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Infosys sends Bengal log-in signal

Calcutta, Sept. 20: The software caravan to Bengal is getting longer. After Wipro, Infosys Technologies appears keen to log in to the state, which has caught the fancy of infotech heavyweights from home and overseas.

N. R. Narayana Murthy, mentor of the Rs 6859-crore company, will meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on September 28 to discuss business plans.

“He is interested in Bengal,” was all that a laconic Bhattacharjee would say at the 118th annual general meeting of Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BNCCI). No details of the planned talks were known.

If the discussion goes the way mavens at Writers’ Buildings want it, Calcutta should host Infosys’ 12th software development centre. On that count, neighbour Orissa has already stolen a march, having been successful in getting the firm to set up a hub in Bhubaneswar.

Indications from Bhattacharjee follow three meetings Bengal IT minister Manab Mukherjee and infotech secretary G.D. Gautama had with Narayana Murthy. In those discussions, the Infosys founder had reiterated Calcutta would surely figure in Infosys’ expansion plans.

Away from software, Bhattacharjee told the BNCCI conference the Hindujas were keen on an assembly unit in Haldia. “Ashok Hinduja, the youngest of the Hinduja brothers, met me recently. Ashok Leyland is already considering a proposal for an assembly unit in Haldia,” he added.

The state lacks automobile units. The only one, at Uttarpara, belongs to Hindustan Motors, which is the flagship company of the C.K. Birla group. The plant, which largely manufactures Ambassador cars, is not in good shape and Birla is trying to revamp it, Bhattacharjee said. “We are helping him in the effort,” he added.

The chief minister, talking about the progress on the Jindals’ planned five-million tonne greenfield steel project, said there should be a national policy on export of iron ore, one of the key raw materials required for steel.

He pointed out that much of the investments in recent years have been funnelled into iron and steel, an industry that has largely blossomed in the Durgapur-Asansol strip. The flip side of this has been pollution problems.

“Keeping that in mind, we have identified 300 acres in Barjora, where sponge iron units can be set up. These firms will have to follow environment norms,” he said.

Leather is another industry where Bengal appears to have acquired an edge, even drawing the attention of Italians. Firms from that country have shown interest in setting up base in Calcutta’s Bantala leather complex.

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