Even today there are people who refuse to believe that Honeywell has two of its units in Madurai. That IT majors have Madurai below Coimbatore and Tiruchi in the list of tier two destinations for investment is a blessing in disguise. Today, there are over 50 micro, small and medium IT and ITES companies doing quality business here. Over 10 per cent of membership of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Madurai zone is from the IT sector.
On the other side, more than half the manpower for the IT industry is provided from Madurai and southern districts which have reputed institutions of higher learning. It is not uncommon to come across persons from this region occupying top and middle level positions in major companies elsewhere in the country and abroad. With its reliable real and virtual connectivity, a committed workforce and enterprising entrepreneurs, Madurai is still not able to break into the big league.
After about three years of promises of IT majors coming to set up shop at three IT parks here, the situation has not improved dramatically. Still, the local players continue to carve a niche for themselves in the highly competitive market.
In the absence of a network, it is quite difficult to count the number of IT companies in Madurai. Unless it is a registered company, it is not possible to count the numbers, says Bharath K. S., chairman, CII, Madurai zone. Whenever there is a demand for a product, a local provider can always be contacted and the request is fulfilled in a few hours. This saves hours and in many cases days of waiting to get an IT product from Chennai or Hyderabad or Mumbai. Encouraging IT business in a big way in Madurai will solve socio-economic tension in many families, feels Mr. Bharath. The ‘home advantage’ does a world of good for any company.
Availability of good bandwidth Internet connectivity has increased the business opportunities in the IT sector in Madurai, says Kathir Kamanathan, Chief Executive Officer, Chella Software. An engineering graduate with an MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, Mr. Kathir gave up a lucrative job to start his own company, which provides software solutions to stock markets and insurance companies, in Madurai where his parents live. His software is used by the National Stock Exchange.
Just the place
He will not move out of the city as there cannot be a better place than Madurai. “Here you can live your life the way you want,” he says.
Showering praise on his employees, who are from the southern districts, Mr. Kathir admits that there were retention problems in the beginning. “Now the salaries paid are almost equivalent to the existing market levels.” Though the graduates recruited from local colleges lack in English skills, they “are bright people and their quality is irreplaceable,” says Mr. Kathir. Despite the recession, he feels that “it has never been better” for investment in an IT company in Madurai. He points to the warmth of the employees who are employed at home against the “quid pro quo attitude” exhibited elsewhere in the industry. “For creative products, Madurai is the destination,” says Mr. Kathir, adding that the “happiness factor” among IT professionals adds to their creativity.
Like him, many employers are pleased with the level of commitment and sense of purpose displayed by their young employees. “They are sincere, sharp and do not look at their watch.” Aravind Srinivasan, vice-chairman, CII, Madurai zone, is very optimistic. There is immense potential for IT companies in Madurai at the MSME level. “From a small town you do not need to think small. Try to become a global player,” says Dr. Aravind.