle’ of the South Indian information technology boom. Andhra Pradesh is now India’s fourth largest exporter of software products.5 In order to accelerate this development, a series of large projects are being initiated within the region of Hyderabad. A new 162 kilometre Outer Ring Road is under construction, various satellite townships are in the planning stages, large industrial parks for everything from biotechnology to computer hardware are being realised, and a new international airport will open in the spring of 2008 – enframed by a new special development zone of 458 square kilometres.

Cyberabad is a result of these liberal urban development strategies geared towards the information technology sector. This emerging urban quarter on the periphery of Hyderabad was founded almost ten years ago as a ‘Special Development Zone’. Since then it has experienced rapid development. Microsoft and Google have large dependencies in the area; new townships marked by a series of high-rise zones and topped by a 100-storey tower are in the planning process. At some places the land prices went up as much as five hundred percent in less than five years.

„No limits“

The origins of Cyberabad can be traced back to the construction of the HITEC City (Hyderabad Information Technology Engineering Consultancy City). In the mid 1990s the state government decided to create a new Information Technology Park in Hyderabad. A central intersection in the district of Mahadpur, in close proximity to the upscale neighbourhoods of Banjara and Jubilee Hills, was selected for this purpose. The realisation of the buildings and infrastructure was accomplished in the form of a Public-Private Partnership. The project was developed by L&T Infocity Ltd., as a joint project between the state of Andhra Pradesh and the private sector.6 Another milestone in the development of Cyberabad was the state-authored strategy paper or Andhra Pradesh First Information Technology Policy 2000 (AP- First)7. This paper envisioned the development of a larger scale district for information technology companies surrounding HITEC City.

In order to attract potential investors and companies, various incentives were offered. These included, for example, subsidies for the purchase of land of as much as 20 000 Rupees (about Euro 360) per newly created job, loosened conditions of the labour laws, or the option for IT companies to locate themselves wherever they want, independent of existing zoning and land use regulations. Cyberabad was to be developed across an area of 52 square kilometres. The original site was semi-dry, lacking forest and characterised by hills, water bodies and rock formations typical for this region. Sparsely built up, it was dominated by several older villages, a series of informal settlements, structures of the University of Hyderabad and other state institutions, as well as by the first office buildings of HITEC City.

The Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA) appointed the planning and design office of Balkrishna V. Doshi8 to develop a first master plan. B.V. Doshi projected two highdensity corridors with linear centres in the form of a big cross onto the landscape and supplemented this composition with a grid structure congruous with the topography. When the master plan was legalised in 2001, it was, however, severely modified by the state in that it was marked by rather flexible building regulations. For example, the prescribed overall Floor-Area Ratio (FAR) was 0,75 9, however it became possible to overthrow this rule by buying additional development rights. In this respect only a fixed amount of fees were to be paid. Consequently, the final building heights were only limited by some security standards. Moreover, while the master plan prescribed land uses, IT Companies were permitted to build at almost at any location. Significantly, an employee of HUDA described the building regulations with “No height limit. No space limit”.10

In addition to the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority, several other state agencies and corporations are participating in the realisation of Cyberabad. The Cyberabad Development Authority (CDA), another Special Development Authority, was founded in order to secure the implementation of the master plan. While the CDA is responsible for a large share of the building permissions, among other tasks, the building permits for large projects remain to be issued by HUDA. Another Construction at the Cyber Tower, Paul Dietrich important stakeholder is the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Development Corporation (APIIC). This agency is responsible for the acquisition and development of large corporate sites as well as for the housing and IT sector and the provision of road as well as water infrastructure.11 Local government bodies such as the district or village councils (panchayats), however, have almost no influence when large projects are decided upon and implemented by the state. Hence it is not surprising that various conflicts are a regular occurrence. Since the 74th amendment of the Indian constitution in 1994, the whole country finds itself in a process of power restructuring related to the decentralisation of planning authorities from the state to the local levels. Due to the slow implementation of these regulations it is not uncommon for frequent frictions to occur. The capacity for building permits is among the most debated issues.12

