October 28, 2005
India’s IT capital Bangalore’s infrastructure woes could be other cities’ gains.
As Bangalore’s infrastructure situation takes a beating and the Karnataka government takes a backseat with respect to IT and infrastructure, it’s cities such as Ahmedabad, Bhubhaneshwar, Chennai, Chandigarh, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Kochi and Pune that are aggressively wooing investors at Bangalore’s IT.in. Better roads, faster commutes, lower costs of living, quality manpower and varied sops are being dangled for investors by all these IT-enabled cities. ‘‘Come and see our city, you will know we are better,’’ is the refrain everyone in singing in Bangalore.
Among the hardest pitchers are the latest welcomers of the IT industry — the Left Front government of West Bengal. Kolkata, which suffered as an investment destination due to image problems, now sees Bangalore facing image issues.
BJP-governed Gujarat is leaving no stone unturned either: A new, yet to be unveiled IT policy, described as ‘‘very aggressive’’ by the state’s IT officials, is being used to woo investors.
Kerala’s government is projecting the state as the ‘IT corridor of the nation’. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is himself arriving on Friday at Bangalore IT.in to woo investors to the state’s IT parks at Kochi.
The Andhra Pradesh government is using dinner diplomacy to network.
‘‘Though we are late entrants to the sector — we entered only in the year 2000 — our aggressive policy is seeing IT investments grow. Kolkata and West Bengal initially suffered from image problems as an investment destination, that is changing now,’’ says West Bengal’s principal IT Secretary G.D. Gautama.
A low attrition rate, low cost of living, a vast pool of quality manpower, low cost of operation, an attractive IT policy and the rapid growth of IT companies in the state are the trump cards the West Bengal government is throwing before investors.
‘‘We have some 253 companies now. Our IT sector investments grew by 72 per cent over the last year. We have all the big names IBM, TCS, Wipro. In September, Infosys Narayana Murthy also visited us and he will be sending a team shortly to consider investment in Kolkata,’’ says the West Bengal official. The state is creating 12 new IT parks to accommodate more investors, over 500 acres of land has been earmarked for the IT sector around the airport itself, he says.
‘‘Kolkata is not competing with Bangalore or other leading IT cities in India as yet. We are only building the base to assume a leadership position in IT and IT-enabled services by 2010. You need to have the enablers — infrastructure and the right working environment, Kolkata is today providing that,’’ he said.
The Gujarat government is clear that it is pitching Bangalore’s woes as Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar’s assets. ‘‘We have four laned roads all around Ahmedabad. We have no traffic jams. Travel from anywhere in the city will not take a maximum of more than 20 minutes. Ahmedabad can replace Bangalore as an IT destination,’’ said deputy collector and officer on special duty at the Gujarat government’s Gujarat Informatics Ltd, Pankaj Kotak.
‘‘We have also just finalised a brand new IT policy that will aggressively pursue investments with tax incentives and benefits that are better than most other states,’’ says Kotak.
‘‘Unlike Karnataka, the Kerala government has no issues like land allotment since there are vast amounts of government land available. Kochi as a city is also as commercially vibrant as Bangalore. With the Dubai Internet City venture, Kochi will become a big IT centre,’’ says the CEO of the government-owned Kochi Infopark, K.G. Girish Babu.
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