Welcome to Mumbai, the financial heart of India: home to the headquarters of many major multinational companies, address of the giant Bombay Stock Exchange, and, quite remarkably, the stomping ground of sixty-nine billionaires. It’s a city of out-of-this-world wealth, but at the same time, it’s a city of heart-wrenching destitution.
Mumbai’s firm grip on India’s economy is apparent – the city is single-handedly responsible for 5% of the country’s GDP and almost half of India’s foreign trade. It manufactures and exports cars, chemicals, textiles, steel, and pharmaceuticals at its busy sea port. Foreign companies see huge potential in the metropolis, investing in some of the world’s most expensive commercial real estate to have a Mumbai base. Booming Bombay’s most famous moneymaker is its flourishing entertainment sector known as Bollywood, which pumps out more films on average than its partial namesake, Hollywood. And its growing economy in the midst of a global recession has the world wondering when Mumbai will become the next global business leader. No wonder Indians call Mumbai the City of Dreams and the City of Gold.
With business tycoons and Bollywood stars for residents, Mumbai is a city where wealth and status matter, where the rich are admired almost as reverently as their gods. But for a city renowned for wealth and glitz and glam, its poverty and poor infrastructure are astonishing. The migrants who come to Mumbai seeking a better life have contributed to much of the population problem, and it seems like the city has grown too big for its own good. At nineteen million people and counting, Mumbai is on the brink of bursting from overcrowding. An alarming fifty-five percent of the population live in slums. Running water and electricity are luxuries to the poor and precious to the middle class. The streets are choked with cars, trucks, and rickshaws, and people pour out of extremely packed trains. There is devastating air, water, land, and noise pollution. Children dart in and out of traffic begging for their families, many of which live on the streets and under flyovers.
As an expat in Mumbai, you will live and breathe the tug of war between Mumbai’s contrasts. It will feel surreal to peel beggars from your arm as you enter a five star hotel for a Sunday champagne brunch. At work, you’ll wonder how a city with so much potential will ever succeed with such rampant corruption in every sector. You’ll tilt your head in amazement at the scrawny, barefooted, bareheaded construction workers building modern high-rise buildings. You’ll marvel equally at the gigantic 27-story mansion Mukesh Ambani calls home and at the sprawling slums of the city.
Mumbai will seem like a veritable oxymoron: it’s rich, it’s poor, it’s civilized, it’s uncivilized; it will drive you mad, it will make you smile; you’ll want to leave for good, you’ll want to stay forever.
The best news is that Mumbai is expat friendly in many ways. With more and more companies sending employees to set up camp in Mumbai, there are ever increasing numbers of apartment buildings, clubs, and restaurants designed with the foreigner in mind. There is a small but tight-knit expat community where you will meet friends of many nationalities, almost all of which will be helpful to you as you settle in. Armed with the Expat Info Desk Guide to Mumbai, a positive attitude, and help from new friends, your relocation to Mumbai is bound to be a success.