A few minutes of travel on the gleaming highway that connects Delhi to Jaipur will help you believe that all of corporate India is moving to Gurgaon, one of Delhi's two main satellite cities.
On both sides of the eight-lane road (it appears to be four-laned due to the unchecked parking on both sides of it), 21 gigantic towers that span 8 million square feet have changed the skyline of this sleepy town beyond recognition.
Passersby will be forgiven for thinking they are in Hong Kong, so dazzling is the glare of this mega concrete jungle with its innumerable lights at night.
Just behind Cybercity (which by 2010 will comprise 15 million square feet of office space over 150 acres of which 8 million is already built) and touching on one side the "Mall of India" (India's largest retail mall), there is DLF's special economic zone. Here there is a cluster of another 15 buildings that will offer close to another 5 million square feet of office space to companies primarily in the IT arena.
Further on the same road, close to the DLF Golf Club on what is called the sector road, new buildings have come up in the last few months for American Express (which has moved its corporate headquarters to Gurgaon in a DLF building that spans over a million square feet), and Ernst and Young (built by Alpha G), consolidating several small offices spread around Delhi.
Hewitt, Dell and Indiatimes are some of the other companies who now find themselves in close proximity of the Golf Course. DLF, which owns large chunks of land in the area, is chalking out grand plans, several of which will be in the commercial space.
If one doesn't take the left just after crossing the 'ship building' and continues straight on the highway to Sohna road, there's a second range of commercial space on offer - a series of retail-cum-office buildings by smaller developers.
What distinguishes this from the Cybercity-like offices is that office spaces are smaller (5,000-10,000 square feet), cheaper and are usually on top of a mall. There is no exclusive made-to-order office space coming up along this road, which is currently aiming to offer just over a million square feet of combined office space. Developers like Universal and Vatika are offering space ideally suited to smaller businesses.
For companies that don't primarily care about location or client visits, there is a third option of setting up base at IMT Manesar - at least another 20-25 km further towards Jaipur from the ship building - which is expected to offer close to 1.39 million square feet of office space by 2009-10.
Welcome to Gurgaon, corporate India's new mecca. Initially when DLF started developing Gurgaon, it was promoted as the cheaper alternative for residents, looking for a reprieve from a crowded, waterless and powerless Delhi. However, over the years (especially since 2003), mainly companies and commercial growth have been shaping the new look of the city.
In 1997, Gurgaon's leading developer DLF set up its first commercial space on the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road - DLF Corporate Park (which was sold to companies), followed by many others staggered across the city. Similarly, developers like Unitech set up buildings like Global Business Park (again on MG road).
However, till 2003, the total commercial construction by developers in Gurgaon was very low. "For instance, we (DLF) built just around 2 million square feet of commercial space till 2003. However, since 2003, the company is delivering around 2 million square feet of commercial space every year," says DLF Commercial's chairman A S Minocha.
Since it started development in Gurgaon, DLF has built 17 million square feet in residential high rises (another 9-10 million is under development). But commercial development is already over 10 million in just four years. Rents have kept pace with the rise in demand. Buildings that were earlier (in 1997-98) leased at Rs 6-8 per square foot are now going at Rs 60-80 per square foot.
While Noida - the other satellite city - is also adding to the total commercial supply, its growth is far slower than Gurgaon (by 2009-10, it will supply another 14.5 million square feet of commercial space).
According to Frank Knight, one of the leading real estate consultancy firms, "strong pre-commitment demand is expected to continue in Gurgaon" which has "become the centre of new age office space development in NCR, and is today witnessing the development of some large formats office projects".