Kerala woos IT sector investors to generate employmentOctober 20th, 2008 - 11:41 am ICT by IANS
Dubai, Oct 20 (IANS) Even as the world is grappling with a financial crisis, Kerala has opened up investment in its IT industry with the target of generating over 200,000 jobs in the next five years.”In these tumultuous times, there is a chance for smaller players to go up and we want to move up to the leader’s spot,” Ajay Kumar, Kerala information technology secretary, told IANS during a visit here.
Kumar is leading a high level delegation from Kerala at the ongoing Gitex 2008 show here, which is the Middle East’s largest technology fair, to promote the south Indian state as an IT hub among prospective investors here.
He said that the Kerala government was in the process of scaling up its operations in the IT sector multi-fold and is seeking investors for this.
“There are three types of investment opportunities. One is investment in IT townships and SEZs (special economic zones). Second is investment in standalone IT parks and the third is investment by IT companies and carrying out their operations from Kerala,” Kumar said.
“Today we have two IT parks - Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram and Infopark in Kochi. We are scaling up (the number of parks in the state) from two to 10 over the next 10 years.”
He said as these parks take shape, employment opportunities in the state’s IT sector will grow immensely.
“Today we have 40,000-45,000 employees in the IT sector. Our plan is to multiply this several fold, at least fivefold in the next five years or so,” he said.
Stating that Kerala’s IT department was showcasing the state as a premier IT destination for the first time ever through its participation in GITEX, he said Malayalis in the Gulf are being targeted as potential investors.
“Till now, our focus was on Technopark and Infopark in Kerala. But now, for the first time, we are opening up investment opportunities. The standalone IT parks offer a unique opportunity.
“We are basically targeting Malayalis in the Gulf who may be interested in making safe investments back home,” he said.
A large number of the over 4.8 million expatriate Indians in the Gulf hail from Kerala.
Kumar explained that creating standalone parks required far lower investment than facilities like Technopark and Infopark.
He said the idea was to spread the IT sector from Thiruvananthpuram and Kochi to other parts of the state.
“Typically, a standalone park can come up on one or two acres of land and will require investment of Rs.5-20 crore (Rs.50-200 million). The land will be given on lease to investors who can run the park on BOT (build, operate and transfer) basis,” he said, adding that the government has already identified around 10 places for this.
The other investment opportunity of creating IT companies or BPOs, he said, was aimed at generating investment in the sector in interior and rural areas.
Kumar said that though the global financial crisis has affected Kerala like everyone else, it also offered the state a chance to catapult itself to the top league of the IT sector.
“Nothing is insulated these days, so, if anything global happens, it affects everyone. But Kerala has not been badly affected for two reasons. One is, a large part of Kerala’s industries is homegrown, so they are not affected.
“Second is, we are relatively small. So in crises like this, big players fall more heavily than smaller players,” he said.
Kumar added that Kerala, with its good connectivity - 85 percent of its villages have broadband connection - and quality human resources offered an ideal investment climate in the IT sector.
He said the current crisis has only slightly affected Kerala’s growth path and so it now has an opportunity to capitalise on the scene.
“In several surveys, we have been put in challenger category - the number two category - and not the number one category as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai and Pune. In such tumultuous times, which offer smaller players a chance to grow, we want to jump from the challenger category to the leader category,” he said.
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