Friday, August 05, 2011

Gigo on the go!

Gigo Joseph, the CEO of Infoparks Kerala, talks about drawing investors to the Kochi IT hub, especially for Phase 2, which has 160 acres

By Shevlin Sebastian

At 6.30 p.m. on a Monday, Gigo Joseph, the CEO of Infoparks Kerala, has just concluded a meeting with the District Collector P.I. Sheik Pareeth about an alignment of an electricity cable that is passing through Smart City as well as Info Park. It had been a hectic day. It began with a public function at a school in Kochi, followed by a staff meeting, and other engagements.

Appointed around two months ago by the State Government, his brief is simple. “The government wants to improve the IT footprint in the state,” he says. “We need to become competitive with other states.” At the moment Kerala lags far behind. While the IT industry in Kerala is worth Rs 3000 crore, in Karnataka it is Rs 80,000 crore.

Joseph explains the reasons behind Karnataka's success. “Bangalore had become established as an IT hub earlier,” he says. “There is a good pool of talent available, and there is still scope for growth. Senior executives at multinationals say they keep getting good people, they are growing, so why move out?”

Nevertheless, Joseph is trying hard to woo investors, by travelling to other states. And in the process, he is learning about how others perceive God's Own Country. “There is a fear that Kerala is not an investment-friendly state,” says Joseph. “I have told the investors that those who have set up shop in the park have not lost a single day to labour problems or strikes. I encourage them to talk to the clients who are already here, like US Technology International, Cognizant, and Wipro.” At present, there are 75 companies, which employ 15,000 people.

He cites other advantages. “Electricity-wise, we are stable, as compared to a state like Karnataka, where there are power cuts of five hours or more,” he says. “The tariff is half that of Bangalore. In rentals, in Bangalore, premium places will go for Rs 50 to 60 per sq. feet. In Kochi, you can get it for Rs 25 sq. ft.”

But, for most employers, the big worry is the lack of entertainment. For IT professionals, the weekend is a time to unwind, after a five-day week where an employee spends more than nine hours daily at work. “Most of the outsiders feel that Kochi is a sleepy town and there is nothing to do in the evenings,” he says.

Joseph talks about the presence of malls like the Oberon, the Gold Souk, and the upcoming Lulu. “I tell them that there are many good restaurants, and classy hotels like the Vivanta by Taj and the Ramada resort,” he says. “There are many scenic places to visit, where professionals can unwind on the weekends. Kerala has an unique charm of its own.”

Of course, another complaint is that the local talent is not as good as those found in Bangalore, Chennai or Hyderabad. “Definitely, the talent in Kerala needs exposure to reach the levels of Bangalore,” he says. “Hence, they need to be given training by the various companies who come here.”

Joseph's former company, Infosys, has a six-month training programme for beginners. “When Infosys hires 35,000 people per year, there is an urgent need to give training so that the freshers can reach the level the company desires,” he says. “I am sure the Malayalis in Kerala, if given similar training, will do well. One must remember that there are many successful Malayalis working in the IT industry in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, and all over the world.”

Meanwhile, Joseph's immediate priority is to develop the 160 acres available in Phase-2 of the Info Park, Kochi, in the next eight years. “If I can do this, 80,000 jobs will become available,” he says. “When Smart City also comes up, a similar number of openings will materialise. So, we are talking about 2 lakh jobs.” And not to forget the Info Parks at Cherthala and Koratty, which are also Joseph’s responsibility. “I am excited that I can contribute in some way to the development of the state,” he says.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)


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