Author: Nipun Varma
Company: UST Global
Twenty Five years of Technopark- Hopes and concerns of employees
“When we dream alone, it is only a dream; but when many dream together, it is the beginning of a new reality”– Friedensreich Hundertwasser
IT in Kerala
The God’s own country has always been rich in terms of natural resources. But, when it comes to industrial growth, Kerala has never been a favorite destination for industrialists; thanks to the state’s peculiar political setup, trade unions and numerous other socio-political factors.
Because of this very reason, the growth of Information Technology in Kerala can be called as a surprising one; a first of its kind. Back in July 1990, when Technopark, India’s first and largest IT Park was launched, not many realized that it was “history in the making” for IT in Kerala. Since then the state has witnessed a steady growth in the field of IT. The most encouraging sign was the higher growth rate in the state’s IT exports compared to the rest of the country when the global downturn had hit the IT industry.
Technopark has now expanded to its third phase with almost all major IT giants’ presence. Kochi Infopark, the younger sibling to Technopark, has also become a major force in the Indian IT map. Even rural areas like Koratty and Cherthala have joined the IT bandwagon pioneered by Technopark.
Its home calling for Kerala’s youth
Gone are the days when our youth had to migrate to big cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad or Chennai in search of greener pastures in IT. Technopark has given them a wide range of choices in terms of employment. They can feel at home even when they are very much part of the big global IT community. In other words, they work with a pan India team amidst facilities that could even give Silicon Valley a run for its money; at the same time they can enjoy the homely conditions once they are out of the office.
This is indeed an opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds. For Keralites who have been working in other places, “coming home” has never been more attractive.
What lies ahead?
The growth of big cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad happened as a by-product of the global outsourcing boom. These top cities grew up along with the Indian IT industry. The start was great and the growth then was spectacular. However, just like the Indian IT business, these cities have also reached their saturation point. In other words, the honeymoon period is over for them.
Bangalore is a classic example. The city that was once known for its metropolitan culture, high tech facilities and cozy weather has now become a chaotic city that is struggling amidst heavy traffic and pollution. This scenario has prompted IT majors to expand their operations to tier-2 and tier-3 cities that have the potential, natural resources and easy accessibility. People who were initially skeptical about such less flamboyant locations were proved wrong by the growth of Technopark in Trivandrum.
The future is promising; Trivandrum has become a favorite destination for IT majors. Abundance of local talents has prompted such corporates to expand their operations in Trivandrum. It is very important that this momentum is sustained.
Not all hunky-dory (The other side of the story)
Support from the society
We often have to face major challenges in the form of thefts, astronomically high auto-taxi rates, outrageous house rents, lack of quality food and above all security issues that could even be life-threatening. Why do these happen? It is just that the local society has not yet accepted the IT generation as part of them. The local people around Technopark have a different perception about the IT employees. For most of them, the term “techies” is a synonym for arrogance, high salaries and lack of moral values. Of course, there could be people who fit into this so called IT template, but that does not take the sheen away from the major chunk who come from middle-class families and work hard to earn their living. Support from the society is a major factor that could help in sustaining the growth of Technopark.
Quality of roads
Kerala is notorious for its lack of quality roads. Most of the times, maintenance of roads is done just for the sake of it without a solid scientific plan. This is a common challenge for IT in Kerala. Good roads and easy accessibility is one major factor that could attract more business. It is very important to ensure that our roads are in good health if we are to sustain the growth of IT in Kerala.
Preservation of natural resources
Preservation of natural resources along with the growth of business is not easy, but not impossible as well. Going green is easier said than done. In our efforts to make money at any cost, we tend to kill the golden goose. However, this is not something that the Government or the Technopark authorities alone can do. This is an initiative that should be taken up by each one of us.
What can make a difference?
