Kerala’s Big Byte of the IT Pie
Twenty-five year old Lata Warrier has big dreams. Her ambition is to own a house and live a completely independent life. And at this young age, she is well on her way to making her dream come true. She attributes her success to the IT boom in Kerala. “It gave youngsters like me the chance to explore life and break barriers,” she says. Economy watchers agree. Kerala’s sprawling IT parks, where lush greenery intersperses with the shining, modern facade of IT offices have created not just well paying jobs but also a generation of confident youngsters charting out a different destiny for themselves. The atmosphere here buzzes with hope and optimism.
Cyberland@Kerala: Over the past 13 years, there has been a gradual shift in Kerala’s image. God’s Own Country now seems be transforming itself into Cyberland. The beginning was made in 1990, when the government launched Technopark, the technology centre at Trivandrum. Over the span of a little more than a decade, Kerala has built up an enviable IT infrastructure consisting of 285 companies employing 40,500 people in offices located in a land area of 786 acres with a built-up area of 4.5 million square feet. The state now houses IT giants like Wipro Limited, TCS, Infosys, Oracle and Cognizant.
The parameters are encouraging with a recent government announcement that there has been an all-round growth in employment, turn over, built-up area and incubation of new companies. The state has also shown impressive progress in IT penetration, usage and education, thanks to government initiatives. For example, in order to increase IT penetration and familiarity, the government launched Project Akshaya. Under this scheme, one person from each family is provided computer training. Today, there are 2000 Akshaya Kendras around 14 districts causing computer literacy in the state to improve markedly.
Export figures have also exploded. Software exports from the state crossed the Rs 1000 crore mark in 2007-2008. In 2009-2010, exports stood at Rs 2,412 crore, a growth rate of 1610.64 percent as compared to exports of Rs 141 crore registered in 2000-01.
The IT Drivers: What has helped Kerala set up such a strong IT base? A report by Frost& Sullivan and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) identifies four basic reasons for Kerala’s IT success. These are the availability of talent with a high ratio of science and technology graduates; Low cost of operations, living and low remuneration as compared to the national average; Infrastructure facilities including the presence of tech parks, good connectivity; Low cost of real estate.
Successive governments have also followed an IT-friendly policy and have firmly adhered to the vision of making Kerala the IT gateway of the country. As the Frost & Sullivan report points out the government has succeeded in making Tier II cities like Trivandrum, Kochi, Kannur, Kozhikode, Kollam investment-points for developing IT hubs. These hubs are provided with all kinds of facilities, regulatory exemptions, infrastructure to attract global as well as domestic IT giants. Strategically located near other public sector and manufacturing companies and other infrastructural facilities, these hubs are able to reap the benefits of low cost of operations, adds the report.
Kerala’s IT Hubs: Technopark in Trivandrum epitomises the success of Kerala’s IT policy. Spread over 330 acres with about 4 million square feet of built-up space, Technopark hosts over 180 IT and ITES companies. The government has adopted a hub and spoke model of development and plans are afoot to build an extension to the Trivandrum Technopark at Kundra, Kollam. The government has also set up Infoparks at Kochi, Thrissur and Cherthala. Cyberparks are planned at Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasargod.