Bottom Line: Bengaluru stands out as top choice for starting or expanding technology operations in Asia, finds Colliers Research.
Colliers research report ‘Top Locations in Asia: Technology sector’,based on a comprehensive study of 16 cities in developed and emerging markets across Asia, examines nearly 50 criteria across a spectrum of socio-economic, property and human factors to determine the viability of these cities as tech hubs as a workability index for the tech sector.
The report also recommends the best urban locations for technology firms. Bengaluru, Singapore and Shenzhen stand out as top choices for starting or expanding technology operations in Asia. Modest long-run growth prospects hold down developed cities like Tokyo and Taipei for the sector. While emerging cities offer high growth potential and low operating costs, they tend to score lower on employment criteria and human aspirational metrics.
“Popularly known as the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore has been chosen as the No. 1 choice in Asia for Technology Occupiers. Bangalore’s boost comes from its socio-economic strengths that has set it to be the fastest-growing in Asia with an average predicted annual GDP growth of 9.6% till 2022. Further, it gets the natural benefit from a wide and deeply experienced talent pool. The city has the largest number of higher education institutions across India relative to its population with an employability ratio of 24% for the IT sector. As the natural hub for technology start-ups, Bangalore has attracted the highest quantum of start-up investments at an annual average of USD 4billion over the last 3 years,” said Joe Verghese, Managing Director, Colliers International India.
“The city clearly has an edge with the largest stock of Grade A office space in Asia after Tokyo, low employer costs (reflecting moderate staff costs and office rents) and is among the top 10 inexpensive cities with respect to cost of living,” he added.
Bengaluru scores 68% in the ranking and comes first overall. Bengaluru, the Silicon Valley of India, is the largest office market in the country, with total Grade A stock of 141 million sq ft (13.1 million sq m) spread across multiple micro markets.
On this basis, Bengaluru ranks as the second largest urban office market in Asia after Tokyo. Thus, Bengaluru offers technology occupiers ample space to house their operations. In recent years the information technology sector has accounted for 60–70% of the gross absorption space in India (although this proportion has been slipping due to increased demand from other sectors).
Regarding talent pool, Bengaluru remains the clear preference of most technology groups, with the sector accounting for 45% of total office leasing volume in Q2 2018. Technology, followed by flexible workspace, representing 26% of leasing volume, engineering and manufacturing on 16%, and banking on 11%, respectively.
On the property factors, some of the advantages of Bengaluru include low employer costs, reflecting moderate staff costs and office rents. Under the heading of human factors, Bengaluru benefits from a low cost of living, although it scores less well on measures of quality of office accommodation and quality of infrastructure.
Tech Trends in Asia
Acquiring talent is a key challenge for tech firms in Asia. Talent is concentrated in specific markets, notably Chindia (China and India), which also offer high growth. To retain talent, tech firms need to move toward the CBD or CBD fringe. Additionally, artificial intelligence (AI) threatens demand for workforce space, but drives productivity growth and returns. These conclusions led us to weigh growth and availability of talent highly in our “Top Locations” scoring.
Top Locations for Tech Firms
Bengaluru’s (Score: 68%; Position: #1)greatest strengths are socio-economic, set to be the fastest-growing city in Asia over the next five to ten years, and benefits from a wide and deep talent pool. Bengaluru also boasts the largest stock of Grade A office space in Asia after Tokyo, low staff costs and office rents, and low cost of living. However, the city scores less well on quality of office accommodation and quality of infrastructure.
Singapore (Score: 63%; Position: #2)comes in second place as it scores highly on the socio-economic index, due largely to its strong talent pool, and on aspirational measures including personal tax rate, safety and living quality. Singapore is expected to continue to benefit from its position as a well-connected financial and communications hub for South East Asia and APAC operations.
Shenzhen’s (Score: 61%; Position: #3) high ranking comes as no surprise as it currently reigns as China’s technology capital. Heavy investment in R&D has broadened the city’s tech base far beyond hardware manufacturing. Shenzhen scores highly on property factors due to moderate staff costs, ample office stock, flexible workspace, and planned new supply. Shenzhen has also surpassed Hong Kong by GDP and is expected to benefit further from closer integration of the Greater Bay Area hubs.
Alternative Tech Locations
Beijing (Score: 60%; Position: #4)scores highly on economic scale and growth potential and is known for its abundance in talent. Staff costs are moderate despite CBD rents being the highest in China. The city is well-placed to strengthen its position as a leading centre of Artificial Intelligence.
Hyderabad (Score: 59%; Position: #7)ranks highly on growth potential like all Indian cities, but lower on other socio-economic factors and does not match Bengaluru as a source of talent. However, tax rates and cost of living are low and the city scores better than many other Indian cities on human factors.
Wild Card Tech Location
Hong Kong (Score: 59%; Position: #8)is not typically viewed as an innovation hub for tech occupiers; however, Hong Kong is becoming more appealing for several reasons which include connectivity with Shenzhen and South China, recent expansion in Hong Kong by big tech firms such as Facebook and Alibaba, and accelerating investment in Fintech in the city.
The overall scores range between 67.9% at the high end and 53.0% at the low end, with Bengaluru coming in first place. This reflects Bengaluru’s high score on socio-economic factors (due to high expected long-run economic growth), on office accommodation (due to ample office stock), and employer costs (due to low staff costs and low rents), as well as a reasonable score on human factors (due to low cost of living).