The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha’s barons head for IT hub

Calcutta, Sept. 17: From Mumbai to Bangalore. After making a modest beginning in the country’s financial capital, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s business bandwagon will be reaching Bangalore next month for its second date with corporate chieftains.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) offices in Bangalore and Calcutta are busy fixing up one-on-one meetings for the Bengal chief minister “sometime in October”. A roadshow — along the lines of the Mumbai meet — is also planned to give Bhattacharjee a chance to meet the leaders of Indian information technology and IT-enabled services (ITES) industry.

“The roadshow in Mumbai was a great success. Besides winning accolades for his candour and commitment, the chief minister was also able to send some positive vibes to the industry, which is reflected in the follow-up,” said Sanjay Budhia, chairman, CII, eastern region. Ajay Piramal of Nicholas Piramal and M.K. Sharma of Hindustan Lever called on Bhattacharjee from Mumbai recently to discuss investment in Bengal.

Bhattacharjee sought investments in leather, textile and chemical industries during his June 2 meeting at the Taj Hotel, but the focus in Bangalore will be on his favourite IT and ITES sectors. Besides meeting Wipro’s Azim Premji and Infosys’ .R. Narayana Murthy, he will also have sessions with heads of Bangalore-based multinationals like Texas Instruments, GE and IBM to showcase Bengal’s strengths.

While dates are being finalised for Bhattacharjee’s Bangalore trip, his cabinet colleague, information technology minister Manab Mukherjee, is leaving for Chennai today to represent Bengal in Connect 2003, one of the biggest information, communication and technology shows in the country. Jointly organised by CII and the Tamil Nadu government, it will provide Mukherjee an opportunity to do the groundwork down south for Bhattacharjee’s impending visit. State government officials will also utilise IT East, the two-day CII event in the city this month, to build bridges with Karnataka-based major technology companies and make Bhattacharjee’s trip a success.

“We want to organise the Bangalore meetings as soon as possible. And since both the chief minister and the CEOs in Bangalore are willing to meet up, it’s just a matter of matching their times,” Budhia said. Besides Mukherjee, Bhattacharjee’s team for Bangalore is expected to comprise a host of IT czars from Bengal.

Despite the government’s efforts in promoting the state as an IT hub and roping in McKinsey to bring in investments, the state — with just five per cent contribution to the nation’s export kitty — has not drawn significant investments in the sector and has a lot of catching up to do.

“One needs to be well-prepared with concrete offerings to the investors before meeting the CEOs to pitch for investments. Bhattacharjee’s candour is good, but investors put in their money after calculating the return on investment. The government has to prove it’s worth investing here,” said an industry observer, stressing on the need for a proper planning.

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