Thiruvananthapuram: Binu K. started off as a cleaning boy when Asia’s largest information technology (IT) park, Technopark, outside Kerala’s capital, began operations here in 1994. He now leads a team of 100, responsible for cleaning operations across the park.
Asokan R. and Selvan P., who had come to Technopark as drivers nearly a decade ago, now own a fleet of cars. Selvan has two buses which ferry Technopark staff to and from the city.
Technology parks are often talked of by companies as well as industry associations as creators of jobs well beyond the companies that operate in such parks. In Technopark that has clearly been the case.
In fact, the Technopark has changed the face of sleepy Thiruvananthapuram, a city of bureaucrats and politicians.
Over 17,500 people now work in the 250-acre government-owned Technopark at Kazhakkutam on NH-47, half an hour’s drive from the capital city.
The park, for which work began in early 1990s, now houses more than 140 companies. The second phase of development has already begun and in the next two years there will be another 30,000 people working in new IT units.
The third phase and fourth phases will begin soon, involving private developers, and by the end of 2012, there will be an integrated township and the park is expected to provide employment to at least 100,000 people.
For a city with a population of 800,000, 100,000 jobs mean much economically and socially, says M. Vasudevan, senior manager of the park, who has been there since its inception. Typically, it is estimated that one IT job creates at least three other jobs. This is evident in the development and construction activities happening all round the city.
Property developers including Plaza Centers, Heera Constructions Pvt Ltd, Skyline Foundations and Structures Pvt Ltd, Confident Group, Kristal Group, Oceanus Dwellings Pvt Ltd have already pitched tents in the city and its outskirts.
An international convention centre is also coming up at Akkulam on the city outskirts as a joint venture of the Raheja group and the Kerala government. Hotel group Hilton International is ready to set up its first hotel near the park.
“Till a few years ago, flats were generally rented out only to families. Now, you will find IT industry professionals looking for houses all over the city,” says G. Vijayaraghavan, founder and former CEO of Technopark. As a result, land prices have shot up. A cent of land priced at Rs1,000 a decade ago now sells at Rs10 lakh.
Ajitha Kailas, head of the operations of the Bangalore-based Kristal Group, says the company is setting up a township just behind the park on an eight-acre plot. The township includes multi-storeyed housing complexes. “Nearly 70% of the apartments have already been booked, mainly by Technopark staff,” she says.
M.D. Augustine, general manager of Oceanus Dwellings, says the company has three projects around the park and this will ensure that people working there do not have to travel far from their homes. These are self-contained luxury apartments catering to the needs of the IT professionals.
“We are also looking at mega luxury apartments targeting the CEOs of the firms in the park,” he says.
In the race to cater to the needs of people whose outlook is fast changing with the arrival of IT professionals, retailers such as Big Bazaar of Pantaloon India Retail Ltd and Fabmal of Trinethra Super Retail Ltd and coffee shops such as Coffee Beanz and Café Coffee Day have already made it to the city.
According to N. Radhakrishnan Nair, chief executive officer of Technopark, the park has helped making an economic as well as social impact in the capital city. Not only are there a lot of people from other states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh coming to Kerala but also there has been a reverse brain drain, he says.
“Keralites who went out of the state as there were very few opportunities here are coming back to set up their own firms,” he adds.
Roughly, 1.84 million people from Kerala are abroad, a majority of them in West Asian countries. Remittances from these non-resident Keralites are around Rs24,000 crore, nearly 20% of Kerala’s net state domestic product.
Nair admits that Kerala has been a late entrant into the IT industry, behind Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. But, also sees that as an advantage. “The expats and other IT professionals make it to Thiruvananthapuram after they have already tasted the fast life in other cities with its pubs and night clubs. They don’t expect that kind of life here. Even the atmosphere around the park with all its greenery and facing the Arabian Sea adds to the quietness,” says Nair.
People such as Krishna Prasad, general manager, and Alexander Varghese, country head, of US Technology International Pvt. Ltd, a provider of IT services, have worked a good part of their lives outside India and are now back in Thiruvananthapuram.
They see its infrastructure, especially the Thiruvananthapuram International School, as helping those looking for facilities they were used to outside India.