One of the problems faced is that for the local village residents not much has changed for the better. Water and power supply still remain rationed while public schools are almost absent. Indeed, the new projects sometimes bring about great hardship for lower social classes. An example is the displacement and resettlement of four hundred Dalit families 13 from the southern part of Cyberabad to a place fifteen kilometres away. The compensation for them was only symbolic. Resistance and protests are very common.14

Landmarks, Corporate Campus and Integrated Townships

From the perspective of the state and the new industries, the strategy to foster economic development projects and to realise them rapidly can be rated as successful. The new buildings and complexes became the crystallisation points of Cyberabad’s rapid economic development and its physical growth. Most often the projects were initiated by various subsidies and realised as PPP projects. Landmark buildings, corporate campuses and integrated townships are the predominant typologies that have emerged in this context.15

A series of landmark buildings characterised the first phase of the HITEC City. The most significant of these buildings is the so-called ‘Cyber Tower’ (1998) – a solitary circular office building. This ten-storey building has about 60 000 3 5 4 1 2 10km square metres of office space. Here in 1999 the Microsoft Corporation founded its first Indian dependency. A second landmark building, the headquarters of Tata Consulting Services (TSC) soon joined the list of Hyderabad’s interregional architectural landmarks. Designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, today it is of the same symbolic significance as the Charminar monument or the historic fort of Golconda. Several other corporate headquarters have also taken on the scheme of a landmark building. A slightly different design typology has been applied to the headquarters of Google and Dell. These companies decided to construct five- to six-storey complexes oriented along the street front. Indeed, the edge of HITEC City is composed of clusters of these street front buildings mixed in with the landmark typology. Various types of corporate campus typology are currently emerging in the southern part of Cyberabad, a formerly sparsely populated area.16 Among these are large enclosed corporate complexes. These are situated in luscious green belts and often include recreational, educational and entertainment facilities. Wipro, Infosys, Polaris and ISB have set up their campuses in this way. Microsoft’s Cyberabad campus, with more than 12 000 employees, is the largest dependency of the firm outside the US. It is closely linked to the adjacent Indian Institute of Management.

Close to the corporate campuses a spectacular new project named ‘Lanco Hills’ is in construction on a 40-hectare site. The project will result in an ‘integrated township’. This is a sort of urban enclave with a mix of housing, offices, commercial and leisure facilities. It is going to provide its own infrastructure and feature its own services. Lanco Hills will have about 10 000 residents and a working population of more than 150 000.16 About a quarter of the area is being developed as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for the IT sector. The design envisions a series of residential high-rise buildings which are placed scenically alongside an artificial lake. A 100-storey landmark tower will dominate the skyline. During the first public offering in July 2007 the public reacted with startling interest. More than 300 000 square metres of housing space – equalling 1500 apartments of 180 square meters – have been sold in only three days. The media talked of a record sale in the history of India’s real estate sector.

Reverberations in the spatial environment

The large projects mentioned above are developing in a context of various urban structures of a smaller and more generic scale. However these in turn are being modified further by the new developments. In addition, several new urban typologies and structures are emerging. What is growing in particular are structures related to the service sector: new open markets with drinks, fruits and snacks, telephone services and advertisements for credit cards are appearing close to office complexes such as the Cyber Tower or the TCS building.

Furthermore, small new service nodes are developing at the main intersections. Rarely higher than three stories, the buildings feature restaurants as well as various shops. These new centres often develop in close proximity to existing villages or new low rise settlements. In the meantime, new informal quarters and small settlements are growing in areas that have not been absorbed by buildings – next to workshops, between the villages and in the environs of the HITEC City and the convention centre. Additionally, many new temples and mosques are appearing along the streets.

Cyberabad’s urban scape is dominated by additional building typologies of a slightly larger scale. Many dense housing as well as business structures are currently emerging in the spaces between the villages and the IT offices. These types, which are built in a casual manner along the street fronts, have been among the most popular urban patterns in India for decades. The only difference today is that they are named ‘Technopolis’ and ‘Trendset Tower’.17

Furthermore, large-scale apartments as well as villa communities which have no relation to the main streets, are becoming more and more popular in recent years. These are typically accompanied by small-scale structures, for instance for the service personnel. It is easy to predict that the supply of apartment and villa settlements will sooner or later be increased by more urban typologies based on generic global models. supermarkets, gated communities and drive in fast food restaurants are currently regarded as the best real estate ventures. 


