Wednesday, June 27, 2007

For whom the Jathas roll.....

Another day....another cause...another rally! It is a sad and extremely frustrating state of affairs that the residents of the Capital are used to by now. The list of reasons for protests reads like a list of woes so diverse and sometimes so trivial, that even Pearly Gates would refuse to acknowledge it, far less the "Samara Gate" of the Secretariat! And the entire focus of all this activity is along the M.G. Road of the city, which is also the arterial road of the urban area. The result? Clogged roads, traffic jams and frayed tempers aside, the disruption often results in missed appointments and trains/flights, and even endangers the lives of patients being rushed to hospital.

On a primal level, the question is always WHY Us?! The answer given is that Trivandrum is the Capital of Kerala. Correct, but does that mean the lives of one and a half million city residents is unimportant? The supporters of disrupting city life claim that all capitals have to put up with this, after all don't they get the prestige in return? Well, prestige doesn't count for much today, when time is money. And most capitals also get preference with respect to Government investment and policy. Trivandrum has to fight for the scraps that GoK does invest in, as hard as or more often, harder than the other cities in the State. As the State Government swings from left to right over and over, the focus of the Governments also switch from North to Central Kerala and back. Despite hogging the hospitality of the city and owing a lot of their support to the region, most politicians have nothing more than lip service to offer the city where they lounge in plush homes and zip around on the best roads in the State. So, if we weigh up the benefits and the costs of being a capital, the needle says it's a bad deal. To seal that measure, Trivandrum is the only State Capital which does not have a High Court or a HC Bench, and one should understand that the vast majority of cases pending in the HC are related to the Government and require armies of officials to travel to Cochin frequently at the tax payer's expense. But, let's leave the unfashionable parochial angle aside. That's a running argument and one in which I am necessarily biased in favour of one side.

Why is it necessary to throw life out of gear to prove a point?

Let me confess something - in my days as a student activist with a very pronounced left leaning, I was part of and have organised quite a few marches along M.G.Road. So I am not quite the disinterested, neutral party standing by the road side cursing the rallyists. But this also gives me a view from the other side, from within the ranks of marches and from the front row.

The aim behind a protest march or any march is manifold. The march is designed to bring issues to the notice of the authorities and the public. It is also aimed to display the strength of an organisation or a cause. Larger the rally, stronger the cause. It may also aim to send a physical jolt to the Government through blockades and et al. So why is this mayhem being allowed? The follow-up question of who would stop it being set aside for the moment, the answer is that conducting rallies and meetings is considered part of the constitutionally guaranteed Freedom of Expression.

However, there is a saying older than that sacred document, which goes "Your right to swing your arm ends before the next man's face." So should the Freedom to Express your views and register your grievances. That freedom should not infringe on anybody's right to lead a normal life. Not that I am saying there should be no meetings or marches. Living in a country which won its independence through a bitter half-century of such political activity, it would be hypocrisy to say any such thing. Many of our rights have been won through such actions. But, having seen both sides of the issue, I believe that that an amicable solution can be found.

Not many of us know that there are laws governing the conduct of marches and meetings in our city, as in any other place. Being a capital city does not mean that the law allows netas to run riot. According to the rule book, advance notification has to be given to the police, marches may occupy no more than one lane (two abreast) and adequate provision must be provided for traffic to cross the route of the march, and so on. While I can defend my own actions of yesteryears by saying that every effort was made to observe the rules, in most cases the rules are observed more in the breach.

If these rules are obeyed, traffic disruption will be minimised especially since Trivandrum's main roads are being widened to 6-lanes. One way of enforcing the rules is by laying the responsibility on the shoulders of the organisers, where it belongs, and not on the policeman. A network of traffic surveillance cameras will help to identify and document violations. The City Police have had a city-wide camera system on the drawing boards, it has been on paper for a long while now but hopefully should get operationalised soon. March/meeting organisers can be penalised for violations. Of course, finding the political will to enforce the same could be like finding an ice cube in hell. After all jathas, hartals and bandhs are elements which cross partylines regularly.

