About 17.5% of the world’s population call India home. With 1.33 billion inhabitants, India is only second to China on the list ranking the most populous countries on Earth.
Knowing that the Indian government only conducts a census every ten years and that the next one will be published in 2021, you will quickly do the maths and realise that the most recent official data on India’s population date back to 2011.
At the time, the Indian Republic numbered 27 cities and 53 urban agglomerations with 1 million inhabitants or more. Three Indian metropolia also harboured more than 10 million souls, Mumbai (or Bombay) has 20.7 million, Kolkata (or Calcutta) has 14.1 million and New Delhi (or Delhi) has 26.4 million.
India is renowned for his world-class traffic jams where one can stay stuck hours on end. (by joiseyshowaa)
Because of Indian’s population growth, which added more than 200 million people to the census between 2001 and 2011, it is expected that India will be the very first nation to count 1.5 billion as citizens and it is expected that it will surpass China’s number by 2024.
Given the exponential growth of India’s population, it is not a surprise that the country had to face many challenges relating to urbanism, pollution and sanitation.
Mumbai is the most densely populated urban area in the world with 21,000 inhabitants for every square kilometre had to overcome many of such challenges and is still working on improving the living conditions of its citizens.
For example, if one were to put all the cars, taxis and rickshaws officially registered in the city of Mumbai lined up, the entire 1,900km of the city’s road would be full!
Mumbai also struggles with its water supply, and the city’s officials estimated that they are losing 700 million litres of water through theft and leakage, EVERY DAY!
These challenges mean that the Indian government has had a lot to do to provides its citizens with decent living conditions. However, a lot of improvements have been done in recent years, progresses that are measured every year by the Mercer’s Quality of Living Ranking and the Indian Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).
So which India cities would offer you the best living conditions?
Charminar in Hyderabad has become one of the most recognisable site of the city. Charminar has been a historical place with mosque on the top floor for over 400 years and also famous for its surrounding markets.
Technically Hyderabad is the capital of two states, at least until 2025. Originally the capital of Andhra Pradesh, in the South East of India, the city was included in the newly formed state of Telangana in 2014 but would remain the de jure capital of Andhra Pradesh for a period of 10 years. No one said Indian political and geographical subtilities were easy.
Hyderabad was founded in 1591 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah and remained under the rule of his dynasty until the Moghul Empire took over. Later on, the Mughal viceroy Asif Jah I went his own way and coronated himself Nizam of Hyderabad.
His family continued to rule the region for the next century and a half until the Independence in 1948 when Nizam VII only reluctantly surrendered his powers after the newly created Indian Union invaded the princely state and defeated the Nizam’s forces.
Fast forward 70 years and Hyderabad is now a modern city, which has been ranked as the best Indian city to live in for four years in a row.
What is so good about it?
Affordable housing and low cost of living
Compared to any British city, real-estate in India is relatively affordable, but the city of Hyderabad, which is home to no less than 7.7 million people, boasts some of the most affordable housing of the country.
Compared to Mumbai, the most expensive city in the country, a 100m2 flat in Hyderabad city centre would cost around 6.1 million rupees or about £70,000 (or 61 lakh rupees, Indian usually count significant numbers in lakh, one lakh being 100,000 rupees). Rents in Hyderabad are thus roughly 85% cheaper than Mumbai.
Cost of living is also quoted to be one of the reasons the city as ranked so high amongst Indian towns. Overall the purchasing power of Hyderabadis is about 16% higher than their Mumbaites peers.
The relatively clement climate and the low crime rate were also factors that gained the city its top position.
Expats are also very likely to find employment in the city of Hyderabad as big American companies the like of Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, IBM, Yahoo!, Oracle Corporation, Dell, Facebook and CISCO, all have firms there. No wonder IT pros call the city Cyberabad.
The city is also home to major Indian pharma companies and produces one-third of all the drugs sold in the country while manufacturing 16% of all of the country’s biotechnology products.
If you get lost or need to bargain, you will have to learn some Hindi at least.
The monsoon does not spare the city of Pune during the rainy season. Make sure to take cover when the clouds burst. (by mukerjichinmoy)
Located in the Maharashtra state for which the city serves as capital, Pune has been estimated to be at least 1000 years old. During the 16th century and under the Maratha Empire, Pune became the residence home of the Empire’s prime minister and thus began the transformation from a humble citadel to a flamboyant political and cultural centre.
Pune has reached the top of the list for the most comfortable city to live in India. Despite its relatively cleaner air, the excellent accessibility to water and an affordable housing market, Punekars still enjoy a higher purchasing power mainly because the cost of living has not risen so much in the past years while the average salary did, the workers of Pune earn about 30% more than their Hyderabad fellows.
The numerous top-notch universities dotted all over the cities have earned the city of Pune the nickname of Oxford of the East. Almost half of all international students in India are studying in Pune, and the city is also the principal teaching centre for Japanese learning in the country. Germany and France are also represented through the Goethe Institute and the Alliance Francaise.
