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What You Need To Know

Chennai is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, it is one of the biggest cultural, economic and educational centres in South India. According to the 2011 Indian census, it is the sixth-largest city and fourth-most populous urban agglomeration in India. The city together with the adjoining regions constitute the Chennai Metropolitan Area, which is the 36th-largest urban area by population in the world. Chennai is among the most visited Indian cities by foreign tourists. It was ranked 43rd most visited city in the world for year 2015. The Quality of Living Survey rated Chennai as the safest city in India. Chennai attracts 45 percent of health tourists visiting India, and 30 to 40 percent of domestic health tourists. As such, it is termed “India’s health capital”. As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Chennai confronts substantial pollution and other logistical and socio-economic problems. Chennai has the third-largest expatriate population in India at 35,000 in 2009, 82,790 in 2011 and estimated at over 100,000 by 2016. Tourism guide publisher Lonely Planet named Chennai as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit in 2015. Chennai is ranked as a beta-level city in the Global Cities Index and was ranked the best city in India by India Today in the 2014 annual Indian city survey. In 2015 Chennai was named the “hottest” city (worth visiting, and worth living in for long term) by the BBC, citing the mixture of both modern and traditional values. National Geographic ranked Chennai’s food as second best in the world; it was the only Indian city to feature in the list. Chennai was also named the ninth-best cosmopolitan city in the world by Lonely Planet. The Chennai Metropolitan Area is one of the largest city economies of India. Chennai is nicknamed “The Detroit of India”, with more than one-third of India’s automobile industry being based in the city. In January 2015, it was ranked third in terms of per capital GDP. Chennai has been selected as one of the 100 Indian cities to be developed as a smart city under PM Narendra Modi’s flagship Smart Cities Mission.

 

Area: 426 km²

Population: Estimate  (8.5 million)

Currency

  • The Indian rupee (sign: ₹; code: INR), is the official currency of the Republic of India. The rupee is subdivided into 100 paise (singular paisa), though as of 2011, 25 paise is no more a legal tender. The issuance of the currency is controlled by the Reserve Bank of India.

Banking

The Reserve Bank of India ranked Chennai as third largest deposit centre and third largest credit centre nationwide as of June 2012. Prior to the advent of modern commercial banks, the banking services in the city were offered to the public by Nattukottai Chettiars or Nagarathars, chiefly in and around the neighbourhood of George Town, who offered loans as well as accepted money deposits from the public, in addition to offering loans to the agricultural labourers. Even today, many of the banking offices are housed in heritage structures belonging to the colonial era that are chiefly clustered around Rajaji road in George Town. Chennai is home to the first European-style banking system in India with the establishment of the ‘Madras Bank’ on 21 June 1683, almost a century before the establishment of the first commercial banks, such as the Bank of Hindustan and the General Bank of India, which were established in 1770 and 1786, respectively. Upon the recommendation of the British Finance Committee on the formation of a government bank, the Madras Bank, then known as the ‘Government Bank’, started functioning again from 1806. In 1843, the bank merged with the Carnatic Bank (1788), the British Bank of Madras (1795) and the Asiatic Bank (1804) and became the Bank of Madras, which was one of the three Presidency banks of India, the other two being the Bank of Bengal and the Bank of Bombay. In 1921, the three Presidency banks merged to form the Imperial Bank of India, which later became the State Bank of India in 1955. Chennai is the headquarters of the Indian Bank, the Indian Overseas Bank and the erstwhile Bharat Overseas Bank, which merged with the Indian Overseas Bank in 2007. The city is home to the south zonal office of the Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank, along with its zonal training centre and Reserve Bank Staff College, one of the two colleges of the bank. The city also houses the permanent back office of the World Bank, which is one of the largest buildings owned by the bank outside its headquarters in Washington, DC. The Chennai office handles corporate financial, accounting, administrative and IT services of the bank, in addition to several value-added operations of the bank that were earlier handled only in its Washington, DC office, including the bank’s analytical work in bond valuation which is estimated to be US$100 billion. Several foreign banks have established their branches in the city. The first Sri Lankan Bank in India was established when the Bank of Ceylon opened its branch in Madras on 31 October 1995.

 

Culture

Chennai is also known for the classical Indian dance, the Bharatanatyam, which is also the official dance of Tamil Nadu. An important cultural centre for Bharatanatyam is Kalakshetra (Sanskrit for “place of the arts”), located on the beach in the south of the city.

