Bengaluru has become India’s Silicon Valley over the years, but it seems to have also imported some of Silicon Valley’s activism and administrative instability.
Startup and business outlets were vandalized by pro-Kannada protestors in Bengaluru today. The activists were protesting against signboards which were only in English and displayed no Kannada. The protesters proceeded to vandalize and destroy these signboards, many of which belonged to prominent brands and startups. As a result of the violence, two large malls and several stores were shut in the city.
Pictures showed that the sign of a Starbucks outlet had been vandalized. Also vandalized was the sign for Third Wave Coffee, which is now valued at $150 million, and has raised money from prominent domestic and foreign investors. A sign from the popular bakery Theobroma had also been vandalized. In addition, dozens of small stores also saw their signs be painted over or destroyed in areas including MG Road, Brigade Road, Lavelle Road, UB City, Chamarajapet, Chickpet, Kempe Gowda Road, Gandhi Nagar, St Marks Road, Cunningham Road, Residency Road, and Sadahalli Gate near Devanahalli.
Apart from individual stores, two of the city’s biggest malls — Phoenix Mall of Asia in Hebbal and Phoenix Marketcity in Whitefield — which house prominent brands and startups, were also affected in the protests. Both malls were shut down by the police by the evening after they saw incidents of vandalism.
These protests are being carried out by pro-Kannada group Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV), which is protesting demanding Kannada signboards. Current regulations mandate that 60 percent of the nameplate content in stores across the city should be in Kannada, but the group alleges that there are instances when this isn’t followed. The group carried out a massive “awareness march” in Bengaluru, in which signboards which were in English were attacked.
Situations such as these are fairly common in the US’s Silicon Valley. In San Francisco, regulations passed by the state’s left-leaning government have caused police to stop responding to shoplifting incidents below a certain value of merchandise, which has meant that stores are regularly looted with impunity, and videos of people simply making off with goods keep going viral on social media. Also, crime is rampant in the city, and it battles a homelessness epidemic which has made drug needles and human feces a common sight on the sidewalks.
Bengaluru is undoubtedly India’s Silicon Valley, but has been largely immune from situations such as these. However in recent times, the state has seen protests around the Cauvery water issue, which has disrupted the functioning of many offices in the city. And if street mobs decide to use violence to impose regulations on signboards, it could cause a dampener for the investment climate for the city which is currently the beating heart of India’s startup ecosystem.