Overshadowed by IT-savvy neighbors, ‘God’s Own Country’ Kerala is now making a determined effort to find a niche place on the national and global IT map. The State government plans to showcase its potential through a mega show “IT Kerala 2000” at the State capital Thiruvananthapuram from 23 to 26 November 2000. A highlight of the event will be the launching of the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management (IIITM) at Thiruvananthapuram by President K R Narayanan.
It is a matter of surprise that Kerala has waited for so long to get its act together to highlight its attractiveness as an IT destination. Long before IT became a ‘mantra’ in Andhra Pradesh, now the most visible IT destination, Kerala had set up Technopark in the State capital. This 1-million sq.ft facility nestled on a rolling hill overlooking the Arabian Sea in the Kerala University campus is one of the greenest IT parks in the world. Kerala was among the handful of States to announce an IT policy three years ago.
The momentum was somehow lost and Kerala is now trying to catch up in a big way. In the past two weeks, Kerala government officials have held road shows in key IT centers to attract the attention of potential investors. The showpiece Technopark is full. The government’s industrial infrastructure development agency, KINFRA, is setting up three massive IT parks in Cochin, Kozhikhode and a high tech park. To promote IT companies, Kerala is offering these sites at a highly competitive rental rate of Rs 2-4 per sq.ft at these high tech parks.
Militant labor situation is one factor which has stood in the path of industrial projects coming up in a big way in the State in recent years. Statistics given by the State indicate that the situation is not bad at all. Kerala has one of the lowest numbers of man-days lost due to labor disputes in recent times. There are many other factors in the State’s favor: it has the nation’s highest physical quality index (PQLI), highest density of science and technology personnel, shortest learning curve, highest penetration of telephones, pagers, cell phones and PCs. Its infrastructure cost is among the least in the country. In fact, the recent Confederation Indian Industry (CII) study, ” How are the States doing?” has ranked Kerala high in parameters such as law and order, investment, expenditure on health and education, mass media, social sector development. The State’s overall ranking as an attractive destination is 5.
All these combined factors have created a lot of interest in Kerala in recent months. Kerala is trying to cash in on this. A large number of small and medium software companies abroad have moved into Kerala. Though software major TCS has located its IT training center, the largest in the country, in Thiruvananthapuram, other IT majors have started eyeing the State only recently. The State has embarked on a massive e-governance project, human resource development program and now is targeting potential SME entrepreneurs. Perhaps, the low-key approach of the government in recent years may not have given the State high visibility. The State is now making amends. Kerala has good long term potential in IT.