We Were All Inventing Something New, Together!
Oracle, UST Global, SunTec, IBS, Toonz Animation, Ernst & Young, Allianz…the list goes on…and on. 280 companies have already located in Trivandrum’s growing Technopark and Mr Vasudevan, Senior Manager of Business Development knows the number is going to rise, dramatically. Why does he believe this? Georgia Forsyth Sijpestijn caught up with him to talk about the future of the park, Kerala’s future as an IT hub and find out his favourite cricket player.
With the third phase in sight, how has the journey been over implementing the past phases to today, and what challenges have you faced and overcome?
Developing and marketing the Technopark, the first Technology Park in the country in Trivandrum has been a challenge and a learning experience. Trivandrum in the early 1990s was not thought to be “an industrial friendly location in India even though it was the capital of Kerala and a top tourist destination. Although the small capital had the highest literacy rate in the whole of the country its lack of quality infrastructure and availability of middle level managers were some of the problems. So, the government wanted a special place in which businesses would want to locate. Technopark chose to locate itself close to the University of Kerala forging Government-Industry-University linkage by acquiring 150 acres of land for its first phase development. Kerala Government chose Trivandrum because it had a lot of inherent strengths including a good international airport close to Technopark, good educational institutions for primary and higher education, quality research and development establishments/ institutions in space, IT/BT, imaging, medical research, science & technology, earth science, interdisciplinary science and technology, science education and research and tuber research. It was also found that nearly 12% of the Indian IT work force is from Kerala. Kerala has a very moderate climate and the quality of life was also excellent. With Technopark enabling global standard work and living conditions, we could put Trivandrum into the global IT map and today it has become a prominent IT investment destination in India.
What does this IT Park offer that other parks outside India do not?
Technopark provides global standard IT/ITeS infrastructure for companies including world class office and convention space, uninterrupted power, water, telecom and datacom services and provides total support to companies setting up their operations in the Park. The Government of India supports all administrative clearances through single window Special Economic Zone Scheme which enables speedy clearances for foreign investment.
What businesses are you hoping to attract?
Technopark is now hoping to attract top IT companies who are into product research, games and telecom development in addition to large companies who are into providing IT solutions and service. When you look at India and Kerala, we have a demographic advantage. In the developed countries, we have an aging population whereas in India/Kerala, we would continue to have a relatively young population. So outsourcing to India may be an imperative to overcome the demographic issues facing the developed countries and many more companies will be forced to outsource or set up companies in India. We also have a growing ecosystem in IT. We have companies in Technopark working on all parts of IT value chain – product design, system software, application software, IT services, infrastructure management, and business process management. As companies look to source services from the eco-system Technopark and Technocity would be important destinations for the same.
How many companies are you hoping the park will have on completion?
We are looking at a direct working population of 600,000 IT professionals in Technopark/Technocity by the year 2020, which will have nearly 1000 to 1200 companies.
When will Technocity be completed?
Technocity is expected to be fully operational by the year 2018.
When Technocity is completed will you move there?
Yeah that would be a good location…I would like to stay there.
What areas, according to your international experience, do the Keralites need to improve to compete in the global business market?
Most of the people have travelled abroad and seen the developments taking place elsewhere in the world and have interacted with people abroad. The Government is putting in place various schemes for skill enhancement and capacity building. We also need to take care of our physical and social infrastructure. Once these things are taken care of, Kerala can be the best place to work and live in the whole world.
What kind of incentive schemes are the Kerala government implementing to attract global business and students to the region?
IT companies are not looking for any major incentives from the Government. They are looking forward to three major resources – human resources, quality infrastructure, lower cost of operations and high quality of life and Trivandrum offers all the above. The Government of Kerala also offers 25% grant on fixed capital investment limited to Rs. 2.5 million for companies who set up their operations in Kerala. Companies who set up their operations in Technopark’s Special Economic Zones get all tax exemptions.
Do you feel Kerala is lagging behind Bangalore and Hyderabad as an IT hub?
Kerala is behind Bangalore and Hyderabad in IT by ten years but we are leaders in many other areas including literacy, human development index, etc., we are the leaders in India. But in IT, we expect to catch-up with them in the coming years.
What advice or information would you give to entrepreneurs beginning start-up companies wishing to obtain a space in the park?
The Government of Kerala is now giving thrust to start-up companies by setting up an Innovation Zone. In Technopark, we have so far incubated around 160 companies and we are looking forward to incubating 3000 start-ups in the next 4 to 5 years’ time. My advice for getting space for start-ups is that they should have some innovative ideas which can be developed and commercialized and Technopark will hand-hold them to become one of the most promising IT Companies.
Ok, onto some less serious stuff, lets get to know you. Who is you favourite cricket player?
Answering with a smile and a small laugh he tells me that it’s Sachin Tendulkar.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Hmm…free time? Mostly I like reading and TV. I read the business section, news and current affairs. In particular The Economist.
Have you always been interested in being a businessman or was there a point in your life, for example when you were a child that you wanted to do something different?
I always wanted to be a government servant so I could do something for them [the Government]…. I just wanted to be someone in the government so I could help the state.
You have created a prosperous career with Technopark, how has this developed you professionally and as a person, individually?
Yeah actually I was working with Keltron. So I was interacting with other government officials there….When Technopark started the Chairman at that point of time said ok why don’t you come join Technopark so that you can help support IT companies and other companies commence operations. That is how I came here. Vasudevan then went on to explain that he began as a liaison officer, so I interacted with the government of Kerala to get funds required for investment then procurement of land and getting the government of India clearances.
What struggles did you overcome in your career getting to the position you are today?
Yeah initially when we started we used to work mostly 12 to 15 hours per day because initially it was the setting-up of the project even during the weekend. So, it was a difficult time initially but it was a good thing in the sense that it was the first technology park in India, so you are working for something new…The people also worked as a team. We were all inventing something new, together. It was very exciting!
What would you say is the highlight of your career?
On the November 18th 1995 the Prime Minister of India visited Technopark to inaugurate the new IT park. We were given only a week’s time, we had to invite 5000 people; we had to make all the arrangements for the programme. It was a very hectic week and most of us were here 24 hours a day….We had to arrange a helipad for the Prime Minister.
What advice would you give to other people hoping to follow in you footsteps?
This is an institution for everyone, and when more companies come here it will create a lot of employment, local employment here and there will be a lot of economic development.