The next thing one wonders is why the entire world seems to descend upon us for any old reason. I mean, if a protest needs to be registered, it can be done with 5,000 people as much as with 10,000. But the former would create exponentially less traffic hassles. But everything is a numbers game these days and creating the biggest nuisance....ahem...show of strength is the need of the hour. After all, one union can't allow its rival to have even one more man trucked into town. One way of controlling this is to levy a charge on organisers for exceeding a maximum number of attendees and using the money collected for developing infrastructure or for charity. After all, we pay tolls to use public infrastructure. So why shouldn't someone not pay up for disrupting our lives on a regular and systematic basis? The same camera system mentioned earlier can help keep track of the size of the crowd. If such systems can accurately estimate attendance at an EPL football match, a march of the local I-am-lazy-so-I-will-march brigade shouldn't be much of issue. Considering the bright livery worn by many marches, things should be easier still, lol!

There are of course a few ideas, bordering on the fringe. The fringe of lunacy..errr...imagination. One could have an extra lane built only for marches on all main roads, sort of like the "Emergency Vehicles Only" lane seen on many western highways. And this lane would have automatic barricades to prevent encroachment of traffic lanes. Perhaps this "Samara" lane could be elevated, so that protests are literally over the head of us lesser mortals. Or we could have dummy roads and a parade ground outside the city for the demonstrators and the proceedings could be live-telecast on a special channel, so that interested parties may view and be impressed by the amount of idle time and energy possessed by the local populace. Finally, we can shift all Government offices to some far-off wasteland or even better, to an island far offshore. Then, of course, there is always the water cannon-and-stun grenade option.....oops...did I say that?

Ludicrous one may say. The unfortunate truth is that the crackpot suggestions have as much chance of being implemented as the logical ones. One immediate recourse would be to disseminate information about traffic conditions to all road users. This could be done through radio stations, for example. This practice is already prevalent in many major Indian cities with private FM stations being the media of choice. With stations like "93.5 FM" launching in the city in the next few weeks, this is one thing which can be implemented quickly with the co-operation of the men in white-and-khaki. The next step would be to go mobile, literally! Bangalore has recently launched a mobile phone based traffic advisory system called the Bangalore Traffic Information System (Check it out here). This issues alerts on mobile phones warning users of traffic jams and advising them on the best detours. With one of India's leading mobile application development firms - Torque - based at Technopark, I hope such a system will be available to us soon.

With high-tech help like this, expanded roads and the willingness to obey and enforce the rule of law, hopefully the only city-stopping activity would be the annual Onam paegentry! Well, it's going to take quite a while before this wishful thinking is turned into reality. Till then, yours truely is evaluating the option of grabbing a placard and marching against marches! A protest against protest....mmmmm....an interesting idea. And I don't think it would cause any extra trouble, what is one more drop or less in an ocean?!

Monday, June 25, 2007

It is a Big Deal....

The local media has been pretty mum about it, but Kerala's biggest real-estate purchase has just been completed in Trivandrum. No shady operators involved, which may be why it has not found favour among the "Manoramonials" of the world, which delight in trumpeting many a half-baked deal elsewhere.

Anyways, Plaza Centres, the Netherlands-based real estate arm of an Israeli conglomerate has bought about 10 acres of land near Aakulam, along the IT Corridor, for the small sum of about Rs 110 Crores, or $ 25.5 million to be exact. This makes it the single largest transaction of its kind in the State, by sheer volume. And the location is suburbian, not centre of town mind you. Which makes it even more impressive. It is also the first entry into Kerala by a non-Gulf based international player. Plaza operates many major properties, mostly in Europe.

Plaza Centres, in partnership with their Indian partner - Pune realty major Panchil - will build over 2,100,000 sft of space, comprising a 1 million sft IT park, 750,000 sft mall and 400,000 sft hotel. That also makes it Kerala's biggest hotel and mall project. And all of this set in picturesque, lakeside settings smack back in the middle of Kerala's IT hub! No wonder they are shelling out a whopping Rs 10 Lakhs per cent, for over 1000 cents in all!

And cast your eye around. Close by developments include the International Convention Centre, the Infosys and US Technology campuses, VSSC, the International Airport, two five-star hotel projects and of course, the rest of Technopark.

