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The wait is not yet over

Calcutta, Dec. 12: Bengal had its back patted, but for the reward it will have to wait.

At an information technology gathering hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Bengal’s IT minister Manab Mukherjee exhorted: “Say Yes to Calcutta”.

The reply he received was: Maybe, Calcutta.

At the opening session of IT East 2002 today, Pramod Bhasin, president and CEO of GE Capital, which had announced plans to set up a call centre here last year, was not prepared yet to make a commitment despite the goading of Mukherjee with handsome help from CII president Ashok Soota.

Soota said: “The state has entered the ITES (IT-enables services) scene a little late, but it’s fast catching up. And the best endorsements for the state would be names like Spectramind and GE Capital. We all know about Spectramind (which has decided to enter), and we expect Pramod Bhasin to share his plans during his presentation.”

Bhasin was full of praise. Stealing a glance at the minister, he said: “No other state government has done more than what the West Bengal government has to convince us in setting up our centre in Calcutta. It’s one of the most attractive cities to be in and we would like to work with you.”

In his address, Mukherjee had said: “I have come here to hear just two words from Mr Bhasin: ‘Yes, Calcutta’.”

Bhasin made it clear that ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ Calcutta would have to wait another three to six months. He attributed the delay to global recession and post-September 11 developments.

On a visit to the city last year, Bhasin had said that GE Capital, which employs over 10,000 people in India, was considering Calcutta for setting up its fourth call centre after Bangalore, Gurgaon and Hyderabad. He even visited a few colleges to assess the preparedness of Calcutta youths to work for international call centres. But the fourth call centre was opened in Jaipur.

Even now, besides Calcutta, the company is conducting surveys in Mohali and Kochi.

“We look into cost of operations, human resource, transport facilities, regulatory framework and telecom infrastructure before taking a decision about a particular place. The city scores high in all these areas,” Bhasin said.

A high-quality talent pool is the strongest factor favouring the city, which matches with the company’s strategy of moving up the value chain of business process outsourcing.

He said if the company decided to set up a centre in the city, it will pump in an investment of between “Rs 35 and Rs 70 crore”, depending on the “scale of operations”, which would create employment “in the range of 500 to 2,000”.

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