We should realize our strengths and play according to them. Let us take a look at why Trivandrum is an attractive prospect for the IT majors. Natural resources, moderate weather, easy accessibility, availability of local talent and less chaotic traffic are the highlights. No matter how fast we grow, we cannot compromise on any of these unique selling points that Trivandrum can offer. In short, the business will reach its saturation point sooner that we expect if we do not preserve our natural resources or ignore the surroundings. A harmonious nature and supportive society can do wonders for a growing business. A business cannot succeed without these two factors. This is one area where Technopark has been a trailblazer. This, being the greenest IT park has proved beyond doubt that IT can grow without tampering with the nature.
Technopark still has a long way to go. It is very important that development should go hand in hand with the nature and our society.
Let us wake up
We still have only a minority of people using the car-pooling facility. It is never acceptable to have a single person travelling daily in a vehicle that has the capacity to accommodate more than 2 people. This way we are sacrificing our social awareness for our selfish interests. Let us accept the fact that our roads simply do not have the capacity to accommodate these many vehicles. We should see what our options are and choose the best method that could help us and the society.
Round the clock bus service
We usually find it tough to use the car-pooling or the low-floor bus facilities because of our work timings. After 8.30 PM, it is very tough for our people to depend upon public transport facilities. If we could have public transport every one hour (round the clock), it would be really helpful for our people. If the Government does not find this financially feasible, we can think of options like charging extra for buses that run after 9 PM, or making a collaborative effort involving the Government, Technopark companies and the employees to keep these buses running.
Technopark’s own cab service (a la Uber/OLA)
On-demand online cab services like Uber and OLA have become so popular these days. Following these footsteps, Technopark can setup its own on-demand cab service for the employees. However, it is very important to take necessary security precautions. If implemented based on a solid plan, this could solve the commutation problems faced by the employees. This will also reduce the number of private vehicles coming into the park.
We may also think of a perfectly green campus with no vehicles other than electric vehicles/cycles allowed inside. Just like the Technopark express, we can have these electric cabs pick people from places around Technopark. Imagine a campus with no automobile pollution; the greenest IT park that is free of all kinds of automobile cacophonies.
Serve Society and mean it
Organizations like Prathidhwani have already started making advances in this direction. Along with ensuring Technopark employees’ well-being, such groups can also co-ordinate activities led by the employees that could transform the society.
Something very simple like setting up a computer training center for the local people wherein our employees can take turns and assist local people in computer/internet related mandatory services could prove immensely helpful for the society.
In addition to individual companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, such joint efforts could definitely help in making significant changes for the society that we live in. This can definitely follow the model of CSR initiatives, but a collaborative effort can create a difference in terms of magnitude and the impact. It is very important to change the society’s perception about the IT community. On the other side, the growth of business can only happen in a successful and supportive society.
On top of all these initiatives, each of us needs to realize that we are very much part of the society that we live in. We might be dealing with international customers, but our very roots lie here and we should not forget that.
In fact, contributing to the society has become the need of the hour mainly because of the following factors:
- Redistribution– Business and society need to grow together. Within an impoverished society, no business can succeed. It is very important to ensure that we contribute something back to the society.
- Innovation– Out of the box thinking by us, the so called “techies” might just prove to be the right solution for some of the social issues around us. The society needs us to be aware of the social issues and provide with all kinds of support that we can.
- Efficiency– This gives an opportunity to bring the ruthless corporate efficiency to social activities which are usually bogged down by red-tape or bureaucratic formalities.
Every single one of us should be a role model by serving people, by behaving properly to the local people, by sharing our knowledge with the less fortunate ones and above all by being nice human beings. We all are equals; we do different jobs.
Fingers crossed for a promising future
Technopark is a boon for our generation; a real game-changer that triggered Kerala’s IT revolution. It has made Kerala’s unemployment a thing of the distant past. Being fortunate to be part of this successful journey, we are responsible to ensure that we hand it over to our next generation with all its glory. We need to ensure that our kids are also fortunate to live and achieve their career goals in Kerala. Let us join hands and ensure that the last 25 years of spectacular growth paves way for an even greater future.
“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present”- Albert Camus