Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Investors may move to other cities emerging as IT hubs

Improve Bangalore’s infrastructure, else...
Investors may move to other cities emerging as IT hubs
Financial Express

Hi-tech almost took to the streets in Bangalore a couple of weeks ago. The city was hosting its annual Infotech fair, Bangalore IT.com, a jamboree that the government has, in the past, successfully used to attract more tech investments into the city. But this time, the local IT industry felt the city’s creaky infrastructure couldn’t possibly bear the weight of any more silicon. They have been complaining about the city’s crowded roads that made the commute from the city to their modern campus-like headquarters an almost hour long grind at any time of the day. Their complaints had been vocal, Wipro’s Azim Premji even making the point at press conferences, but nothing much had happened.

This time, the techies decided to get old-fashioned in their protest and threatened to spill out of their offices and block traffic on the roads outside. A traditional chakka jam. It would have made for nice television pictures. But the government promised things would get better and the crisis was averted.

But this piece is not about Bangalore’s infrastructure woes. These reports got me thinking about how it all began — the IT story in India. How Bangalore wasn’t really the cradle of the Indian IT industry. And how, while it certainly is the best place for the Industry at the moment, it could lose this status if the government in the state doesn’t respond quickly enough. This is an industry full of impatient people who can’t afford to wait for the next opportunity, but have to grab the present. That’s been the history of this hugely entrepreneur-driven business in India.

Let’s flash back to Delhi in 1972 when the DCM group set up DCM Data Systems, one of India’s first infotech companies. From it flowed DCM Data Products, a company that made calculators and was planning to start manufacturing computers. But the pace of growth wasn’t fast enough for the men at the top of the company, Shiv Nadar and Arjun Malhotra. The day the news broke is now part of folklore for IT old timers in India. Nadar is believed to have delivered 42 resignations at DCM Data that day. Others left in the company, from trainees to senior managers, were given a standing offer to join Nadar and his team. Overnight, DCM offices became HCL offices. It wasn’t long before one of Nadar’s blue-eyed boys got impatient at HCL despite its aggressive marketing focus. Dhadan Bhai branched out to form Pertech Computers Limited, PCL. Dadan Bhai wasn’t the only break away from HCL. Others who wanted to run a more customer-focused business got in touch with the vegetable oil-soap-lighting baron with cash to spare. Thus was born Wipro Infotech. Bangalore, which already had multinationals like Texas Instruments to boast of was getting into the domestic IT picture. It would soon get another crown jewel, as in Pune, meanwhile, another group of impatient young men working with Patni Computers were dreaming big. Infosys was a result of those dreams.

The only two companies that had relatively more relaxed beginnings were TCS and CMC. The Tatas were distributors for Microsoft products and then they morphed their IT business to what it has become today. CMC was formed with the people IBM left behind when it was forced to move out of the country in the 70s. The government chucked them out but needed its people to maintain the computers they had left behind in government departments across the country. Hence the very literal name, the Computer Maintenance Corporation.

But for the most part of its history, the IT industry in India has been one of impatient men not content to wait. By that scale, Bangalore’s IT entrepreneurs have been remarkably patient with the government’s sluggishness over infrastructure. But with Pune, Noida, Hyderabad, Chennai, Gurgaon, Kolkata, Indore and even Kerala emerging as attractive alternativesinvestors may not wait for too long, if those roads in Bangalore don’t get any better.

The author is executive editor of CNBC-TV 18. These are his personal views


At Tuesday, October 26, 2004 at 9:54:00 PM GMT+5:30, Blogger The Bangalorean said...

Perhaps, but one can hardly accuse him of making a mountain out of a molehill in this case. There really is a gargantuan infrastructure problem in the city today, only the government chooses to look the other way.


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