A few years from now, Aakulam lake may turn out to be one of the most spectacular lake districts in any city in India, if not the world! And having bought a flat thereabouts, let's just say I have a vested interest in the realisation of that idea!

(Click on the title for the detailed news item; Courtsey: The Business Line)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Casa Bianca and Management professionals in the public sector.....

Talk about signature Italian restaurants run by true-to-the-name phoren owner, and one would start looking up the culinary guides of the metros. But there is an honest-to-goodness restaurant and pizzeria in town, and I love it. Surprised?! Casa Bianca is located on M.P. Appan Road at Vazhuthacaud and is the best place to head for if you like authentic Italian cuisine and pizzas. Lol, and the real deal in pizzas, not the americanized version doled out by the pizza chains. Last time I had grub like this was at the iconic "Bella Ciao" restaurant in Chennai and I don't think it was quite as good. And no, this is not an ad, just a useful tip! There, my good deed for the day is done!

And now on to the conversation around the dinner table. Around the table were yours truely and three of my friends. All Yem-Bee-Yeas and all from creme-de-la-creme B-schools, as a former boss of mine loved to say. Of course, there is a minor difference within the group. One of us was an aspirational leftist, unashamedly capitalist and yet nurturing a developmental aim in life. The others were all people who had chosen to put their management degrees to good use in the social sectors. Graduates of top rural management programmes, they are working with worthy causes, with a great perspective on how the vast majority of India works, away from cozy corporate boardrooms and snazzy IT campuses. So the conversation turned to how social sector programmes are being run, how professional managers can help out and how, unfortunately, the babus and netas try to undo things.

Imagine a project with a budget of dozens of crores, if not hundreds, thousands of workers, dozens of products and multiple locations. Sounds like something which needs a fair bit of management talent, right? Well, if the project we talk of us is Kudumbasree or Mathsyafed, does that need diminish? So, why then are there not many managers around, like my buddies?

The easy answer is that the money ain't good enough. After all, with investment banks and consulting firms paying so much money that people need to literally cart it away, the creme-de-la-creme would much rather be elsewhere than social sector projects which can't afford to pay as much in a year as they would make in a month or even a week at the common or garden variety investment banking job.

The truth is more complex. There are many who would want to work for such projects for no-frill packages because they want to see their skills put to good effect, where they can directly benefit society. And society, does not mean the shoppers at the neighbourhood mall or the customers of the neighbourhood Mercedes dealership. It also includes the majority of Indians, who don't figure in the target segments of a lot of professional managers. So why then don't we see more IIM-grads or such-like in the public sector?

Like I said, the answer is complex. And I am not trying to make excuses here. A lot of this is based on feedback from my friends as well as my own experience trying to promote developmental projects here.

Firstly, the idea of engaging professional managers is alien to a lot of government supported establishments. A hundred years of babu culture refuses to admit that seniority is not the only criteria for listening to someone and accepting their ideas. The latter is something that B-schoolers are taught to do. It is also often difficult to comprehend concepts like operational efficiency, customer centricity and other essential ideas of today's competitive business world.
In a very transactional world, grasping such concepts or deciphering such "high-tech" devices as power point presentations or cost-benefit analyses or charts is a non-starter. There is often a perceived threat to the As-Is way of doing things. Perhaps, this does not always grease palms, but it is a comfortable way of doing things. So, the new-fangled ideas of young managers are seen as disruptors.

For example, any manager would perform atleast an elementary cost-benefit or viability analysis on any project of significance. Whereas, we often projects or products take off without much of due diligence. The result is very often failed schemes or crashed products, further bleeding an already chronically anemic treasury. It isn't rocket-science but in an institution like a government where decisions are often taken bit-by-bit by a scattered chain of individuals, each with his or her own motivations or axe to grind, the use of decision support tools would seem new-fangled or even a threat to sundry fiefdoms.