Economy

Recent estimates of the economy of the entire Chennai Metropolitan Area range from US$58.6 to US$66 billion (PPP GDP), ranking it from fourth- to sixth-most productive metro area of India. Chennai has a broad industrial base in the automobile, computer, technology, hardware manufacturing and healthcare sectors. As of 2012, the city is India’s second largest exporter of information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) services. A major part of India’s automobile industry is located in and around the city thus earning it the nickname “Detroit of India”. It is known as the Cultural Capital of South India and is the third most visited city in India by international tourists according to Euromonitor. The city also serves as the location of the Madras Stock Exchange, India’s fourth stock exchange, one of four permanently recognized by SEBI, and India’s third-largest by trading volume, ranked behind the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India. Industrialization in the city dates back to the 16th century, when textile mills manufactured goods which were exported to British during its war with France. According to Forbes magazine, Chennai is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and is rated in the “Forbes-Top 10 Fastest Growing Cities in the World”. It is ranked 4th in hosting the maximum number of Fortune 500 companies of India, next only to Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. It also is home to 24 Indian companies having a net worth of more than US$1 billion. As of 2012, the city has about 34,260 identified companies in its 15 zones, of which 5,196 companies have a paid-up the capital of over ₹ 50 lakh. Chennai has a diversified economic base anchored by the automobile, software services, hardware manufacturing, health care and financial services industries. According to the Confederation of Indian Industry, Chennai is estimated to grow to a US$100–billion economy, 2.5 times its present size, by the year 2025. As of 2012, with ₹ 1 lakh crore investment in the pipeline over 5 years, the city is poised for major industrial investment. Chennai is classified as a global city by GaWC, with a ranking of Beta based on the extent of global reach and financial influence.

 

Entertainment

Marina Beach is a famous landmark. It is the second largest beach in the world. Chennai is the base for the Tamil film industry, known as Kollywood. Many film personalities have gone on to become politicians including C.N.Annadurai, M. Karunanidhi, M.G. Ramachandran and J. Jayalalithaa. Chennai hosts major film studios, including AVM Productions, the oldest surviving studio in India. As of 2012, there are 120 cinema screens and multiplexes. Major multiplexes include Sathyam Cinemas, Escape cinemas, Devi, Abirami complex and Mayajaal. Chennai’s expansive theatre network stages many Tamil plays of many genres: political satire, slapstick comedy, history, mythology and drama. English plays are popular in the city, along with the more common Tamil-language plays.

 

Environment conservation

Chennai has three rivers and many lakes spread across the city. Urbanization has led to shrinkage of water bodies and wetlands. The quantity of wetlands in the city has decreased from 650 to only 27 currently. The Chennai River Restoration trust set up by the government is working on the restoration of Adyar river. Environmentalist Foundation of India is a volunteering group working towards wildlife conservation and habitat restoration.

 

Flora and fauna

The southern stretch of Chennai’s coast from Tiruvanmiyur to Neelangarai are favoured by the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles to lay eggs every winter. A large number of cattle egrets, pond herons and other waterbirds can be seen in the rivers of Cooum and Adyar. About 75,000 birds migrate to Chennai every year. Marshy wetlands such as Pallikaranai also play host to a number of migratory birds during the monsoon and winter. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded in the city and its neighbourhood by members of Madras Naturalists’ Society since its inception in 1978. Guindy National Park is a protected area within the city limits. Wildlife conservation and research activities take place at Arignar Anna Zoological Park including Olive ridley sea turtle conservation. Madras Crocodile Bank Trust is a herpetology research station, located 40 kilometres (25 mi) south of Chennai. It is India’s leading institution for herpeto faunal conservation and the first crocodile breeding centre in Asia.

