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Has BangaloreIT.in become a white elephant?

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DQI Bureau
New Update

Bangalore has grown enough." These words of chief guest HD Deve Gowda at

the inaugural ceremony of BangaloreIT.in 2005 must have sounded incongruous to

international delegates interested in building ties with the garden city's IT

companies. The eighth edition of this mega IT event was a washout this year and,

more importantly, was reduced to a platform to score political points. This begs

the question: Has BangaloreIT.in become a white elephant? Or put another way,

does Bangalore need IT.in to reinforce its brand and woo investments to the

city's booming IT sector?

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Eight years ago, the event made good business sense as it helped city-based

companies get exposure and, more importantly, gave them a platform for business

interaction. Consider the IT growth figures now. IT exports grew 52% last year,

touching $6.3 bn, accounting for one-third of the country's total IT exports.

Back in 1998, there were 680 IT companies and now the number has shot up to

1,584. Of these, 622 are MNCs, which contribute to around 25% to the state's

GDP. Around 206 new IT companies came up in the state last year. The IT influx

continues-since April 2005, 97 new IT companies (and still counting) set up

shop in Karnataka.

Bangalore,

as a brand, is a given fact today. What more proof than that the verb 'bangalored,'

which refers to the transfer of IT jobs from the US and UK to India.

The pre-BangaloreIT.in developments have, if anything, dulled the brand. Last

month, around 135 companies threatened to boycott the event at the state

government's perceived lack of interest in tackling infrastructure problems. The

authorities stepped in and promised all measures to manage the infrastructure.

Then came the Infosys chief NR Narayana Murthy versus Janata Dal (Secular)

national president Deve Gowda spat, resulting in the former resigning as

chairman of the Bangalore International Airport Limited project.

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The various conferences saw patchy and sparse attendance, and lacked the

punch and substance of the sessions of previous years.

The sole consolation this year was the record number of international trade

delegations-around 20.

Another observation this year is that states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and

Tamil Nadu did their bit to woo potential investors from Karnataka; citing

Karnataka's poor infrastructure as a minus. So, why does Karnataka have to spend

money from its exchequer to fund an event where competing states are trying to

divert precious FDI away from Karnataka?

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Though it would be impossible to get top executives of IT companies on record

to say that IT.in has lost its significance, it is obvious that big names in the

IT business participate in the event merely to fulfill their duty as citizens of

Bangalore.

Many participants with whom this reporter spoke to said that they prefer a

pure, focused B2B trade platform instead of a full-fledged jamboree that is also

open to the general and not-so-serious visitors.

Gowda was right in a way. Bangalore has hogged a lot of attention all this

while. It is time for a pan-Indian show or alternatively, a show to highlight

other IT destinations in Karnataka like Hubli-Dharwad, Mysore, and Mangalore,

which could benefit from such an exposure.

This stated, it remains to be seen whether the authorities and the industry

would wake up to the reality that the event has outlasted its purpose-that of

building the Bangalore brand-and gently kill it without much ado.

Priya Padmanabhan/Cybermedia

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