That brings us to the second reason why the public or cooperative sector is not crawling with professional managers. The powers-that-be, top bureaucrats or elected representatives, often feel threatened by managers who infringe upon their domains, knowingly or unknowingly. Management techniques often call for numerical and factual analysis and decision making. And quite often, the facts don't stack up conveniently for the man or woman at the top. For example, the current Government has come out with the idea of IT parks in all districts. Very equitable and proletarian, but a quick feasibility study may prove that the idea stands on shaky ground, as IT/ITES typically needs factors like urban infrastructure, connectivity, human resources and R&D support which cannot be made to spring up overnight. In a state like Kerala, where the IT industry is still comparatively nascent, the time may yet not be nigh to be so ambitious. And that's what a manager, with his or her "sanity check-first" mentality may say. The correct opinion but not one to garner a few extra votes at the next installment of the election circus. Consequently, most organisations in the public sector and the cooperative sector have their governing bodies filled up with yes-men and political cronies. And these sets of staunch supporters are replaced each time a new ruling front comes to power. Whereas the LDF prefers members of the KSSP and the like during their tenure, the UDF sees it as a perk for the up-and-coming leaders, or for the older ones put out to pasture. While such arrangements are efficient in ensuring that politically astute line is toed, it often breeds inefficiency, sometimes bordering on chaos, and is extremely frustrating to any management professional, who is usually left chaffing at the bit.

So, if we empower the managers, will we see an influx of talent? Not so fast! The compensation needs to be addressed as well. Lol, after all, not everyone will work for free or close to it. The issue of higher pay is often one of ego as well. I was once told that one of the reasons for the CEO post of a very prominent GoK organisation lying vacant for a long time was that the Secretary of the concerned department didn't like a "non-IAS" manager" getting a package well in excess of his or hers. Lol, not surprising. So, the money does need to be improved. One can't hope to match the top private employers but needs to make sure the gap is not ridiculous.

All this brings us to why we need managers? Lol, in typical management ishtyle, there are a hundred different reasons - all in neat bulleted formats and with the respective annexures! After all that is why,hundreds of thousands of young men and women, yours truely having been one of them a long while ago, do battle with that awesome feline fiend - CAT, the Common Admission Test - each year. Frankly, after two years in B-school and another two in management consulting, I still think there is nothing amazing that managers bring to the table. Yes, the business models are savvy and the jargon used deliberately complex, but most of the stuff is pure common sense, dressed up expensively of course. However, there are sound analytical techniques being used and the management professional also has the ability to think across disciplines. Throw in a structured way of thinking, the ability to manage uncertainty and, more importantly, to manager diverse sets of people, and you get an idea why managers can be useful in the public sector. Many of the organisations in this sector are either underdogs or are facing stiff competition or great uncertainty. There is always the "but Bill Gates was not an MBA" argument, but the fact is, organisations with more skilled and trained people usually perform better, especially when operating in new and dynamic environments, and where systems are not yet in place. This could be a reason why global NGOs are trying to attract the best management talent these days, and paying top dollar for it.

So, having better management on board can help many organisations improve their performance. This means more benefit to the end beneficiary, the common man, and more bang for the tax payer's rupee. When the prevalent view is that only a small portion of public expenditure trickles down to the intended beneficiaries, any move to cut out the flab is welcome. Professional management techniques help to make organisations more efficient. Such techniques have been honed in environments where every paisa counts and efficiency is critical to the survival of the business. They may appear harsh, but there is absolutely no justification for the government/cooperative sector being any less efficient than their private counterparts. In fact, when the money being spent comes from the pocket of the common man rather than from the coffers of some affluent promoter, the need for efficiency is infinitely stronger! The easiest way that one can see professional management reduce public expenditure is by reducing consulting expenses. Crores of rupees are spent on consultants in Kerala alone. The Governmental sector is one of the biggest business for the Indian arm of a leading global consulting firm and sustains whole practices of other firms. What do they do, other than put a professional spin on insights and data that already exists? But in a world where many stakeholders like global financial institutions (the IMF, JBIC, ADB et al) or other investors are professional organisations, such services are required. For example, the Trivandrum Corporation tried to submit its JNURM proposals without using a consultant (We don't need them, they said) and were rewarded with having most of the projects sent back for "review" (Clean up the mess!, they said). Perhaps, as a management consultant, I shouldn't be saying this, but our ilk are as good or as bad as any other bunch of competent managers, and thus in-house management talent can obviate the need for external consultants to a great extent, and hence save a lot of desperately needed cash.

