Lost opportunity

Written by Lavina Mangat | Updated: Nov 30 2009, 02:08am hrs

It has cost advantage, the English language skills in the city are also decent, attrition is lower compared to other states, but then what has kept BPO companies away from West Bengal The state has its share of big BPO companies such as IBM Daksh, GE Capital, Wipro, Genpact, Bnke Solutions, Accenture Technology and CapGemini, and medium and small BPOs like Silver Systems, IS Solutions, Xplore Tech, Eswar Tech, etc. But this is nothing compared to the scenario at a Gurgaon or Noida, where BPOs have made these small towns visible on the world map.

West Bengal Tier-I and II cities like Durgapur, Kalyani, Bardhaman and Shiliguri have the potential owing to the bandwidth and skill sets but lack social infrastructure, according to CII Vision 2015 paper on the IT and ITeS sector. Saugat Mukherjee, Regional Director, CII, says, A certain social infrastructure like malls, good hangout places, and good residential areas is a must.

Sanjeeb Mukherjee, Professor, Calcutta University, feels that the states image could have kept the MNCs at bay. The fear of unionism and indiscipline at work may have been deterrents for some companies, says Mukherjee. Also, he says that considering the taxing work schedule one has to be highly motivated to work in the sector. The fire of standing on ones own is lacking among the youth here. He cites the example of North India where there is so much pressure to learn English for better career opportunities.

However, Anish Sarkar, Vice-President, Head Sales, CapGemini, is positive about the future prospects of the industry here. Slow growth is due to small market size, external factors and the market situation in the last 18 months. But in 3-5 years Rajarhat, Newtown will be comparable to Gurgaon. In fact, the growth rate from 2006-09 has been good, says Sarkar.

Wipro set up its centre in 2004 and talks have now begun with the state government for another facility. This could be the much required trigger for other companies to explore the potential here.


Reema Jose

It is slotted amongst Karnatakas top education hubs, and has a natural pool of English- speaking youth. From having good connectivity logistics, to the spontaneous entrepreneurial spirit woven into its social psyche, Mangalore would appear to have everything going for it to make it the states next IT hub after Bangalore. Perhaps counting on these advantages, the software major Infosys Technologies had set up its first non- Bangalore centre in the town, in 1995. However, industry watchers say that the town has not managed to live up to its full potential. Today, Mangalore hosts no other major IT players apart from Infosys. Research and consulting company Tholons Managing Director and Partner Vinu B Kartha shares, his team had recently stopped featuring Mangalore for its periodic study of top IT destinations. Initially, we thought that Mangalore could become a proxy for Bangalore. But we dont see much movement there in terms of investments. Mangalore has fallen out of the IT/BPO radar in the last three years. This is despite having some good educational institutions. The student population in the town is floating and mostly moves out after their studies.Unlike in Bangalore, the BPO industry has not impacted Mangalores socio- economic fabric. There are no mushrooming numbers of English-coaching units, no sudden spurt in pubs and malls. However, recruiters say that the BPO industry therethat counts only a handful of playershas employed not more than 2,000 people over the past decade, while over 12,000 Mangaloreans have migrated to Bangalore and Mumbai for BPO jobs. Head student training and placements, NITTE college, Shalini Sharma says, We have close to 40 companies visiting our campus for placements every year. Of these, there are hardly two or three Mangalore based companies. Students, unless forced by unavoidable reasons, prefer to work outside Mangalore, their first choice being Bangalore. BPO service providers in and around the town, include First American, IQuest, Diya Systems, and Manipal Digital Systems among others, serving international markets in Europe and US. According to estimates, IT exports from the city have remained close to Rs 700 crore, growing almost at a flat rate and the BPO sector contributing a negligible share to the revenue. Mangalore, according to Kartha, has nearly 88 registered units of IT and BPO outfits, of which almost 50 remain small and medium sised. No new investments have gone to the city in the recent past. The town does not have a major IT park yet, he adds. B Chandarakanth Rao, Secretary, Kanara Chamber of Commerce opines that the towns potential remained untapped largely due to its poor infrastructure.