An emerging IT hub

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Cognizant Technology Solutions' development centre at Coimbatore. Picture by K. Ananthan
Cognizant Technology Solutions' development centre at Coimbatore. Picture by K. Ananthan

L.N. Revathy

Coimbatore is an emerging IT hub; however, the city has a long way to go before it can catch up with a Hyderabad or Pune.

This has been any entrepreneur's dream. The relentless campaign by the Coimbatore zone of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in marketing this town is beginning to yield results, though slowly. After years of sustained efforts, CII has finally managed to convince the Government to moot an IT project here.

But the project is yet to see the light of the day, even after nine months of passing a Government Order, setting aside 29.08 acres belonging to the Coimbatore Medical College in favour of the Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT) for developing the IT park. "We have completed the liasing and firmed up the plans. Now it is for ELCOT to set the ball rolling," says the regional CII Chairperson, Nandini Rangasamy.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has rated the city among the top four with considerable IT potential. But even as early as 1998, IT initiatives in the city got a boost from the facility at the PSG-Science and Technology Park (STEP), established in association with the Department of Science and Technology and financial institutions. It currently houses over 35 ITeS companies, and also functions as an incubator for start-up companies.

Companies like Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS) and Tata Consultancy Services have identified potential pockets for their presence in the city with help from enthusiastic project promoters. The IT park at the Kumarguru College of Technology campus, for instance, has come up on a one-lakh-sq-ft area. The single-window clearance from the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) and readily available data connectivity enabled CTS and HealthScribe (in the medical transcription space) commence operations immediately.

The CTS facility here has attracted talent from its existing operations across India, and also from the entire region, including Kerala, both at the entry and lateral levels. "The city's rich talent pool, entrepreneurial culture, salubrious climate, and decent infrastructure in terms of road, power, railways and air connectivity have played a great part in the growth of this centre," says Vishnu Potty, Director and Head of Coimbatore operations.

The company had, at the time of the inauguration of this centre in August 2005, planned to recruit about 400 professionals in the first year of operations. "We have already exceeded 300 professionals," says Potty. Its operations here centre round applications maintenance, testing and IT infrastructure services for its global customers.

The city has five universities, 25 engineering colleges and 85 arts, science and commerce colleges that provide the required qualified manpower for the ITeS companies. Industry sources say that the operational costs are at least 25 per cent cheaper than Chennai and attrition rates are low.

Apart from the proposed software park by ELCOT, ETL Infrastructure Services Ltd, promoted by Elnet Technologies Ltd and Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd, has started work for establishing a software park with world-class facilities. The project, in an area of 14 acres on Avinashi Road, would be completed by September 2006. Says Thiagarajan of ETL, "In the first phase, eight lakh sq ft will be constructed at Rs 140 crore. It will be an intelligent building with business and training centres, food court and car parking facilities. Another eight lakh sq ft will be constructed in the second phase."

With a lot of IT companies evincing interest in Coimbatore and with the enquiries generated, Thiagarajan does not expect "renting out space to be a problem".

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 4, 2006)
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