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For ITES on march, rooms to match
- Rs 100-crore, million sq ft Rajarhat project to house city’s new cyber hub

Chennai has Tidal Park, Bangalore has Electronic City and Hyderabad has Cyber Park. Come March 2005, Calcutta will have its answer, on the eastern fringes of the city, to the hi-tech buildings housing IT and IT-enabled services (ITES) companies down South.

Webel, the state government’s nodal IT agency, is working on a plan to create a million sq ft of built-up space for new-age knowledge companies in Rajarhat, over the “next two to four years”. C.B. Richard Ellis, the consultant hired by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government to work out the feasibility of the project and draw up a roadmap for successful implementation of the Rs 100-crore project, has already submitted its report to Webel.

“With investments coming into the state, we must be ready with space to accommodate the companies,” explained S.K. Mitra, managing director, Webel. With a space jam in Sector V of Salt Lake, creating infrastructure for the IT and ITES companies is high on the government agenda. Consulting major McKinsey is helping the government attract investments into the state.

But before committing itself to the mega project, Webel roped in the leading real-estate consultants to assess the demand for space among IT and ITES companies. According to the Richard Ellis report, submitted last month, the demand for space will go up in the city and new market entrants will make the project viable. “Right now we are structuring the project, which we will execute in collaboration with a partner. By end-December, we will finalise a partner with help from the consultants,” added Mitra. The government has already taken possession of the 10 acres — at a prime location on the stretch connecting Rajarhat and the airport — from Hidco to construct the facility.

As per the plans, 300,000 sq ft of built-up space will be created in the first phase of the proposed IT park, to be completed in 14 to 18 months. In the next phase, 700,000 sq ft will be added. To make the facilities attractive to the companies, the government has decided to keep the prices below Rs 25 per sq ft. “Though it’s difficult to predict real-estate prices, we will try our best to make them as attractive as possible,” said Mitra. Besides giving the companies a good bargain, the government is also striving to ensure proper connectivity — both electronic and physical — to the new IT hub in the state. “The connecting roads are already in place, which will be further improved. Reliance and Bharti will offer the required bandwidth,” said Mitra.

This, says the industry, is a vital step forward but a lot remains to be done — the park must have quality bandwidth, good roads leading to the airport and other social and recreational amenities — to attract investors. But first, the Rajarhat facility must find a prominent place on the radar of potential national and international investors.

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