So, management professionals can help make things efficient, more effective and boot out the odd Con-sultant in the bargain. Is anyone listening? Apparently, someone is. GoK has announced its intentions to get professional managers to head up many of its units. A system to identify and induct talent has been mooted as well. I sincerely hope that it does not conveniently get buried under some file stack! What sick PSUs and distressed cooperatives need is not just an endless inflow of borrowed money and heavy rhetoric from the mantrijis, but professional management to get them out of trouble and into the black again. Otherwise it will be the same old story all over again. Good managers will cost much less than sinking money into black holes run by inept political appointees. GoK can even look at sending the best existing personnel to Management Development Programmes or Executive MBAs to hone their skills and develop new ones.

Be it new MBAs or born-again ones, ensuring that proper compensation - perhaps performance based - is in place and sorting out the operational independence issues, will ensure that there is a proper flow of talent, yours truely included, into the public and social sector. At a time when there is a mad scramble among States to corner as much investment as possible, presenting Kerala with an opportunity for development, unseen in the past, such an influx of talent is what the State, its institutions and its people sorely need.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tharoor on Kerala.....

Shashi Tharoor, Kerala's almost-boss-of-the-UN, has written an interesting article about how the "labor militancy" in Kerala is fast becoming a myth which needs to be deflated fast. Sadly, it is other Keralites who most often stoke fires which power this view of our beautiful state. Nice to see a famous son of Kerala doing his bit to bring the truth out.

Tharoor has written about Technopark, which he visited recently, and the Cochin Shipyard, another success story in the State. He has put it in anecdotal form, and it makes easy reading, far from being a promotional monologue. About Technopark, he writes and I quote (You can read the article by clicking on the title of this post),

"A visit to Thiruvananthapuram’s Technopark confirmed my impression that the sceptics are behind the curve. CEO after CEO told me in glowing terms of their satisfaction with the work environment in Kerala, the quality of the local engineering graduates, and the beauty of the lush and tranquil surroundings. Indeed, Kerala’s past failures at attracting and retaining heavy industry are now working in the State’s favour.

Tranquil surroundings

One Technopark firm, US Technologies, told me of having bid for a contract with a Houston-based company which had drawn up a short-list of Indian service providers and placed the Thiruvananthapuram-based company last. The American executives making the final decision flew down to India to inspect the six short-listed Indian firms. After three harrowing days ploughing through the traffic congestion and pollution of Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi, they arrived in Thiruvananthapuram, checked into the Leela at Kovalam beach, sipped a drink by the seaside at sunset — and voted unanimously to give the contract to US Technologies. “If we have to visit India from time to time to see how our contract is doing,” the chief said, “we’d rather visit Kerala than any other place in India.”

As they say in the U.S.: Sounds like a plan! It is time that Indian investors took notice as well. God’s Own Country no longer deserves the business reputation of being the devil’s playground."


The author has offered to act as a sort of ambassador for Technopark and other ventures in Kerala and for the State as a whole. With his contacts in the international community, I am sure he will be able to make a significant impact. Imagine what the entire diaspora of Kerala - second to none in its importance in countries far and wide - could do. Let's hope they go from being detractors to promoters of Kerala's attractiveness as a business destination.

More of his writings can be read at www.shashitharoor.com

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hmmmmm......Greenest Technopolis on the face of the Earth

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Lol, if anyone had doubts why Technopark claims the title of being the greenest IT park in the world, feast your eyes on this image shot by a friend of mine, Sudheesh. I would be willing to wager a handsome fortune (which I don't have, for the record) on the fact that no other IT park in the wide world has as much green beauty.

And don't take my word for it, ladies and gentlemen. There are quite a few people I know who have seen IT parks across the world, from Silicon Valley to Cyberabad, and testify to the fact that the sight of giant IT buildings surrounded by greenery and with a breathtaking sea vista is unique. Well, if they put up a park in Hawaii, there might be some competition. Hmmmmm.....hula anyone?

