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City finds favour as ITES location
- Quality of talent and an aggressive govt

There are some pluses, a few minuses — but all things added up, Calcutta ranks high on destinations of choice for IT-enabled services (ITES) companies. This is not from a Buddhadeb ‘turnaround’ Bhattacharjee speech, but the findings of a study of ITES locations in India, conducted by Hewitt Associates.

According to the confidential report, prepared by the consulting major for a client, the city ranks second only to Delhi — and way ahead of Mumbai (reaching a state of saturation, as per the report), Chennai, Chandigarh, Pondicherry and Goa — when it comes to “quality of talent”.

Out of a maximum score of 15 — with five points each for overall communication skills, linguistic skills and IT and problem-solving skills — Calcutta scores 12.40, close behind Delhi at 12.50 and comfortably clear of Mumbai with 12. The final figure is a sum total of average scores given by placement consultants, training institutes and students quizzed by Hewitt Associates.

The other high point for the city on the IT fast track is a pat on the back for Bhattacharjee and his makeover men. “The West Bengal government has been very aggressive in promoting the state to potential investors,” mentions the report, dated November 2003.

“We are moving very fast and expect an exponential growth in the coming days,” says G.D. Gautama, principal secretary, information technology, reacting to the favourable report.

From ITES outlook to social and telecom infrastructure to real estate, the Hewitt study takes nine parameters into account to rank the seven cities. Since the report only looks into “voice-based transactions”, Hyderabad and Kochi don’t feature in the study.

The student survey reveals 73 per cent of respondents in Calcutta colleges interested in working in call centres. Calcutta scores high due to low attrition rate, between 10 and 20 per cent, when compared with Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, averaging between 15 and 30 per cent. But the report adds a caveat: “… the dropout rate is very high”.

Ajit Khandelwal of BNK e-Solutions, one of the first call centres in the city, explains: “Some employees who join in the last year of graduation quit for higher studies, while another section isn’t comfortable with night shifts... These are cultural issues but things are changing fast.”

A burgeoning banking sector, the largest insurance market (with over 29 per cent of Life Insurance Corporation agents), availability of power, cheap public transport, a rich cultural heritage and real estate are some of the city’s advantages, mentions the report.

But a comparison of industrial power tariffs in various cities puts Calcutta at a high of Rs 3.90 per unit. “Though some of the other benefits outweigh the impact of the high tariff, we want it to be reduced,” adds Khandelwal. Calcutta scores in availability and quality of power, and Delhi loses out due to “common occurrence” of load-shedding.

The message for Calcutta to move up the value chain is clear from the report: “Most of the ITES units in Calcutta are into inbound and outbound call centre operations.”

And that’s not difficult, feel industry observers. “With Calcutta scoring highest in IT and problem-solving skills (4.5 out of 5), the scope for transaction processing-based ITES units is also high in the state,” says one.

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