Big IT projects may help State catch up with front runners

T. Ramachandran

Its software exports are dwarfed by strides made by neighbouring States

‘Software exports expected to touch Rs.1,200 crore this year’

Kochi accounted for only a quarter of the State’s software exports during 2006-07

KOCHI: Even as the information technology (IT) sector in Kerala is expected to cross a milestone this year, when software exports surpass the anticipated Rs.1,000-crore mark, it is looking to mega projects, such as the Smart City, for which the foundation stone was laid here on Friday, to catapult the State into the league of front runners in the country’s software and services export arena.

The State’s software exports during 2006-07 totalled Rs.750 crore and this year (2007-08), the figure is expected to touch Rs.1,200 crore, said Ramesh Kumar, Director, Software Technology Parks of India, Thiruvananthapuram.

The exports increased by 66 per cent during 2006-07 from the Rs.452 crore of the previous year.

When seen in a broader regional perspective, these figures are dwarfed by the huge strides that the neighbouring States in the south have been making on this front, say industry observers. But Kerala compares favourably with these States when it comes to the growth rate and has outstripped by a wide margin the 32 per cent growth in exports recorded at the national level during the year.

And the further development of the Kerala IT sector will be of a different order from what has been witnessed so far, given that several big projects are being planned or are in the process of being implemented in various parts of the State. Kerala has so far never seen so many IT projects in the making at one time in both the public and private sectors.

Kochi will also eventually emerge as a major player, though it accounted for only a quarter of the State’s software exports during 2006-07. Units in Kochi, excluding those in the Cochin Special Economic Zone, accounted for only Rs.186 crore of the total exports of Rs.750 crore. And Technopolis, the IT Park located in the zone, was able to garner exports totalling Rs.17.45 crore, said Thomas George Muthoot, managing director of the Muthoot Pappachan group and Technopolis.

The export figures had already gone up to Rs.30.91 crore till October this year as more units had become functional at the park.

Big players

While the ground has been cleared for the execution of the Smart City project, Wipro, IBS and TCS are among the companies strengthening their presence in Kochi’s Infopark, even as L&T and the Leela group are substantially adding to its infrastructure in terms of built-up space.

Several other big projects, such as Technocity planned in Thiruvananthapuram, are in the pipeline. Private players such as the Muthoot and Leela groups have come up with their projects on the IT front, apart from Sobha Developers, which is to build a high-tech city in Kochi. That several companies have either ramped up their operations in the State or are setting up dedicated campuses in Infopark and Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram will help in pushing up software exports in the near term. Companies such as IBS, NeST, Case Consultants, Tata Elxsi, TCS and Infosys figure among such companies in Technopark, which is in an expansion mode.

Among the districts, Thiruvananthapuram continues to account for a major chunk of software exports from the State. The units in Thiruvananthapuram accounted for a whopping Rs.557.8 crore of the total exports of Rs.750 crore. And Technopark continues to retain its pride of place as the IT park which has contributed the most, with its units having earned Rs.520 crore by way of exports.

However, in terms of export volumes, Kerala has a long way to go to catch up with its southern neighbours. Karnataka, the State that leads the IT race in the country, notched up exports totalling Rs.48,700 crore during 2006-07, while Tamil Nadu earned export revenues amounting to Rs.20,702 crore. Andhra Pradesh had exports of Rs.18,582 crores compared to Rs.12,521 crores the previous year.

Kerala will look forward to big projects such as Smart City to help it achieve the quantum leap required on the IT front in the long run to place it on an even footing with some of its southern neighbours.

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