While the urban development of Cyberabad relates to new market liberal ideals, it remains at the same time firmly in the public hand. The state government of Andhra Pradesh has either realised a large share of the projects in the manner of Public- Private Partnerships, or it has subsidised them in a massive way. Significantly, there are differences in the shape of Cyberabad between how it was originally planned and how it is emerging today. On one hand, the different outcome can be related to flexible building regulations. On the other hand, the contrast is based on the rapid realisation of publicly driven projects on land, in locations which were the easiest to seize and to develop. In this way, state policy has supported the development of corporate and housing projects for the upper income groups.

The fact that interventions for the middle as well as lower income sectors were not on the agenda of the state programmes leads to two parallel consequences. On one hand the new projects often result in the displacement of socially disadvantaged groups such as the Dalit communities in the Gatchibowli area of Cyberabad. On the other hand, the big projects also create a new demand. In this way they attract numerous small formal and informal structures in the vicinity. It is remarkable that this development is unfolding precisely in the context of a liberal and marketoriented policy framework. Many aspects point to the phenomenon that one can observe in Cyberabad today – based on the combination of ‘Integrated Townships’, traditional villages, generic settlements, ritual places, hybrid buildings, the prospect of shopping malls, fast-food chains and gated communities – the emergence of a dynamic, heterogeneous and complex urban landscape – a ‘Landscape of Surprise’.

Strategies of urban modernisation in India

New urban districts such as Cyberabad or the area around Hyderabad’s new airport (HADA) are being developed according to a specific set of strategies. These approaches are characteristic of the contemporary public urban development policy in India. Among the most important are Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), Special Economic Zones (SEZ), Integrated Townships, large projects and flexible building regulations.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP): With PPP projects the private sector is increasingly taking part in the dynamic development of Indian cities, including the provision of public services and infrastructure. Notably, PPP projects in a city like Hyderabad are not limited to large ventures such as the new International Airport, the 162 kilometre Outer Ring Road, large office parks, new satellite cities, or gigantic power plants. Private stakeholders can be found at each end of the scale, from regional projects to street furniture. They profit from pedestrian overpasses, pocket parks, street signs, signals, public lightings, public toilets, and parking garages, among others. At the same time the public administration is keen to reduce its role to that of a regulating and supporting body. The detailing of urban form is left to the forces of the private sector.(18)

Special Economic Zones (SEZ): SEZs in India are becoming increasingly autonomous elements of urban growth. Exempt from major duties, they are tax heavens where goods and services are produced for export markets. Today the SEZ models increasingly replace the public subsidies for IT and office parks.19 The strategy was introduced in India first in 2000 in order to foster international trade and foreign investment. Only two years later more than 364 projects have won the government’s approval.20 This is the case because in India, as opposed to in China or Dubai, not only public institutions but also private sector stakeholders are allowed to run SEZs. Moreover, Indian SEZs are also allowed to offer an integrated service area in addition to the production section. And this service area may also include a large housing stock. Consequently, large housing areas are being built today in the form of SEZs. Indian SEZs therefore represent a shift from pure zones of production for goods and services into integrated urban elements with a full range of urban services.21

Integrated Townships: Projects such as the above mentioned Lanco Hills township illustrate an Indian renaissance of New Towns and Satellite Towns. This project type of large and autonomous urban enclaves has established itself firmly in the Indian real estate sector. Indian as well as foreign investors can develop these projects as autonomous, ‘integrated’ all-in-one packages. Integrated Townships can easily be combined with other strategies such as Public-Private Partnerships, Special Economic Zones, Information Technology Parks or public housing schemes. They are characterised by a complete package of high-end services to the interior combined with a stark exclusion of the outer environment.

