The State Budget has largely evoked positive response from Kochi’s IT industry for its thrust on innovation and entrepreneurship despite criticism from some quarters about the lack of vision in sustaining the growth and the ‘negligible’ nature of allocation.
Infopark CEO Gigo Joseph said the Budget was a balanced one touching up on two key areas crucial to the IT industry – job creation, and support for infrastructure.
“The budgetary allocation for IT Parks in the State will help job creation while the assistance for technology business incubators and the proposal to set up innovation zone will definitely encourage job generation . The JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) funded scheme worth Rs. 1,000 crore to supply 200 MLD drinking water in the city is very significant infrastructure scheme for the industry since it will benefit Infopark and SmartCity among others,” he said.
Mr. Joseph said the Rs. 41.6 crore that Infopark will receive as part of the budgetary allocation for IT Parks will go into construction of the software block in the second phase expansion of Infopark and the IT building in Koratty.
Arun Balachandran, CEO of Innovation Lab, an extension centre of Technopark Technology Business Incubator (TBI), said the proposal to set up Innovation Zone in Kochi would elevate the scope of innovations in the State to a global level.
“We already have a right eco system for innovation thanks to low connectivity cost and right talents. The State government is increasingly oriented towards it and the budgetary allocation will have a huge impact on the future of youngsters who already have an entrepreneurial mindset,” he said.
Boost to incubators
K.C. Chandrasekharan Nair, managing director of Technopark TBI, said the proposed Innovation Zone to come up on 10 acres of Kinfra land adjoining the Startup Village with one lakh sq.ft will turn into a hub of innovation where students can utilise the eco system and receive the expertise of mentors.
“The first ever allocation for incubators in the Budget will give a boost to the new incubators including the one proposed in the Cochin University of Science and Technology. Expanding the scope of incubators beyond hi-tech industries coir will help reinvent these traditional industries,” he said.
Sanjay Vijayakumar, Chairman, Startup Village, said the proposal to provide startup subsidy of Rs. 1,000 for each job created, though it’s a negligible amount, sends out the right message.
“The Budget allocates Rs. 75 crore under various schemes for promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. But the most important proposal is to set up two electronic fabrication labs in the State including the one in Startup Village. Considering that there are only five such labs across the country, most of which are in IITs, the decision to set up two labs at one go is huge,” he said.
However, Joseph C. Mathew, IT Advisor to the former Chief Minister, was scathing in his criticism about the Budget, which he said lacked vision. “The allocation for the IT Parks is miniscule. But more damaging is the complete absence of any initiative to market the space we already have in these parks without which the growth in the service sector, which was the main catalyst of the 9.5 GDP growth that the finance minister boasted of, cannot be capitalised and maintained,” he said.
“Even the Innovation Zone and the allocation for incubators is cosmetic as the focus should have been on helping the newly incubated companies by giving them preference in the IT works of the government and assisting them in finding domestic market”, Mr.Mathew said.
He said the SmartCity project was largely absent in the Budget except for an attempt by the Finance Minister to create the ‘wrong impression’ that the master plan for the project was complete while the IT Minister himself had said it was still in the preparation stage. lauded, some rue lack of vision in sustaining growth.