The pyramid is the tip of the roof of the TCS Peepul Park, to its left is the 500,000 sft Bhavani and then the 850,000 sft Thejaswini. The top of Pamba and Periyar are visible to the immediate left of Bhavani, with the original TCS Training Centre next to them. The other roof seems to be that of Padmanabham.The bare patch of land, with the power lines crossing it, which can be glimpsed in the middle of the frame is the Infosys Campus, Technopark Phase II.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Cost of Not Doing IT.....!

First of all, thanks for all your continued support, we have crossed 4000 views. I guess it may sound silly that I count down all these as if they represented a steadily climbing bank balance, but in a world where no one has time to spare, this lil' statistic means a lot to me!

On the subject of numbers, I had been thinking of an interesting tactic often used in consulting engagement and how it could be applied to the actions of Governments. A common recommendation that consultants make to client top managements is that "you should do X, and thus gain Y million bucks". Unfortunately, often this is met with "but what if it costs more than Y to do it, what if it takes too long....what if the Sun rises in the West? etcetera etcetera. A quick and wily way of flipping this over is to say, " if you didn't do X, you would loose Y million bucks". Suddenly one sees CEOs wondering, CFOs reaching for their bean counters and COOs breaking into a cold sweat. What will the shareholders think if they got to know we wasted an opportunity to earn more dividends for them? Maybe they won't take it too kindly at the next Annual General body Meeting or even send the stock prices plummeting. Imagine all those millions in e-sops vanishing.....a scary thought indeed, and quite effective at prodding the C-suite (as the CXOs are collectively called) in to action. Well, atleast if it is a professionally run firm, that is. Promoter owned firms (a.k.a. "Lala companies") may care less or more. Pretty effective, I would say, for a slight rewording at the end of endless pages of painstaking analysis and high-quality presentation (that's what a consultant euphemistically refers to his work as). Well CEOs concerned about the ever present and vigilant shareholder are something, the world of mantris and babus is quite another, but maybe this tactic will work there as well.


Let's take the Trivandrum City Road Improvement Project (TCRIP), synonymous with Punj Lloyd lately and the subject of much delay and debate. The good news is that GoK has decided to go ahead with Punj Lloyd to finish the work, the bad news is nearly two full years have been wasted due to delays in land acquisition.

Now, we may dismiss this delay as one not affecting our daily lives - so what if we have a couple of flyovers less or narrow roads? But in our mind of minds, we know that delay to TCRIP means more congestion, more traffic jams and more fuel burnt. Well and good. But do we know what this means in money terms? Here is a brief analysis, using sample numbers to illustrate that.

Let's us assume Trivandrum City has 400,000 vehicles at any given point of time (RTO statistics point to a figure close to this). On average , they may travel 8,000 kilometres a year on city roads. (Some travel more, some less)

So that is a total of 400,000 X 8,000 = 32, 000 lakh kilometres = 320 Crore kilometres

Now, assume a fuel efficiency of 34 Kms/L (light vehicles average more, heavier ones less - trucks & buses - 7.5% of total @ 3.5 Kmpl; cars& LCVs - 22.5% of total @ 10 Kmpl; 2 wheelers - 70% of total @ 45 Kmpl)

That means, every year, approximately - 320/34 = 9.41 Crore Litres of fuel are used by vehicles in the city every year.

If 60% of fuel used is petrol and 40% diesel (CNG/LPG is yet to make a major appearance), the weighted average cost of a litre of fuel would be Rs 41.6/litre

So the total cost of fuel used in the city is 41.6 X 9.41 = Rs 391 Crores!

Yeap, the city's fuel bill is about 400 Crores and climbing. Now, if the range of improvements promised by TCRIP - wider, better roads, grade separators, automatic signalling, better lighting and so on, can save us 5-10% of that bill (that is, you take 5 minutes less to commute each day), this could save a whopping Rs 20-40 Crores a year! And this rises year on year as more vehicles hit the road (10-15% more each year) and more fuel is guzzled. And not to mention the intangible and tangible (damages, repairs, insurance etc) of the countless accidents that better roads can prevent.

This is the cost of the delay in the project. Makes more sense and lends more urgency? Hope GoK sees it the same way.

