March 15, 2004. Wipro Limited chairman Azim Premji sends an e-mail to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, saying that he is setting his sights on Rajarhat New Town, the emerging IT hub in Bengal.
He also points out that his company’s expansion plans in Calcutta may “get contained to existing planned numbers”, in the absence of “a larger piece of land”.
April 2, 2004. The richest Indian visits Rajarhat early in the morning, before heading for Writers’ Buildings to meet chief minister Bhattacharjee and roll out big plans for Bengal.
“Yes, we are interested in acquiring land in the New Town, but that will be Phase III of our operations,” said Premji, without divulging the details.
From checking out the work in progress at Wipro’s facility in Salt Lake to meeting Bengal’s information technology (IT) officialdom to addressing students at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) function — Premji’s Friday schedule was packed.
“Our operations will start by the end of May and in the first phase, we will be employing around 1,500 people,” he said, after his 35-minute meeting with the chief minister.
“We will invest another Rs 25 crore in a year’s time and have plans to recruit around 4,500 people in all our facilities here,” added Premji.
The over Rs 5,000-crore company has already invested Rs 50 crore in setting up its own facility at Salt Lake’s Sector V.
As per Premji’s plans, Wipro will kick off its Calcutta operations with both business process outsourcing and software development.
The chief minister seemed satisfied with the Wipro progress report. “Their development centre on 12 acres in Salt Lake is ready. We have already given them five more acres and now they are interested in Rajarhat, as well,” said Bhattacharjee.
During the morning meeting, the chief minister also requested Premji to pitch for the country’s fourth submarine cable landing station in Haldia, which will augment the availability of bandwidth to the IT and IT-enabled services (ITeS) companies in the east and Northeast.
“It will help the industry in the region and we believe there is a need for a cable landing station here,” affirmed Premji.
During the meeting, Bhattacharjee wanted to know the impact of the outsourcing outcry on the Indian industry.
Premji explained to the chief minister that the US companies were gaining from outsourcing and said the opposition would taper off after the US elections in November.
Later during the day, Premji and officials from Wipro’s local office visited the IT department’s new set-up on Camac Street and had a 45-minute meeting with state IT minister Manab Mukherjee.
From actively participating in the government-run computer education programme in schools to managing the health department’s tele-medicine project across the state — Premji outlined the areas where the company was interested in playing a role. “Along with IBM, we will definitely involve Wipro,” said minister Mukherjee.