Tuesday, June 29, 2010

From Tipping Point to Talking Point

When I wrote a despairing note on Kerala's IT strategy last week, I was hoping that it would earn some attention and indeed, I was very encouraged by the sort of feedback that I received from a lot of you. Today I found out that it had reached out further than I thought.

Rosebowl channel's popular talk-show about contemporary subjects, Talking Point, was at Technopark today to discuss the development of the IT/ITES industry in Kerala and the potential that it holds for our youth. After my first appearance on the show , I had put in a word with the show's producer to look me up in case any discussions about development or IT, and it seems that she remembered, looking me up yesterday to tell about this new episode.

The panelists included Technopark CEO Mervin Alexander, former CEOs - G. Vijayaraghavan and Radhakrishnan Nair, UST Global Center head Murali Gopalan, Toonz Animations' CEO and the HR heads of TCS and NEST. Plus me as an impromptu addition. The pleasant surprise was that some of the background to the show had come from last week's blog post and the anchor, Dhanya Varma, pointed this out in the course of the discussion. Looks like the Blog-FB-Twitter nexus buzz works well!

A lot of the discussion did focus on my pet peeve - Kerala's IT strategy - and it was quite gratifying to note that the overwhelming majority of the panelists had opinions along similar lines as mine - about the need to build up a critical mass and for aggressive marketing, for example. Other familiar themes included the idea of integrated development and the business ecosystem, as well as the need to develop  infrastructure on a PPP basis. As one would expect, most of the audience was made up of techies from Kerala and elsewhere. And it was great to see that these young people understood more about what the State should be doing than most of the powers-that-be. The anchor seemed to be quite skeptical of the holy cows - such as assorted "Technolodges" and such-like - that much of the establishment and a section of the media seemed to be obsessed with. And she took out time to ask pointed questions about how certain IT firms were shooed away from Trivandrum for reasons, not logical in the least.Lol, it seems like the con-job about hubs-and-spokes is finally starting to wash away. Two or three of the CEOs even wondered where such brilliant stratagems had been thought up and why no one had bothered to consult the IT/ITES industry about how its future should be charted, an echo of the views aired by IT industry CEOs at a seminar organised by CII in Trivandrum in September 2009.

All in all, my respect for the ability of the common man, especially young people, to think beyond the printed text of the so-called "mass" media and to understand concepts that seem to elude our rulers, has gone up a couple of notches. And it is heartening to see that a few people, opinion makers in their own right, who once sang praises of the nonsense that passes for an "IT strategy" have now done a full volte face! Better late than never, eh?

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine who had an active part in the original report that was used by the Government to launch the hub-and-spokes strategy was chatting with me about how things have come to pass in the 3 years since the original report. As I related how disastrously wrong his recommendations had gone, he simply said -"the idea was to move to the spokes only in the long term, AFTER the hub was well developed. Someone seems to have forgotten that minor detail. Well, anyways, we have put in a standard caveat clause, so we are safe!" Well........

1 comment:

  1. Delighted Ajay, delighted. And whole-hearted appreciation. Apart from you there is never a voice to be heard anywhere in the blog-space, let alone the media houses and business columns where the pros and cons of this hub-spoke model is discussed, criticized or analyzed.

    I'm no expert like yourself or your exemplary panel members to surgically scrutinize policies but I'm of the opinion that whatever is good must happen for the state. One argument I heard in favour of this hub-spoke model was that it would prevent Trivandrum from turning out to be another urban-planning mess like Bangalore where fast-paced IT development led to crumbling of infra. So spreading the IT Development across the state would be beneficial to Trivandrum (as it will continue to attract big companies as we are seeing now) and will also help the smaller spokes to prosper. It appeared to be a strong point, yes, but as you said the spokes without a strong hub is all likely to collapse in, or worse, be non-functional.

    What I feel is that, and this is a personal opinion, IT companies are going to pick their location irrespective of this hub-spoke thing of the Govt. Like Infosys was given a choice to set-up shop in the state and they picked Technopark. The whoz-who of Indian IT are also looking to come to TP as we all have seen. Unless of course, we have a Chandy in power who wants to divert the traffic to his daughter's in-law's business. May be Trichur and Calicut may attract some small scale companies, which is of course good to those towns. I think with such huge amount of quality space u/c in TP III and Technocity, and with that long list of companies waiting in the outer ocean for Technopark landfall, it is only natural that Technopark and Trivandrum will continue to grow briskly than its regional competitors like Cochin or Calicut.


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