Karnataka has consistently maintained its position as the most prominent destination for the information technology industry in the country, accounting for around 30% of the nation’s software services exports. At the same time, the state government is keen on a collaborative route with the industry to nurture new technologies such as AI, robotics and IoT. The government’s annual flagship event BengaluruITE.biz is expected to create the platform, Karnataka IT & BT minister Priyank Kharge tells PP Thimmaya in an interview.
What are your expectations from this year’s BengaluruITE.biz?
The expectation from this year’s BengaluruITE.biz is on two things. One is to showcase Karnataka as the most investor-friendly state when it comes to technology and electronics. The other thing is to emerge as a thought leader for the country in verticals that will be defining the next. We have matured as an industry in IT and ITeS, so the question is what after this.
There is artificial intelligence, robotics, smart cities, internet of things (IoT) etc. The idea is to ensure that leaders of these verticals — when they come to BengaluruITE.biz — define the direction for their verticals. Earlier, it used to focus heavily on IT. We want to focus on the technology aspect itself and also showcase the policies of the government towards these new areas. The larger message is that Karnataka is future-ready for all these things.
What is the focus of the Karnataka government on start-ups?
We are trying to focus heavily on start-ups, that is where the next technology will be driven by the newer companies. Besides the government’s start-up policy, we also have a start-up cell which has relationship managers and will handhold the start-ups with respect to the policies or any other assistance. We have also come up with start-up booster kits where one can access an entire gamut of services like data plans and cloud services at subsidised rates. The idea is to get the entire ecosystem closer through these initiatives. Before the creation of the start-up cell, there were 27 companies registered with the government, and now there are more than 2,000 firms.
There has been a certain slowdown in IT exports from Karnataka. Any concerns?
We are not unduly concerned about software services exports as the industry has reached a certain maturity stage. There is also competition from countries such as Philippines, and China, but India is still the most preferred destination. We need to define the best and want to see that Bengaluru becomes the hub for technology products as a knowledge economy. Also, there are always the government policies which are conducive for these, so I am not really worried about it.
What is the focus of the government on the hardware segment?
We are coming up with two hardware parks. One is Devanahallil, which is on the outskirts of Bengaluru, and the second one is in Mysuru. Hardware and electronics manufacturing is a big focus area. We are also establishing smaller electronics clusters across various locations in the state. The idea is to drive technology deeper into the tier 2 and tier 3 locations.
How will the government enable the growth of new technologies?
We already have India’s first centre of excellence for IoT in Bengaluru. As a government, we are not trying to act like a big brother with a know-it-all attitude. We are also learning, willing to collaborate so that we can create. All these new technologies should be driven by the thought leaders in the segment and the government’s job is to facilitate the growth of these technologies.
How is the investment momentum for Karnataka in the IT sector?
We have the highest investments in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) and as well as domestic. We are constantly talking to the leading players in the industry. MNCs are setting up their R&D centres in the state which is a validation of our policies and the conducive environment here.