The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Say A for Buddha

Calcutta, Nov. 19: Forget B for Bengal. Azim Premji has just put it in the A team. At the top of the A team.

'You have the best chief minister in the country,' said the richest man in the country.

Sceptics may start muttering Buddhadeb is best because Naidu and Krishna are no longer around, but Premji would have none of it.

Asked to rate Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the Wipro chief said: 'Yes, he is in the league of (N.) Chandrababu Naidu' But he (Bhattacharjee) is working in a much more straitjacketed surrounding.'

Andhra's Naidu and Karnataka's S.M. Krishna used to be the darlings of industry but the first lost the election and the second lost the chief minister's post.

Businessmen prefer boredom ' in politics and policy, at least. Premji made that clear while explaining why Wipro was investing in Calcutta.

'You have the best chief minister in the country. The continuity of policies in the state and a stable government are also important factors,' he said, addressing a Confederation of Indian Industry meet.

Premji was in town for the opening of Wipro's sprawling campus, the seventh in the country, in Salt Lake.

'We are pleased with our decision of coming to Calcutta and satisfied with the support that we got from the government. We will continue to invest and grow here,' he announced.

Later, he confirmed that Wipro would set up another centre in the city, for which it has already sought 40 acres in Rajarhat.

Present at the inauguration, Bhattacharjee promised all help in quick completion of the second centre. 'After we were voted to power for the sixth time, my first decision was to allot land to Wipro in May 2001,' he recounted to a huge round of applause.

Built on 16 acres at an investment of around Rs 100 crore, the first centre started working in August. In less than two months, the headcount has gone up to 1,000 in a set-up that has a capacity to accommodate around 7,000.

'The success of the IT (infotech) and IT-enabled services industry depends on the availability of a talent pool. West Bengal is a citadel of knowledge' Premji's paean continued.

It was not one-sided by any means.

'Premji is not a stereotype businessman, he is a visionary. He thinks not only about the urban intelligentsia, he is also concerned about rural people,' Bhattacharjee said.

WARNING I: With the good words from Premji came a reminder ' wrapped in carefully worded phrases ' to keep the focus steady on creating enabling infrastructure. 'Some of the southern states have fallen back in putting the necessary infrastructure in place. They are losing on incremental business,' he said. Some time ago, he had blasted the Karnataka government.

WARNING II: Premji declined comment, but his colleague Raman Roy, the CEO of Wipro Spectramind, said frequent bandhs were a 'matter of concern'.

'Bandhs come in the way of our efforts of bringing in business and clients to Calcutta. Though operations don't suffer during strikes, it is difficult to convince overseas clients about the reality,' he said.

Bandh for Bengal is still a reality.

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