In the monsoon month of July 1999 my parents and I visited Mumbai for the first time. The occasion was my enrollment at the prestigious IIT-Bombay. I wore new clothes and was all charged up when we landed at Mumbai only to be greeted by a heavy downpour. Rains like this one were new to me. It felt as if we landed during middle of the night while the clock said it was just 12 pm. As we drove towards IIT the rain seemed to gather additional momentum and lights were dimming further. Though my confidence only soared with each passing hour. Within no time it was time for lunch at the hostel and reality was quick to catch up to us, welcome to the hostel life at IIT! The very next morning crickets, grasshoppers and a solitary snake greeted us. It is said and I came to believe during the five year stay at IIT that temperatures at Powai are probably a degree or two lower than rest of Mumbai. And why not so, IIT Powai abuts a large national park and is flanked by lakes at two boundaries.
My note is less about IIT Bombay and more about the real estate market of Powai. Though IIT-Bombay plays a significant role in the transformation of Powai from a sleepy neighbour of Andheri to a self-sufficient eco system. Today Powai finds its place on the global map of entrepreneurship.
- Year 1999-2001 – We were returning by a suburban local after a visit to South Bombay, a curious onlooker asked us “where do you guys study” we said “IIT Powai”, his next remark bamboozled us “why, IIT didn’t you get through VJTI?”. I can never forget this incident as Powai was never thought to be a part of Mumbai. The city thrives on rail connectivity, and the closest railway station i.e. Kanjurmarg is at a distance of 7-8 km from Hiranandani complex. Hence Powai was never thought to be habitable by the usual Mumbaikar. Thus the real estate here was cheap and affordable.
- Year 2001-2003 – The developments at Hiranandani complex were gathering pace. The commercial center of Galleria was nearly occupied and several restaurants viz Great Punjab, Garrys Menu and Garden Grill were serving customers at the Hiranandani market. We students finally could savour some delights nearby in Powai as we would walk it down to Hiranandani in large groups. Nutan parathas or chicken kebabs at Great Punjab were a big hit. A few residential complexes by Hiranandani were now ready and occupied. Powai was gradually breaking apart from the boring architecture and elevations of rest of Mumbai, Powai was becoming Roman. Work on the Jogeshwari Vikrholi Link Road had also commenced as flyover at the Kanjurmarg turn was under development. (Though it was not ready even by our graduation several years later).
- Year 2003-08 – Powai emerged as a great center for employment. Several FMCG and finance firms were making it an office center of choice. Away from the financial centre of Nariman Point, Powai was being lapped up by investment banks for their Knowledge Processing centers – Lehman (later Nomura) and Credit Suisse. Deloitte was also running a full scale development center at Powai. All this resulted in the suburb of Powai becoming a self sufficient market. Hiranandani continued to add to supply of quality residences and the market was now being recognised for clean living, serene surroundings and substantial job opportunities.
- Year 2008-Till now and beyond – Every other day a news paper reports about IIT Bombay fostering a strong cult of budding entrepreneurs. Many of these ventures either run out of Bangalore or Delhi NCR, but several also bloom in Powai, abutting their alma mater. The other day I was sipping coffee at Aromas Café, a coffee shop which has etched itself firmly on networking itineraries of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and friends. It won’t be wrong to say many term sheets have been signed at this legendary coffee shop.
The venture capital continues to flow into Indian start-ups while IIT-Bombay continues to churn out entrepreneurs every year. It thereby isn’t wrong to assume that Powai will remain beneficiary of the the employment creation in these new age firms. It all results in more demand for office and residences. And Powai is no more affordable for even middle class. This is why areas such as Raheja Vihar, Chandivali, Vikroli or Kanjurmarg are catering to the expanding job market of Powai. Today Powai is a highly relevant part of Mumbai and can’t be overlooked because of poor rail connectivity. As roads to Powai are wide and ripe with funds!
The Haiko market, Rodas, Meluha The Fern and Breeze Lounge are highly popular in their own regards.
You are likely to bump into a IIT colleague of yours on a walk down the now busy high street of Powai any time of the day. And for the alumnus the gates of IIT Gymnasium and Staff Canteen are always open!