To keep pace with changing dynamics in the information technology (IT) industry, the West Bengal government is experimenting with a new model of development, which has been named Infrastructure as a Service.
Under this model, the state’s IT department is looking to create ready ecosystem for high-end technology companies to start working with minimum capital expenditure. The aim is to create jobs for the state’s large pool of engineering and science graduates.
The model stems from the realisation that land, water, road connectivity and power are not sufficient conditions anymore to attract investments, said a key bureaucrat, who asked not to be identified.
With a new model, West Bengal is now trying to woo innovation companies with interest in artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analytics among other high end technologies, he added.
To start with, West Bengal’s IT department will create a 100-acre technology hub in New Town Rajarhat, adjoining Kolkata, where it will create so called plug-and-play workspace as well as lease out land to companies that wish to build their own facilities.
For cash-strapped West Bengal, it is impossible to develop the entire space on its own, admitted the official cited above. Still, the state will create workspaces with “sufficient technological bandwidth” keeping in mind innovation companies.
Until now, the state was chasing the likes of software developers such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Infosys Ltd and Wipro Ltd to set up campuses in Kolkata and adjoining areas. The focus has now shifted to the likes of Japan’s Fujisoft Inc and Amazon Internet Services Pvt. Ltd, according to the bureaucrat.
“Gone are the days when you could get Indian IT companies to set up large campuses,” said Roopen Roy, founder and partner at Sumantrana Management Consultants Llp, who works closely with the state government.
It is widely acknowledged that West Bengal produces every year a large pool of science and engineering graduates with a high level of proficiency in mathematics. “These innovation companies are in search of this kind of talent,” he said. “If we could remove entry barriers such as the cost and time of setting up facilities, we could easily persuade them set up operations in Kolkata.”
Pricing of the real estate has not been announced yet. “But it will be industry-friendly,” said the official. The state wants this hub to be developed quickly, so it is likely to include stringent legal clauses for companies taking vacant land on lease, he added.
To create “a robust infrastructure with adequate redundancy in power and data connectivity”, a global consultant is to be soon selected through tendering. The first attempt to do so, however, came a cropper because the state received only two proposals—it needs at least three to evaluate the bids.
Sumantrana’s Roy, who was previously the managing director of Deloitte Consulting India Pvt. Ltd, was instrumental in recently forging a partnership between Fujisoft and a West Bengal government-owned enterprise for skill development in robotics, 3D printing and other allied technologies. Fujisoft will start its operations in Kolkata within months, Roy added.