Beyond the Tech Park

In the beginning was the Park.

If that sounds a bit Jurassic, well, this tech story is no less exciting. It’s
the story of the amazing growth of services exports from India, in 1.5 decades.
From under 10% of the IT industry, it’s now two-thirds of a pie that’s over
$30 billion in 2005.

All this, in a country devoid of infrastructure. How did quality global
services emerge from a population used to minimal water, power, road systems?
How did we become earth’s back-office and switchboard? How do Gurgaon BPOs
give five-niner SLAs (99.999% uptime) with penalty clauses in a suburb where we
have power 70% of the time, telecom cables cut each day, and no public
transport, miserable planning, and lousy roads?

The answer is the Park. (I use this loosely, to include government and
private tech parks, as well as the services players’ own SEZ-stamped giant
campuses and buildings.)

The STP, or software tech park, came up in the early 1990s, an oasis of
infrastructure in a desert that was a mix of poor amenities and services,
erratic utilities, and expensive telecom. After the DoE ‘software policy’ in
1986 and Nasscom in 1989 came the STPI, 1991, a new body charged to promote
services exports-through the tech parks.

India is now a superbrand for tech services. Take a global bank, and it
probably runs Indian software. Make a help call in the USA and it will likely be
answered in India.

And it’s happening out of the Parks. They’re mushrooming across the
country, from Pune to Chennai to Kolkata, driven by private and foreign
promoters, builders and managers, as this issue’s cover story narrates.

The environment has changed. Telecom is better and cheaper, and there’s
wireless and broadband all around. Power and road infrastructure are a little
better (though even more stressed out today).

But all the tech services exports action still happens in these oases. If you
expect that the quality of services and infrastructure has ramped up, well, that’s
really in the Park. If there’s an SLA, it’s in the Park. So if you really
want to experience the digital divide, try working in say a government office
for a day and then switch to a tech park in the same city next day…

In an industry where we’re heading up to $80 billion and several million
tech workers in three years, we have to scale up beyond the Park. That includes
the environment: walk-to-work town planning, road infrastructure, airports, and
strong utility SLAs so we don’t need two backups for every service, not just
for tech services but for enterprises, and government departments too.

That’s the challenge ahead: to take the learning from these oases into the
desert. And scale it all up beyond the Park.

Prasanto K Roy

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