Large Projects: It can be observed that the Indian government prefers to support large projects such as IT parks, SEZs and Integrated Townships as important elements of urban development. In this context various development tools such as direct subsidies, tax abatements and PPP become available. An example is that all development areas in the new urban development zone (HADA) at the new international airport in Hyderabad must be larger than 40 hectares and that they can only be developed by large, licensed companies. In addition, the HADA master plan clearly privileges large shopping facilities and malls in favour of small-scale retail.23 The government also utilises large projects as magnets for foreign investment or channelling, optimising and securing large real estate projects as investment opportunities. Since 2002, the Indian government allows one hundred percent of direct foreign investments if a project’s area is above 40 hectares, if more than 10 million US dollars are invested and if the number of apartments exceeds 2000. For example, the company DLF-Nakheel, a joint venture from Dubai and India, is currently planning more than 20 such large projects on a total area of 16 200 hectares all over India (but mainly on the periphery of Delhi, Gorageon II).

The total investment sum of these projects is more than 75 billion US Dollars.24 Certainly, the stakeholders from the Goats and information technology, 2007, Peter Gotsch public sector (in particular the state development agencies) and the large corporations find themselves in a win-win situation. Large projects are supported by the government, because in this way urban areas can be modernised more rapidly and according to the newest world-class standards. In addition, the projects create new markets and diversify the investment opportunities for the private stakeholders (developers, banks and investors) – nationally and internationally.25 The size of the projects makes it possible to minimise risks. Indeed, this happens through the utilisation of legal and financial bodies such as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) and by devising new forms of investment such as bonds and new types of funds (eg REITS). More specifically, several aspects of India’s legal framework of land legislation play an important role in explaining the relevance of the trend towards large projects. The land legislation is traditionally geared towards the rationale of a centrally planned economy. Firstly, the official rules turn the private transfer of land into an enormously expensive and long process. Secondly, in many places regulations still exist which limit the amount of land a private person is allowed to possess (e.g. the Urban Land Ceiling Act). Thirdly, the government is at an advantage because it is authorised to confiscate land for specific purposes. Lastly, in many places as much as 30 percent of urban land is in the hands of various public institutions, such as the military, state and local administrations.26

Flexible building regulations: In the setting of India’s current liberal market reforms an increasing flexibilisation of building regulations can be observed. This has had a major impact on the quality of urban scapes and places. This flexibilisation points away from the physicallyoriented statutes of master plans and is directed in favour of investor-friendly regulations and development strategies. This trend follows the liberal logic of the greatest possible freedom for the maximum amount of market players.27 It can be exemplified by the free choice of location for IT and software companies in Cyberabad, or by the option to buy specific development rights for more density or height. Hence, the master plan at Hyderabad’s new airport defines only three density zones and allows for a general mix of usage – everything else has been standardised. If any developer seeks to transgress of any of the standards and limitations – e.g. to increase the allowable building height – he has to buy additional development rights. It can be envisioned that the new standards and regulations may contribute to increasingly fragmented and polarised urban spaces.


(1) Landscape of Surprise: Jyoti Hosagrahar uses this term in the context of new improvised urban landscapes of colonial Delhi. For the US military the expression points to a strategy of warfare. (Cp.: Hosagrahar, Jyoti; Indigenous Modernities: Negotiating architecture and urbanism; Oxon und New York; 2005; P. 7 and United States Airforce Academy (USAFA): Curriculum Handbook 2006-2007; Colorado; 2006; P. 278.)

(2) Cp. Andhra Pradesh Urban Infrastructure Development and Financing Corporation (APIIC); Hyderabad City Development Plan: Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission – Submitted to the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India; Hyderabad; 2006; P. 2.

(3) Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair have all visited Hyderabad between the year 1998 and 2002.

(4) Cp. Bradsher, Keith: A High-Tech Fix for One Corner of India; In: The New York Times; Technology Section; Dec 27th 2002; New York.

(5) The growth rate for the export of software products in the period between 2005 and 2007 was as large as 80 percent for each respective year. In the year 2009 the state of Andhra Pradesh seeks to achieve 28 percent of all software exports of the country. (Cp. APIIC, 2006, P. 17)

(6) L&T is largely owned by the Indian construction giant Larsen & Toubro as well as the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation Ltd (APPIC).

