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Brick-&-mortar lesson for IT
- Mukesh Ambani to kick off infotech spectacle today

Calcutta, Nov. 30: Governments in the eastern region should learn from the mistakes cities in the south committed and focus on creating enabling infrastructure for the information technology industry.

'The condition of roads and state of transport have become major issues in some of the southern states,' Kiran Karnik, the president of the National Association for Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) said on the eve of Infocom 2004, one of the country's biggest IT expositions.

Mukesh Ambani will open the conference and exhibition, organised by Nasscom and Businessworld, an Ananda Bazar group publication, tomorrow.

The objective of the annual event, to be held between December 1 and 5, is to draw IT companies to the eastern and northeastern region.

Although Bangalore and Hyderabad have been the IT frontrunners, of late industry leaders like Azim Premji of Wipro have expressed dissatisfaction with the infrastructure, particularly in the Karnataka capital.

Karnik's cautionary word comes in that context. 'We would like to see the Bengal government pay attention to these areas and continue its good work,' he said.

The five-day event will feature discussions on technology, display of latest technology tools, a strategy summit for chief executives and a session with the political masters of the region. The organisers said all the 150 stalls at the exhibition ground at Salt Lake stadium are booked.

On December 3, there will be a chief ministers' roundtable ' as in the previous years ' where representatives from governments in the east and the Northeast will interact with industry representatives.

'Around two years back, the question was whether Calcutta could attract industry. Today, everyone knows that Calcutta has arrived. Now, the question is about the time the city would take to catch up with the rest. We will reiterate our support for growth and development of the industry in this region,' Karnik said.

With the growth of the IT industry in the region, Nasscom has decided to increase its visibility in this part of the country by organising structured programmes for IT professionals.

'Our member companies are expanding their Calcutta operations and so it is imperative for us to cater to them,' explained Karnik, adding that the entry of players like Wipro and expansion plans by Tata Consultancy Services and Cognizant Technology are indications that the industry is bullish about prospects here.

He believes that though software services will keep growing, business process outsourcing (BPO) is the biggest bet for the region.

'Given the interest Calcutta is generating as a BPO destination, we have kept one full day in the conference for interactions on the IT-enabled services industry,' Karnik added.

Besides, there will be sessions on e-governance, the latest technologies and open- source software.

The list of speakers lined up for the event includes Subir Raha, who heads ONGC, Jerry Rao of Nasscom, Raman Roy of Wipro Spectramind, Nandan Nilekani of Infosys, Malcom Wagget of HSBC Electronic Data Processing India Ltd, S. N. Zindal of STPI, Shekhar Dasgupta of Oracle India, Ajai Chowdhry of HCL Infosystems and Rajya Sabha member and former Reserve Bank governor Bimal Jalan.

'The response is phenomenal and we are expecting around 800 delegates at the conference. Besides, a 25-member team from Bangladesh is coming for the first time,' said a spokesperson for the organisers.

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