Standing with Ani Agnihotri at ground zero where the title 'The Earth Is Flat' Was Inspired.

GlobalAtlanta’s publisher, Phil Bolton, fulfilled during the first week of July 2017 a long-term ambition to visit India on a trip to explore the ties binding Atlanta to the cities of New Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai, on his first visit to that country. His year-end recollections of the trip follow in  a three-part series.

You can see Bengaluru’s former name, Bangalore, the capital of the Karnataka state in southern India, still around. The name change was made in 2004 by adopting the native Kannada language appellation.

Somehow having the old British name still about is fitting as everything is changing so fast in the city, it reminds one that it had a past, in some ways quite a positive one, before change was spurred by high technology firms and the many thousands of job seekers moving in.

The establishment and success of high tech firms in Bengaluru has led to the growth of information technology (IT) in India. IT firms in Bengaluru employ about 35 percent of India’s pool of 2.5 million IT professionals and account for the highest IT-related exports in the country (about $50 billion).

Let’s start with the airport. The spacious and welcoming Kempegowda International opened in 2008 as an alternative to HAL Airport, the city’s original one, which became overrun as Bengaluru developed into a high-tech center.

Then consider the weather, relatively mild year round due to its location, fairly equidistant from both coasts on each side of the country and enjoying a height of almost 3,000 feet above sea level. One resident even told me that the “sexy” weather was ideal for encouraging a high birthrate.

Now that it considers itself India’s Silicon Valley due to the large percentage of the country’s information technology exported from there, you have to ask why, and the answers are compelling.

Much like Indians revere the sources of rivers, Bengaluru historians like to refer to the chance shipboard encounter between Swami Vivekananda and Jamesetji Tata, founder of the Tata Group, while they returned from the 1893 Chicago World Fair.

The swami had spoken about India’s “ascetic spirit” and recommended that it be diverted into other channels, piquing the entrepreneur’s interest, who went on to found the Research Institute of Science, which developed into a university in stature in India comparable to that of Stanford University in the U.S.

The Indian government followed up by placing many of its research investments into the city to stimulate business sectors of many sorts including aerospace, space research electronics, earth movers, machine tools and telecommunications.

The government’s sustained investments nourished the development of a large tech workforce and knowledge network, which by the 1980s were ready to feed the growth of the city’s tech super giants. In 1983, N.R. Narayan Murthy, cofounder of Infosys, moved his startup supporting IBM mainframes from Pune, India, to Bengaluru while Azim Premji at approximately the same time decided to setup a software subsidiary in the city.

The arrival of Texas Instruments the following year really set the groundwork for the city’s digital future. In 1989, the Indian government made a deal with GE whereby GE got aircraft contracts while setting up an office, which became the catalyst for the country’s outsourcing boom.

The trip along the roads to Wipro’s headquarters campus was instructive in itself. Dozens of motorcycles and scooters passed by, carrying mostly youth, (after all, more than 50 percent of India’s population is under 25 years old).

What surprised me was the sight of the passengers, mostly young women, riding on the backs of the vehicles while doing homework or some sort of writing using the shoulders of their companions as desktops.

The Wipro campus may not be an oasis, but it certainly can compete as a botanical garden with groves of well kept trees and spacious lawn covered grounds.

Wipro’s sustainable campus is maintained by gardening with recycled water.

We actually did meet with Mr. Premji, Wipro’s chairman who has been identified by Forbes magazine as India’s second most wealthy man. Mr. Premji has joined U.S. billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in signing onto the “Giving Pledge” campaign encouraging wealthy people to contribute a majority of their assets to philanthropic causes.

In Mr. Premji’s case, he started in 2000 the Azim Prenji Foundation focused on developing primary school education in rural areas, especially for girls.

In a most welcoming, calm and deliberative manner, he described the environmental initiatives being taken on campus such as the recycling of water. He also mentioned the projects his foundation is supporting concerning the country’s sustainable development.

A few words of farewell with Mr. Premji before getting a tour of Wipro’s campus.

Global Atlanta started tracking Wipro’s ties to Atlanta in June 2001 during an early visit of Mr. Premji’s to the city. At a luncheon hosted by Jagdish Sheth, Charles H Kellstadt professor of marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, Mr. Premji described how he took over the company’s management following his father’s death in the mid-1960s and diversified its operations beyond cooking oil into consumer care areas such as baby powder, lighting and soaps.

It wasn’t until the 1970s, he said then, when the Indian government ran off IBM and other multinationals that Wipro had the opportunity to expand into information technology services. “I was in the right industry at the right time.” By 1977, he saw the absence of IBM and other U.S. companies creating a market vacuum and opportunities for Indian vendors of computers and software.

He also indicated that he considered making Atlanta the company’s North American headquarters, a possibility that materialized in 2008 with the opening of the Atlanta Development Center to centralize the company’s delivery options. The following year Wipro received the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Global Impact award for its investment in the city.

After parting ways with Mr. Premji, we were handed Wipro’s 2016-17 annual report which in 328 pages describes everything that you may want to know about the company including a description of its efforts to upgrade its brand with a new logo that “represents the way we connect the dots for our clients — now seen through a digital lens for a digital world.”