The city is particularly welcoming for engineering expats as many well-known car manufacturers have set up shop in Pune over the last 50 years, including Mercedes Benz, General Motors, Land Rover, Jaguar, Renault, Volkswagen, and Fiat.
All in all, Pune is a one of the most delightful city to live in India with all the amenities you would expect from a city this size but with a much lesser crazy busy vibe than Mumbai or Delhi.
The Assembly building of Chandigarh was designed by Le Corbusier and is now register on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. (by Bruno vanbesien)
Compared to Pune or Hyderabad, Chandighar is a relatively small city. Home to just north of 1 million people, the city serves as the capital of two of the state of the Indian Republic, Haryana and Punjab and rather than being part of either, it is directly administered by the central government of India.
Despite its huge political importance, Chandighar was only built during the 1960’s under the planning of Swiss-French urbanist and architect Le Corbusier. Because the work started from almost nothing, the city designer was able to use a grid layout dividing the city into different sectors.
When walking or driving through the streets of Chandigarh, you could almost feel like you are in an American city.
Chandighar has been described as one of the cleanest cities in India, and according to LG Electronics ranking of the happiest cities in the world, the people of Chandigarh are the happiest in India.
Because of its broad and well-maintained roads, Chandigarh has the highest number of vehicles per capita in India, but it also boasts one of the best public transport city in the country.
On the whole, Chandigarh is a very agreeable city to live, offering one of the highest income per capita of the country, the city is also set to start the works on its metro in 2019.
Learn basic Hindi phrases and get on the good side of the locals.
The Open Hand sculpture are all over Chandigarh and are the work of the city’s architect Le Corbusier. They became the symbol of the city. (by Carlos A Zambrano)
Navi Mumbai, just like Chandigarh, is a planned city. In the 1960’s, overpopulation in the metropolitan area of Mumbai was getting worse by the year and the need to unclog the city became one of the local’s government top priorities thus was born the City and Industrial Development Corporation or CIDCO.
The government controlled organisation started to plan and build the new city over massive swaths of land that the state of Maharashtra had purchased. It was decided that the city would be divided into nodes with industries and businesses equally spread over the city to ease transportation and reduce commute time.
The crown of Navi Mumbai has become the symbol of the city. (by Thomas Alex)
The city today is home to just over 1 million people but has become a much cleaner and easy to live city than Mumbai ever was. The extensive public transport infrastructure as well as very good connections to the nearby megalopolis make traffic in and around the city much easier and thus results in a better quality of air.
Multinational corporations also decided to settle in Navi Mumbai, offering their employees much better conditions of living that they would have had in Mumbai. Siemens, McDonald’s, Bureau Veritas, Bizerba, Reliance and Accenture all have offices in Navi Mumbai.
Even though both Mumbai and Navi Mumbai are so close with each other, Navi Mumbaikars benefits from a much higher power of purchases as prices in their city are much lower than in the economic capital of the country.
Rents are about 70% lower than in Mumbai while Navi Mumbai average salary is 5% higher.
At the end of the day, Navi Mumbai is a lovely little city with clean, wide sidewalks used by nearly 10% of the population to commute from and to work. A lot of greens spaces, clean streets and overall chilled vibe make Navi Mumbai a great place to live.
Thane is famous for its many lakes dotted all over the city. The Masunda Lake which the locals call ‘Talao Pali’, where Talao means ‘Lake’ in Hindi, is one of the oldest and biggest lakes of Thane city.
The city of Thane, just North of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, has been listed as one of the most promising up and coming cities in India.
As one of the best residential areas in the country, Thane naturally boasts vast green spaces and no less than 30 lakes. Nested on the banks of the Vasai Creek, the city has the lowest air, water and noise pollution of the whole state of Maharashtra.
With projects including a monorail corridor and a lot of new developments in the pipeline, real-estate prices are set to rise, but as the city has been ranked 4th for business and employment generation, it makes no doubt that Thane will continue to grow.
With India being such a vast country, this list is very restrictive. Other great cities and town to live in India would include tech-savvy Bangalore, vibrant Chennai or the holy Varanasi.
With the rise of nomadic workers, the norms of livability hold no more, and one could easily move to one of the cities in the state of Goa or Kerala and enjoy the beaches like a tourist while working remotely from a computer.
And if you enjoy smaller cities and towns still offering high livability with low crime rates and substantial job growth, check out Gangtok in Sikkim, Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Bengaluru in Karnataka or Jaipur in Rajasthan.
Of course, living in one Indian city shouldn’t stop you to visit the rest of the country as so many tourists do and some must-see monuments should be on your weekend to-do list. Visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, the forts of Shimla, the Jagdish Hindu Temple of Udaipur or the white sands beach of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The Indian sub-continent is full of treasures!