Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hype....or the lack of it!

A few days ago, a momentous event took place in Technopark, which most of us are still unaware of. A CEO Conclave, which brought together the senior management of a host of top IT players, was held at Technopark, which was presided over by the Chief Minister of Kerala. An important event indeed for a city and a state poised for a mighty leap in the IT sector, one would have thought it would have deserved more than a backpage mention, at the very least!

Unfortunately, except for The Hindu, no paper carried detailed reports and no TV channel paid any attention, either. They were all occupied by such earthshaking matters as pirated CDs, forgotten controversies about rickety dams and other assorted tit-bits which no one cares about anyway. A couple of rags carried small notes as afterthoughts and one even had a critical article on how the whole thing was conducted. does not just suffice to not be helpful, you need to stick one in between the ribs.....seems to be motto!

So, what's happening - where's the fine tradition of reporting gone, in this the most literate and news-aware of all states? It seems that news generated in Trivandrum or its environs is generally to be published if it is bad news. A political scandal somewhere or a strike in front of the that's fodder for the media. However, if a new project starts up here or a new investor arrives, the news is usually not deemed new-worthy. For example, last month the K.Raheja group, a leading real estate group, tied up with the Govt. to develop an International Convention Centre complex at Aakulam. The Rs 150 Crore project also includes a 5-star hotel and is the second biggest such project in South India after the Hyderabad International Convention Centre, but how much coverage did any of us see?

And not only is truth often omitted, it is also often suitably "modified". For example, let's look at the much talked-about term - "IT Hub". As I think I once mentioned here, Trivandrum accounts for about 80% of Kerala's IT exports, 60% of IT space and more than 70% of its workforce. Yet, the media shys away from calling it the "IT Hub". Counter intuitive, right? Apparently, not!

Once I saw a report proclaiming "IT Giant Oracle comes to Kochi!" . Surprised at this turn of events, I enquired and found out that the small print said that Oracle was setting up a tiny, one-man sales office in Cochin. And not some development centre as the media would have us believe. Or the much-talked about, so-called "Smart" City project. If one believes the media, especially a certain daily which claims to have the largest circulation in the Universe, it is the biggest and best IT project in India. I have seen the proposal in detail, and all the fancy promoters promise is 3.3 million sft of built-up space and 33,000 jobs in another 10 years! To give a fair idea, our own homegrown Technopark, developed by the humble Govt. of Kerala, already has 2.1 million sft of space and nearly 15,000 people. In the next three years, another 4 million sft of space and 30,000 people will be joining. Yet, our media persons claim that the "Smart" City is the only way Kerala can become an IT power.

TCS - India's largest IT company - built its first Training Centre in Trivandrum more than a decade ago, when "IT" still brought thoughts of the dreaded Income Taxman to most people, lol! A lot of TCS stalwarts are alumni of this centre. And now, TCS has completed a sprawling Global Training Centre inside Technopark. It's been operationalised and will train most of TCS's incoming recruits from India and around the world. TCS is all set to start on a 500,000 sft Development Centre within their 40 acre campus inside Technopark. This too seems to be firmly on the media's oversight list.

And as if media intransigence was not enough, our administrators are doing their bit too. One would have expected an event as a meet of top IT officials to have been organised with sufficient publicity. Maybe a press conference or a press release? Or just maybe some publicity material around the city or a public function to felicitate leading IT folks from Trivandrum like Infosys boss "Kris" Gopalakrishnan and IBS chairman, V.K. Mathews? Guess, the powers-that-be didn't deem that necessary. Even when a two-bit party with six leaders and two followers holds a National Conference, there is much more publicity.

Some of you may think what is in creating hype? Surely, it is not that important! Well, sadly in today's world of glitz, glamour and spindoctoring, that's all that matters. For example, people have been hearing "Kochi is Kerala's IT hub" sooo long and sooo often, that it is now taken as the truth. Recently, I heard that a on-the-fringe-of-believeability superstar, who hails from Trivandrum, said that Cochin looked like "Dufai" to him. Since the gentleman must have seen both Dubai and the medium sized city called Cochin, I absolutely fail to see where the similarity lies. Obviously cannot be in the roads - of which none of any standard exist in the latter city, or the buildings - where the average height of the former's skyscrapers would be much more than the tallest 20-odd floor building in the latter. It can still less be in the cosmopolitan nature of the former or in terms of mosquitoe density, for which Cochin is notorious and I hope Dubai is not. Well, if Dubai has mangrove swamps, then there could be some similarity. Otherwise, I would think the ageing superstar had a drop too much or else has been mind-blasted by all the hype. And it is getting better and better these days. Lol, I recently saw a claim that the Queen of the Arabian Sea is India's "second Mumbai", a claim which would leave citizens of such cities as Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi...and indeed Mumbai much confused and bemused.

In this dizzying cycle of hype, I do hope there is more effort to report the truth, as it should be reported, truthfully and fully. So I hope when work on the Infosys campus kicks off next month or when there is blockbuster weekend at Kovalam next week or when the Vizhinjam port comes to fruition, the news appears where it belongs - on the front page - and not in some corner of an inside page.

Someone once claimed that "the Pen is mightier than the Sword". True indeed, especially in being double edged!

1 comment:

  1. First of all, I would like to congratulate Ajay on his efforts to keep us all posted on the good things happening in Trivandrum . It is good to see that TVM is emerging as the IT Hub of kerala especially in the key areas of software development, training,animation etc. All this is happening even though there are strong lobbies working against the interests of Trivandrum. There are real estate lobbies who are carrying out ad campaigns projecting Kochi as the only investment destination of Kerala.The official stand of the government (thru department of tourism, IT dept etc) also seem to supports such a view ;because I am sure that our leading politicians (cutting across all ideologies) have substantial benami stakes in these real estate ventures.
    Trivandrum has been neglected over the past several decades and the other places have benefitted from this neglect. Whether it is the new airport terminal. vizhinjam project, or the capital city development project. everything is moving ahead at snails pace.IIM was sneaked away to Kozhikode without anybody knowing about it; IIT was initally alloted to Trivandrum and later shifted elsewhere; the so called AIIMS status to TVM MCH never materialised; the High court bench is still a paper dream;the habitat center seems to have died a natural depth;the ambitious canal walk project announcedd almost 10 years ago is totally forgotten.
    The above list is endless. As a small mercy, a small stretch of road (Museum-vellayambalam-kawdiar) was beautified and an underpass was commissioned . Bakery flyover is still being built and the fate of the second flyover at Pazhavangadi is not known yet

    Unless we have local politicians who will take up the cause of the city , the city will continue to be neglected with a few bits and pieces thrown in now and then


Thanks for your comment, I will take a look at it and put it up at the earliest.