There isn’t much either involving digitization or artificial intelligence that Wipro doesn’t have its sights on, but one focus to which we were exposed was its telematics system with J.C. Bamford Excavators Limited, known as JCB, an English multinational corporation that manufactures equipment for construction, agriculture, waste handling and demolition.

It produces over 300 types of machines, including backhoes, excavators, tractors and diesel engines and entered the U.S. by way of Savannah where it has a high tech manufacturing facility — the company’s first in North America — on 1,000-plus acres fronting Interstate 95 in Pooler.

Wipro’s CB Livelink telematics system, built by its after market solution team, allows JCB to monitor the all-time health and performance of more than 10,000 of JCB’s construction machines. When a machine breaks down, the problem can be diagnosed remotely, solutions recommended through the use of hologram technology and appropriate replacement parts supplied. It’s a “wow;” that’s the least I can say about it.

Bengaluru also is the headquarters location for another legendary information technology player — Infosys Ltd.

What seems like decades ago but really was only in 2005, the American journalist Thomas Friedman with a Discovery Times camera crew made the trip from downtown Bengaluru to the Infosys campus. After describing the sacred cows, the horse-drawn carts and motorized rickshaws they passed along the way, they finally arrived at the campus. “Glass-and-steel buildings seem to sprout up like weeds each week,” he exclaims. But he was about to have his most impactful insight.

Touring Infosys’s global conference center, what Mr. Friedman calls “ground zero of the Indian outsourcing industry,” he also remarks on the wood paneling but is most impressed by the “massive wall-size screen.” So were we when we walked in and learned of its power to conduct virtual meetings with participants from all over the world.

It was because of this tour that Mr. Friedman reflected obsessively on the comment he heard on his tour that “the playing field is being leveled,” which led to having the world “flattened” buzzing in his brain until it finally metamorphosed into “The World Is Flat.”

Infosys’s corporate campus with its ‘eye’ onto the world.

Take it or leave it, the book and its publishing success provides a high-water mark revealing how the world has changed. At Global Atlanta, we think more in terms of the world’s geography of being composed by hills and valleys, but there is no denying that it was Infosys and other IT providers that changed the geography so aptly renamed by Mr. Friedman.

The company’s origin is almost as dramatic as that of Apple or Facebook. Established by seven engineers in Pune with an initial capital of $250 in 1981 it relocated its office to Bengaluru two years later.

Amazingly, these seven launched a company, which after 16 years by 1999 had reached $100 million in revenues, five years later, $1 billion and in the past fiscal year $10 billion.

We were taken on a tour of the campus, which could double for any large, well-funded U.S. university with modern dormitories, extensive study areas, a multitude of feeding stations nestled among more than 6,000 trees and plants. More than 30,000 employees work on the campus, but this figure doesn’t include the many students who come for training or job interviews from around the world.

Following the tour, we met with Infosys’s Pravin Rao, who discussed the company’s philanthropic initiatives through the Infosys Foundation, of which he is a trustee. The foundation is very involved in education with a primary emphasis on abolishing classroom hunger by providing midday meals in government schools. It also tackles skills training to combat unemployment, cancer treatment and research, and provides funding for technological advances in medical fields.

We were pleased to learn that the foundation also takes the arts seriously, sponsoring many sorts of events throughout the country including cultural festivals at restored heritage sites. Additionally it supports indigenous art forms including theater and the puppetry arts.

While Mr. Rao’s demeanor was low-key throughout the session, the resignation of Infosys’ CEO and managing director Vishal Sikka about a month after our visit makes me wonder what really was on his mind at the time because he was asked to assume the top positions on an interim basis.

On Dec. 2, Infosys’ board of directors  announced that it has appointed Salil S. Parekh to replace Mr. Rao effective Jan. 2. Mr. Parekh has been a board member of the Group Exchange Board of Capgemini. Meanwhile Mr. Rao is to resume his activities as chief operating officer and director.

These executive changes might have little meaning for the Atlanta business community except that Infosys has had a presence here since 2001. In 2009, it acquired Atlanta-based McCamish Systems to strengthen its back-office capabilities to the insurance and financial industries.

In 2013, it also identified Atlanta as a strategic hub and announced it would expand its presence in the city. It has been working with the university system and technical colleges to recruit local talent and to leverage the global resources of its education center in India.

As the sun began to set, we were off to Bengaluru’s World Trade Center in the Brigade Gateway campus in the city’s Milleswaram West section. Rate Bhattachary, the center’s manager, took us on a tour of the complex which includes a shopping mall, a hospital, a school, a Sheraton Hotel and apartments.

The World Trade Center Bengaluru at the Brigade Gateway

A major property developer in South India, the Brigade Group completed the complex in 2010 having obtained its WTCA license for its construction to become the second World Trade Center in India after Mumbai’s. Atlanta’s WTC also began as a pet project of Portman Holdings LLC, but has since branched out on its own.

The Bengaluru trade center’s location in Malleswaram West guaranteed an active space attractive for local businesses as well as visitors, which the Center has taken advantage of by offering office space and IT services for international travelers.

Before departing, Mr. Bhattachary encouraged us to contact Atlanta’s World Trade Center in an effort to form a mutually beneficial alliance.