- Japanese residents of India rehearsed ahead of the Japanese Festival in Bangalore,
Bangalore, one of India’s most cosmopolitan cities, is reaching out to a growing Japanese community. From specialty restaurants to Japanese-themed hotels, new businesses are springing up to cater to the needs of expatriates.
Every month, Bangalore – the capital of the southern state of Karnataka – attracts about 1,800 business visitors from Japan, according to the Japan External Trade Organization, or Jetro. There are at least four flights – on Singapore Airlines , Emirates and Air India – from Japan to Bangalore every day.
As of October, there were 228 Japanese businesses operating in and around Bangalore, up 25% from a year earlier, according to the Japanese Embassy in India. Big Japanese names like Toyota Motor Corp. 7203.TO +2.61% and Honda Motor Co. 7267.TO +1.63% Ltd. have a strong presence in Karnataka, and this has brought several Japanese auto components suppliers to the state.
Toyota plans to make India one of its key export hubs worldwide, and Bangalore has become an important entry point for company executives traveling to its two factories outside Bangalore.
Honda is also building its third India factory near Bangalore, which will become operational in the first half of 2013. Its other factories are in the northern state of Haryana and Rajasthan, in the northwest.
Other well-known Japanese corporate names like Fujitsu Ltd. 6702.TO +1.11% Komatsu Ltd. 6301.TO +0.56% and Hitachi Ltd. 6501.TO +1.42% also have a presence in Karnataka.
The influx of businesses has meant that the number of Japanese families living in Bangalore now exceeds 800, up from around 650 last year, said Deepak Anand, assistant director of research at Jetro.
Japanese business visitors to Bangalore will soon be the fourth highest in number, after Americans, British and Germans, said Naveen Raju, director of Bangalore-based Chancery Hotels.
“Our Japanese guests are different from the others as they typically have very specific requirements,” Mr. Raju said.
While the Japanese are very particular about their food and need personalized attention they also bring a lot of brand loyalty, he said, adding that the language barrier also means that most Japanese feel comfortable only in settings where there are fellow Japanese around.
These precise needs have led to a demand for Japanese-focused hospitality services in the city. Toyota Enterprises Ltd., a unit of Toyota Motor Corp. that operates a chain of hotels in Japan, in August entered into a joint venture with Chancery Hotels to provide Japanese-style accommodation and amenities.
Under the agreement, 52 rooms of the 120-room Chancery Hotel on Bangalore’s Lavelle Road will be refurbished to specifically meet the needs of Japanese visitors.
The Japanese section of the Chancery Hotel, once completed by mid-February, will have a spa and large communal bath, Japanese-speaking hotel staff, sign boards in Japanese and a restaurant managed by a Japanese chef.
Mumbai-born entrepreneur Nic Iqbal has set up a 30-room hotel, called Uno-Inn, in Bangalore to cater to Japanese business visitors who come on slightly longer visits, like a week or more. He soon plans to open a Japanese restaurant, which will be managed by a Japanese chef.
At present, there are only a handful of specialty Japanese restaurants in Bangalore. Harima, a standalone restaurant on Bangalore’s Residency Road, serves exclusively Japanese cuisine. As does Edo restaurant, located in the five-star ITC Gardenia hotel.
Others like Shiro in the UB City Mall on Vittal Mallya Road, OKO at the five-star Lalit Ashok Bangalore and Zen in the five-star Leela Palace hotel offer Japanese food as part of a broader Asian menu.
But food is still one of the things Japanese residents complain the most about in Bangalore.
“Given Bangalore’s distance from the coast, it’s very difficult to get fresh fish, which is essential for Japanese dishes like sushi and sashimi,” said Takayuki Tatsuta, managing director of Toyota Techno Park India Pvt. Ltd.
Mr. Tatsuta, who has lived in Bangalore for more than three-and-a-half years, also said the roads are poor and drivers need to work on their etiquette, but he is happy with the city’s weather, describing it as “the best in the world.”
“Things are changing for the better,” added Abhijit Guha, general manager, corporate Toyota Tsusho 8015.TO -0.10% India Pvt. Ltd. Mr. Guha, who works closely with Toyota’s visitors from Japan, said that, in addition to new restaurants and hotel facilities, healthcare services are improving as well.
Japanese security services company Secom Co. 9735.TO +1.17% has entered into an agreement with Toyota Tsusho Corp. and India’s Kirloskar Group to set up a hospital in Bangalore. The 300-bed hospital is expected to open in April 2013.
A Karnataka government official said there are also plans to set up an industrial township on 1,000 acres of land outside Bangalore to house Japanese manufacturers’ factories, especially those of auto component makers. He said plan is only in an “incipient stage” but several Japanese investors have expressed interest.