Another project that is seldom in the news and often out of our sights and minds is the Phases II and III expansion of Technopark. Both Phases has been delayed for 3-4 years apiece. It is an inside page item most of the time, except for the odd bit of front page news when a company like Infosys inaugurates its campus construction (thank god the media woke up!) or when there is some agitation against land acquisition (oops....the Govt. forgot to put a zero or two in the check!) or to decry the reclamation of paddy fields (of course, one needs to find a real old-timer or an archaeologist to confirm they were indeed paddy fields!). Lol, most of the headlines are devoted to random arrivals and departures of certain "Smart" sheikhs or the inter-party squabbles of all and sundry, and the like.

So do these delays affect us, after all the land is for IT companies, not for you or me?

The answer, you guessed right, is YES! And let's see how.

Phase II and III of Technopark together account for about 186 acres of land. Going by the announced plans of companies and the long queue of firms waiting for land, an estimated 55-60,000 direct jobs in about five years or less is a likely figure.

The average gross salary of an IT professional is about Rs 3 Lakh (is that too low?). So the total pay packet we are talking about is 3 X 60,000 = 180,000 Lakhs = Rs 1800 Crores.

About 20% of that goes into the coffers of the Union Government as income taxes (or the tax man cometh!). The State gets some of that as grants and funds. Let's say 50% of it comes back.
This is Pot A = 20% X 1800 Crores X 50 % = Rs 180 Crores

Now, we know that all of us young guns are high-spenders. So, we can assume that a lion's share of the post tax 1350 Crores is spent into the local economy, say 60% of it. That means Trivandrum's economy gets an infusion of 60% X 1350 = Rs 810 Crores. To put that into perspective, it is more than 10% of the current GDP of Trivandrum district! All that money creates indirect jobs and more production. Kinda like the ol' saying - "the money that IT makes, makes more money"...errr...was that it?

Of course, the tax man cometh again and about 10% of this lands back in the coffers of the State Govt., as service tax, VAT etc etc. So roughly Rs 80 Crores makes up Pot B.

And yes, the likes of Infosys, TCS, UST, IBS, PCS, IBM, Accenture (hmmm.....knocking on wood) don't pay all that money for nothing. They are making good money too obviously. They do pay some taxes (remember that damn tax man...?). Some of this gets back as taxes. Since the current 12,000 employees of Technopark account for about Rs 1200 Crores of exports, 60,000 of their brethren could account for as much as Rs 6,000 Crores. With all the convoluted tax structures and generous tax breaks governing IT and SEZs, even if 1-3% of this gets back, it would be another Rs 60-180 Crores, making up Pot C.

So, does the delay to Technopark's expansion cost us? Damn right it does! First all of that inflow to the local economy, it means more and better jobs for people, for you and me! It means more and better stores and facilities open up as well. Add up Pots A through C, and you get anywhere between Rs 320-440 Crores of year of income to GoK, which means (hopefully) more infrastructure, better educational and health systems and a lot more!

Even if one argues that these benefits will reach maximum only after 3-5 years, it is still a huge loss every year these projects get delayed. And these are times when our cash-strapped State cannot afford to miss a single rupee. Or when we cannot miss out on a single, much-needed job.

I am sorry if I sounded like a maths teacher droning to a primary school class (atleast the maths were all primary school standard, right even if the reasoning wasn't?) But I hope it has become easier for you to understand the magnitude of the impact of seemingly unimportant delays of faraway projects on your life. The next time you hear such a project has hit a delay, try to think of how much it is going to hit you. You may not be as irritatingly thorough as me, but you will get some idea of the effect in monetary terms.

Mmmmm.....those of you in Technopark must be wondering, given the gazillions of bucks being made by GoK from it, why did it take them five years to figure out that lights needed to be installed on the bypass? Or how much has fifty years of delay to the Vizhinjam project cost me? Well, these are as good as any problem to start thinking along this track. Maybe if our elected representatives realise that their constituents are thinking like this, they will fear that a reckoning will soon come, not at the next AGM but the next General Elections! And just maybe long stalled projects may get a prod to move on!