IT Scenario in Kolkata

Article in The Hindu

Kolkata — the happening city on IT front

A. Roy Chowdhury

A view of the IT Hub at Salt Lake, Sector-V in Kolkata. —

Ambar Singh Roy

“When anybody asks me, I always mention Kolkata as a credible destination,” said Mr Harris Miller, President of the IT Association of America.

“The talent of Kolkata will play a major role in attracting investments in the IT space,” feels Dr Wilfried Prewo, Chief Executive of the Hannover Chamber of Industry & Commerce.

“I can say that West Bengal does offer many strong indicators for business development. It has a strong economy, officials appear increasingly responsive to business needs, and American businesses already present generally have had positive experiences,” opines the US Consul-General in Kolkata, Mr Henry V. Jardine.

Sentiments such as the above have been accepted by the IT community in India with genuine deference. This, in turn, has found reflection in the investments that have been made in the IT sector in the State.

Top names

Techies at play: IT professionals enjoy some free time.

Among the 500-plus IT companies – including the ones not registered with Software Technology Parks of India – that have already set up operations in Kolkata are big names like Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, Cognizant Technology Solutions, HSBC, IBM, Tech Mahindra, GE Capital, ICICI One-Source, Wireless Innovation Platform, Deloitte, Capgemini, etc. The Hindujas have just set up operations in Durgapur, while Rolta is set to start operations here and efforts are on to lure Infosys to the State.

While new investors continue to evince interest in the State’s IT sector, many existing players have approached the State Government for land to expand existing operations. Among the IT majors that have firmed up plans to augment headcount in Kolkata are TCS, Wipro, HSBC and CTS.

While at present more than 55,000 skilled professionals are engaged in the State’s IT sector, two lakh new jobs are expected to be created within the next 2-3 years.

Lowest attrition rate

According to Nasscom, the employability of people having IT skills in West Bengal is 40-45 per cent, way above the national average of 25 per cent. The attrition rate of 10 per cent in West Bengal is the lowest among the metro cities. Engineering colleges and other institutions of excellence in the State have helped generate appropriately skilled manpower required by IT companies.

Finishing schools have been set up at Kolkata and Durgapur with a view to improving the employability of those seeking a career in the State’s IT industry. Industry-academia interface is being encouraged. Industry is encouraged to leverage upon the infrastructure of educational institutions, while the latter seeks to formulate course curricula based on feedback from industry. Drawing faculty from industry is an idea that has been lately been gaining ground. Descon, a city-based IT company, has tied up with Gentech, a US-based company, to provide training in CAD-CAM for generating skilled hands required by the IT industry.

Projects on the anvil

Sanctioned projects will add 20 million sq.ft of built-up space within the next 2-3 years. This is in addition to the existing built-up space of over six million sq. ft that has already been set up by big names such as Bengal Intelligent Park, DLF, Technopolis, Millennium Park and exclusive and dedicated infrastructure set up by leading IT players. The very fact that the infrastructure that is being created is by the private sector is indicative of the bullish outlook for the IT sector in West Bengal. IT-specific special economic zones (SEZs) and IT parks are being set up in Kolkata, Siliguri, Durgapur, Kharagpur, Haldia and Kalyani.

“All these IT parks are being set up by the private companies. Would the private sector invest in such projects if it was not sure of returns on the investments,” a senior bureaucrat said. Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj has prepared a project report for the State’s largest IT hub that is proposed to be set up in or around the city. The project report is being reviewed and an appropriate location being identified by the State Government.

Firm progress

Mr Siddharth, Principal Secretary in West Bengal’s Department of Information Technology, avers that the State is firmly progressing towards its ‘Vision 2010’. By that time, West Bengal would have emerged among the top-three IT destinations in the country and account for 15 per cent of the country’s IT revenue and 20 per cent of its ITES revenue.

Hardware segment

Besides software and ITES, West Bengal is, slowly but surely, emerging as a destination for players in the hardware segment. The Xenitis Group has set up an IT hardware unit in collaboration with Unitech of China. In fact, Xenitis was the first company in India to launch personal computers at the sub-Rs 10,000 level and make PCs affordable to the common man. The Videocon Group has also set up a PC manufacturing unit in Kolkata.

Local player R.P. Infosystems, manufacturers of the Chirag brand of computers, has proposed to set up an IT products-specific SEZ spread over 46 acres of land on the outskirts of Kolkata at a cumulative investment of Rs 1,000 crore. An India Design Centre for chip design is also being set up. Another SEZ is being set up for IT industries over 120 acres on land at Bantala even as other IT-specific SEZs have been planned at Rajarhat and Batanagar, among others.

In addition, about 500 acres of land near the airport will be developed exclusively for IT and ITES companies under the public-private partnership model. Potential collaborations in the VLSI space are being pursued with Korean and Taiwanese companies. In this regard, it has been proposed to leverage upon the expertise that exists in the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and Jadavpur University.

Officials in the know admit that West Bengal had been handicapped with a “perception problem” and has been a late starter in IT. To dispel negative perceptions about the State and its investment climate, the Department of Information Technology has held more than 50 road shows across the country in over three years.

The State also sent delegations to the Hannover Fair and to the UK. The message was clear – come and check out for yourselves the ground realities before you decide to invest your money here. And that is exactly what IT companies from outside the State have done.

Focus on manpower

Top people in the industry feel that, while all the enablers are in place with a view to making ‘Vision 2010’ a reality, it would be imperative, and appropriate, to ensure that skilled manpower is available in adequate numbers to make this happen.

Says Mr Roopen Roy, Managing Director of Deloitte Touche Consulting India Pvt Ltd: “The real constraint to growth could be the availability of appropriate manpower. We must create more institutions for generating more manpower.

“Our social infrastructure must be developed so that we can attract people from outside the State as well. Fortunately, these are problems of plenty, and not of scarcity, and can be addressed. Otherwise, I think we are on course.”

Along with opportunities for career progression, Kolkata offers a lifestyle that can be the envy of many.

The city boasts world-class hotels, heritage clubs, lush green golf courses, a race course and many tourist and heritage attractions.

It has emerged as a happening place for the youth, with plenty of shopping malls, multiplexes, bowling alleys, nightclubs, beer pubs, pools, discotheque and sporting complexes. These have added to Kolkata’s emergence as a preferred destination among young IT professionals.