(7) “The march towards a knowledge society requires the establishment of intelligent cities which are planned and constructed with all features conducive to give a free play to the explosive development of IT.” (Government of Andhra Pradesh: AP First, Hyderabad 2000, S.8.)

(8) Doshi is one of the most influential architects of India. He is known for his collaboration in Chandigarh.

(9) This means that the buildings maximum floor area can be as much as three quarters of the lot size.

(10) Personal interview from December 14 2005

(11) Currently the APIIC is responsible for the development of 12 000 hectares of Special Economic Zones in the state. The total volume of investment has grown by about 600 percent over the last two years (www. apiicltd.com).

(12) At the beginning of 2007 a new planning agency, the „Greater Hyderabad Development Authority“, was founded to coordinate the planning efforts for the region of Hyderabad. This agency, however, can not act at the moment, as the exact competencies are still to be agreed upon. As a result no building permits are being issued at this moment. (Cp. Ali, Roushan M.; Building Projects on Hold; In: Deccan Chronicle; 30.07.2007; Hyderabad; 2007; P. 5)

(13) Dalit in the local dialect means ‘untouchable’

(14) An increasing resistance movement against the acquisition of private land can be observed by the PIIC: “The memorandum charged the HUDA and APIIC with `forcefully‘ acquiring thousands of acres in the name of IT and hardware parks from poor farmers.” (The Hindu, 19.Sept. 2006: “APIIC charged with violating human right”.)

 (15) In addition there are several supra-regional facilities such as an international fare, a large sports complex with stadium, several conference centres and also universities. A metro line is in the planning process.

(16) The project is being developed as a public-private partnership by Lanco Hills Information Technology Park and APIIC.

(17) Anthony King characterises these buildings in the following way: “....we can see this expanding architectural culture emerges from a hybridisation of historic (colonial) times and diasporic spaces, an imagination of exogenous standards and transnational lifestyles.” (Anthony King: Spaces of Global Cultures, London and New York, 2004, S 138.)

(18) “Thus the envisaged urban form is one that is generated by market forces and private sector initiatives, since in the entire HADA area, the role of HADA is that of a catalyst and facilitator with bulk of the activities engineered and promoted through licensed developers and private sector participation.” (Cp. Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA): Report on the Draft Master Plan for the Hyderabad Airport Development Area (HADA) – 2021; Hyderabad; 2003; P. 42)

(19) The Indian Government is planning to terminate the subsidies for IT-Parks by the end of 2009.

(20) This number is enormous. China, for example, has five SEZs and a further 14 economic and technical development zones.

(21) Similar observations have also been made in Vietnam. (Cp. Gotsch, Peter: „Saigon South: Parallel City in the South“; in Somma, Paola (ed.); at war with the city; Gateshead; 2004.

(22) In the year of 2010 more than 300 million Indians will be part of the middle classes, more than in the US.

(23) “Row-type or mulgees-type commercial development would be discouraged in the HADA area. Commercial and related service activities would be encouraged as shopping malls type of development on organised and integrated complexes...” (Vgl. Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA); 2003; P. 52)

(24) Cp. Bundesagentur für Außenwirtschaft 2007: Privater Wohnungsbau boomt in Indien endlich; o.O. S.2; URL: http://www.bfai.de/DE/Navigation/Datenbank- Recherche/Laender-und-Maerkte/Recherche-Laenderund- Maerkte/recherche-laender-und-maerkte-node. html (03.07.2007). (Website of the German Agency for External Economy)

(25) Only since recent times has the Indian Government allowed direct foreign investments in real estate projects that are larger than ten hectares or which provide for 50 000 square meters of usable space.

(26) Cp. Bertaud, Alain: India – Urban Land Reform; o.O.; 2002; URL: http://alainbertaud. com/images/ AB_%20India_%20Urban_Land_Reform.doc (12.08.2007). P. 3.

(27) “All development regulations aspects as well as land use zoning and permitting activities have to be simplified and liberalized. They should be made as clear and development friendly as possible so that people/developers have wide choice and freedom to develop all types of activities and uses ...” (Cp. Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA): 2003; P. 26)