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Since 1st March, 1999
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Curve in place, tech courtship on

Calcutta, Dec. 6: It’s exciting and the curve is great.

But before you start wondering if it’s some kind of sleazy invitation, it’s not. Just a tip from an insider who knows where to byte.

Kiran Karnik, the man who heads Nasscom, the apex body of software and services companies, says the city is the place to be. “If you’re a businessman, Calcutta is a very exciting place to be right now. The information technology sector here is showing a great growth curve, as compared to the rest of the country.

“With a proactive government which means business, Calcutta is the gateway to the east and the Northeast, which has tremendous, and unfortunately, untapped potential.”

Figures back Karnik’s claim.

Bengal’s IT industry is growing at a rate of 70 per cent compared to the national index of 36 per cent and the sector is proving to be the main growth engine for the re-industrialisation of the state.

“The state government has spearheaded 56 roadshows over the last two to three years. We have even gone abroad to Europe to promote the state and to set right the distorted perception of Bengal. It is slowly paying off right now,” says G.D. Gautama, principal secretary, ministry of information technology.

In recent times there has been a lot of focus on Bengal as an IT hub. Infocom, India’s largest IT exposition organised by Nasscom and Businessworld, an ABP group publication, has played a big role in projecting Bengal as a state ripe for investment.

The latest edition ' Infocom 2005 ' gets under way from Wednesday in Calcutta. The theme of the five-day event is information technology, everyday for everyone.

If chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is courting IT giants to his state, Gautama gives the reason why investors should be flocking here in droves. “Bengal has certain advantages. Low rate of attrition, a very good knowledge base, cost effectiveness and a perception of job loyalty, which is very important in this industry,” he points out.

The state now has 15 IT parks in various stages of development. They would become functional in the next 30 months, which will add almost 14 million square feet to the current IT workspace arena of two million square feet. IT parks in Kharagpur and Durgapur are already operational, while software technology parks in Haldia and Siliguri are expected to be operational by January 2006. “We have to develop centres other than Calcutta'. Satellite IT townships have to be developed,” says Gautama.

Nearly 35,000 people are currently employed by the IT sector in Bengal. The vision statement of the IT ministry expects the number to cross 4 lakh by 2010. The focus is to move away from a business process outsourcing mindset and project Bengal as a knowledge process outsourcing powerhouse.

“We are looking for investment in many sectors. Animation, analytics, financial services, engineering designs, legal outsourcing and insurance provide a massive potential for growth,” says Gautama.

The BPOs now employ about 9,000 people in the state, but with the entry of new players, like HSBC Electronics Data Processing Pvt. Ltd, GECIS and ICICI One Source, the number is bound to shoot up. The IT industry in Bengal expects to have 2,35,000 employees working in the BPO/ITES (information technology enabled services) sector by 2010.

As for software companies in Bengal, where about 26,000 people work now, the figure is expected to rise substantially with Satyam and Mahindra British Telecom announcing development centres in Calcutta, and Infosys expected to make an entry as well. If the industry grows at the current rate of 70 per cent, Bengal should have a software employee base of 1,75,000 by 2010.

“Although this state is a late starter, we are catching up with the rest. Bengal’s share in the total IT export revenue in 2004-05 has been Rs 2,200 crore or 5.2 per cent. We want to increase this to 15 per cent for the IT sector and 20 per cent for the ITES sector by 2010,” says Gautama.

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