 

Health systems

Chennai has world-class medical facilities, including both government-run and private hospitals. The government-aided hospitals include General Hospital, Adyar Cancer Institute, TB Sanatorium, and National Institute of Siddha. The National Institute of Siddha is one of the seven apex national-level educational institutions that promote excellence in Indian system of medicine and Ayurveda.[314] Major hospitals in Chennai include Apollo Hospitals, Apollo Speciality Hospital, SRM Medical College Hospital and Research Centre, Chettinad Health City, MIOT Hospitals, Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, Fortis Malar Hospital, Lifeline Hospitals, Vasan Healthcare, Dr Mehta Hospitals, Global Hospitals & Health City, Sankara Nethralaya and Vijaya Medical & Educational Trust. Chennai attracts about 45 percent of health tourists from abroad and 30 percent to 40 percent of domestic health tourists. The city has been termed India’s health capital. The city has more than 12,500 beds in its hospitals, including about 5,000 in multi-specialty hospitals in the private sector and over 6,000 beds in the public sector. This works to 2.1 beds per 1,000 population against the national average of less than 1 bed per 1,000 population and the World Health Organisation’s norms of 3 beds per 1,000 persons, higher than any other city in the country.

 

Housing

In a 2013 survey titled ‘Emerging trends in real estate in Asia Pacific 2014’, Chennai emerged in the top 25 real estate destinations list in the Asia Pacific region. The city ranked 22nd in the list. There are about 1,240 slums in Chennai home to about 9 lakh people. Per 2011 census, there are 1.1 million households in the city and the residential housing stock available is 1,150,000 – a surplus of about 50,000 houses. About 43,700 of them are kept vacant. In the suburbs of Chennai located in Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts, the figures of vacant houses 56,000 and 71,000, respectively. Of the existing housing stock in the city, about 200,000 houses are not in good condition, necessitating either to rebuild or build new units. About 26,000 households live in houses without any room and another 427,000 families (with an average size of five members) live in small dwelling units with only one room. An earlier estimate shows that there is a need to generate about 420,000 units for low-income groups by 2016. As of 2012, an estimated population of 11,116 (0.16 percent) were homeless. Per Supreme Court guidelines, the city needs 65 shelters for the homeless. However, it has only 15, of which 8 are functioning and two are under renovation.

 

Language

Hindi and English are the official languages used by the Central Government. State governments use respective official languages. Hindi is the most widely spoken language in northern parts of India. The Indian census takes the widest possible definition of “Hindi” as a broad variety of “Hindi languages”.

 

Religion

Chennai has centres of worship for a multitude of faiths. According to 2001 census, majority of the population are Hindus (81.3 percent), Muslims (9.4 percent), Christians (7.6 percent), Jains (1.1 percent), Sikhs (0.06 percent), and Buddhists (0.04 percent).

 

Transport

Transport in Chennai includes various modes of air, sea, road and rail transportation in the city and its suburbs.

 

Tourism and hospitality

With temples, beaches and centres of historical and cultural significance, including the UNESCO Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram, Chennai is one of the most visited cities in India. The city serves as the gateway to the southern part of India with tourists landing in the city and starting their trip to the rest of the region. Chennai was the most visited Indian city by foreign tourists in 2009 and issued the third highest number of visas on arrival in 2014. In 2011, Chennai was ranked 41st in global top 100 city destination ranking, with 3,174,500 tourists, a 14 percent increase from 2010. About 830,620 domestic tourists arrived in Chennai in March 2011.  Top foreign nationals visiting the city include those from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, France and United States. In 2015, the city received 4,243,700 foreign tourists making it the 3rd most visited city in India after Delhi and Mumbai and 43rd most visited city in the world by foreign tourists. As of 2012, the city had 21 luxury five-star hotels with over 4,500 rooms in the inventory.

 

Weather

Chennai has a tropical wet and dry climate (Köppen: Aw). The city lies on the thermal equator and is also on the coast, which prevents extreme variation in seasonal temperature. The hottest part of the year is late May to early June, known regionally as Agni Nakshatram (“fire star”) or as Kathiri Veyyil, with maximum temperatures around 35–40 °C (95–104 °F). The coolest part of the year is January, with minimum temperatures around 19–25 °C (66–77 °F). The lowest recorded temperature was 13.9 °C (57.0 °F) on 11 December 1895 and 29 January 1905. The highest recorded temperature was 45 °C (113 °F) on 31 May 2003. The average annual rainfall is about 140 cm (55 in). The city gets most of its seasonal rainfall from the north–east monsoon winds, from mid–October to mid–December. Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal sometimes hit the city. The highest annual rainfall recorded is 257 cm (101 in) in 2005. Prevailing winds in Chennai are usually southwesterly between April and October and north-easterly during the rest of the year. Historically, Chennai has relied on the annual rains of the monsoon season to replenish water reservoirs, as no major rivers flow through the area. Chennai has a water table at 2 metres for 60 percent of the year.