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Aug 22, 2005


J J Vellara

Our former chief minister had announced that the unutilized land at Mavoor, belonging to Grasim Industries will be taken over for setting up an IT park near Kozhikode. The most important requirement is land availability and then comes proximity to airports; as experts from across the country and abroad will be visiting such destinations frequently.

Mavoor will be the most ideal place, with its proximity to the City of Calicut and the international airport; whereto it will have to be connected by good road across Chaliyar river covering a distance of just around 15 kms which is lesser than the distance to Calicut. It will give a boost to BPO in Malabar, wherein enough potential is there even if it is not upto the extent as it is there in Bangalore.

This will also help to prevent congestion at Kochi where it is emerging as an IT/BPO destination. It will be wise only if the new government is to continue with the idea.

Deepak Balachandran

What TPG has said about losing "follow-up opportunities" is true, and perhaps the biggest loss yet.

India did not succeed in the BPO and software space because of climatic conditions. We got where we are primarily because we were among the first to move in. Search around- you're sure to find an article or two asking, "Is Buenos Aires the next Bangalore?"

Kerala perhaps chose to wait.

There's this town called Manipal in Karnataka which today boasts of some of India's finest professional colleges, at least in terms of infrastructure. The last I went there was in 94, but even by then it was a rather impressive place. To the best of my knowledge, the bulk of the investment required was routed by friendly political opinion- in Kerala. The concept of a self-financing college then was something comparable to incest, among some circles.

We have self-financing engineering colleges in Kerala today. I don’t know the number, but it should be nearly 50. Some fourteen thousand candidates wrote the engineering entrance in '91. Today, I understand there is approximately the same number of engineering seats available.

So what's my point? Between '85 and '95, a sizeable amount of capital flowed out of Kerala as capitation and tuition fees. I'd put it to be of the order of 100 crores, and will not be surprised if someone better informed than me suggests that it might be many times that amount. Moreover, a professional college means business, literally. At least 50 direct employees, not to mention the fillip to local trade. Well, we lost all that.

However, one cannot blame the government- any government. There is some amount of security in conservativeness, and a government’s primary duty is, after all, to ensure security. It is for the private sector to act as the prime mover in new domains. So would everybody please let the private sector take the risk? If they succeed, we all will have more to eat. If they fail, only they starve (surprisingly, it is possible.) And if one dislikes the hegemonistic, monopolistic, XYZ Cola Company, one has the option not to drink cola. I’m le petit bourgeoisie, ass-push, a capitalist and all that, and I don’t drink cola as long I have kattan chai or potable water available.

TP Gopinath

CPM Messed Up!

We had the best chance to excel in BPO and information technology generally some years back when IT was gaining momentum in India. However our CPM politics ruined that chance by striking all over and asking for PCs to go back. It started with that; we lost the start-up opportunity and with that we lost even the follow-up opportunities. Today it’s all over India and Kerala is just doing miniscule portion of the pie. Smart city is the new star on the horizon but how far it will help things is a wait and watch!


BPO in Malabar

I've been dreaming about a BPO for some years now (starting at a time when the very term was not in currency) and even spent a good amount of money participating in a seminar at Chennai in 2000. On that instance, I had to turn back defeated- the project report presented there, prepared by IDBI, involved a 100 seater; cost Rs.7crore.

Then, and until rather recently, the plans were all about low-end work with huge, imaginary margins. And then, gradually, came in the concept of domain expertise. One of the problems with regard to new-age products and services I've noticed in Malabar is the mixing of blind investment with attempted management in an unfamiliar area.

Invest, by all means. But if you are not an expert in the field, stay away from the management part. Better still, make meaningful investments- use your experience and skills, and invest in a business that you understand. This second option, unfortunately, seems to be not-so-popular. I recently read an article that compared call center capabilities in India and Pakistan. Quote, “The willingness of Pakistanis to return home from the West stands in marked contrast to most Indians who arrive for school or work in the West and never look back.”
(Anthony Mitchell; http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/37750.html)

If one wants call centers to start in Calicut, people who have gained experience and expertise abroad have to bring those skills-and contacts- back home. There is not much use cribbing about the state of affairs here, political or otherwise. Let me illustrate: "politics is the last refuge of scoundrels", said Shaw. If all the ‘good’ people kept away from politics on that account, there is no use maligning that profession- the ‘good’ people are responsible for leaving it to the scoundrels. Lets look at the flip side: If more and more good people joined politics, it would cease to be that exclusive club of scoundrels as it is perceived to be.

Next time there is a bandh in Karnataka, try and be in Bangalore. A bandh that can paralyse an entire state is pooh-poohed in the IT city. Why? People have work. People are busy. People have deadlines to meet. Wipro’s Azim Premji talks of Bangalore getting congested and the Chief Minister goes into crisis-control mode. But Wipro wasn’t always a multi-thousand crore company. And if you know someone in Bangalore, ask them how long it took to complete the huge Hebbal flyover. Around eighteen months, I think.

This is by no means an invitation to start a call center in Malabar. In fact, I’d still advise against starting any enterprise that concentrates on low-end services. I have dealt with a few western clients, and their concepts of service quality and punctuality are largely unknown to us. I've known some to pass over seemingly huge profits on account of unproven service quality.

It is not about rates- its about expertise and proven or provable skills, which are always valued. Moreover, low-end services are always open to the threat of fresh competition, and in any case is never a viable long-term option. Lets keep it simple- what is a better career option: becoming an office boy, or becoming a doctor?

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