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Vadodara: The Cradle of Indian IT

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DQI Bureau
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It is a common Indian practice to associate cities with

individuals. And the more famous and more number of celebrities a city can

boast, the more its snob value. Going by this logic, Baroda, or Vadodara, should

be termed as the cradle of Indian IT and telecom, as two of its denizens single

handedly changed the face of the Indian industry. The first, Dewang Mehta (born

in Umreth, on the border with Anand district), the late president of Nasscom.

And Satyanarayan Gangaram Pitroda or Sam Pitroda, as hes popularly known, who

found his bearings in Vadodara while pursuing his Masters in Physics and

Electronics from Maharaja Sayajirao University. The current chairman of the

Knowledge Commission and the CEO of C-SAM, he is hailed as the father of the PCO

and the precursor to the telecom revolution.

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Yet, the city of Vadodara has largely been untouched by the

magic of technology. While the government over the years has actively promoted

Surat, Ahemadabad and Gandhinagar; Vadodara has been ignored.

Industrial Behemoth



It is quite baffling, considering that the city was at the very forefront of
the industrial revolution at the turn of the twentieth century. The first modern

factory (Alembic Pharmaceuticals) was established in Vadodara in 1907 and

subsequently companies like Sarabhai Chemicals and Jyoti came up in the 1940s.

Over the years, Vadodara became a hub for the chemicals and textile industry.

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Nyay Mandir (High Court)

In the late sixties, oil and gas companies made a beeline for

Vadodara. Suddenly, Vadodara was host to companies like the Gujarat Refinery and

the Indian Oil Corporation. Discovery of oil and gas in Ankleshwar led to rapid

development of the city. Even ONGC and GAIL set up there centers in the

outskirts, followed by many oil and gas, fertilizers, and chemical majors coming

in. By the eighties, the city was brimming with activity, and there was a

vibrant SMB sector.

That was before the recession set in. In the nineties, the

situation was so bad that many SMBs had to shut shop or ship out. That was quite

the case till the Modi government came to power.

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From Industry to IT



The tide might be turning, at least there are some signs that it could. The
pharma and oil majors have driven much of the IT adoption in Vadodara, but much

of this equipment is sourced directly from the computer vendors (ONGC

extensively uses Silicon Graphic machines), thus the local channel community is

not really benefited. Of course, the servicing and the peripherals industry is

flourishing.

Many companies are now keen to exploit the vast talent pool that

is available in the city. In a recent report released by CII, "Vadodara:

Knowledge City", stated that the city is attracting a large number of

investors to create infrastructure for IT and related companies. "Vadodara

has great potential to develop as an IT hub on account of its large

English-speaking population and low cost of living. There are at least three IT

parks coming up in the Vadodara district. We are also considering offering land

to Gujarat Communications & Electronics, and another 17 acre of the defunct

Priyalakshmi Mill in the heart of the city," said Raj Kumar, secretary,

department of science & technology, Government of Gujarat and MD of Gujarat

Informatics.

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While L&T plans to come up with an IT zone near Vadodara,

many more IT parks are also in the offing: Nipium Infotech is planning an IT

park in association with the Singapore government at the cost of around Rs 500

crore and is waiting for an approval. There have also been reports that HCL

intends to set up operation around the city. Even Pitrodas C-SAM has a

development center in Vadodara.



Strengths

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  • Well connected to all

    parts of the country

  • Great educational

    institutions

Weaknesses

  • Lack of political will

  • Poor physical

    infrastructure of the city

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"Vadodara is fast emerging as a favored destination for

companies looking for cost-effective operations and trained manpower. The city

might not have highly skilled people available as of now, but that is bound to

change as more and more firms set up operations here," said Yogesh Thakkar,

CEO, Rhythm Electronics, one of the leading channel players in the city.

Over a dozen new IT and BPO companies have started operations.

MNCs are also entering the city through the M&A route, CSC recently acquired

a local player that provides high-end BPO services from Vadodara center. There

is also InteQ IT Services India that operates out of Vadodara and provides RIM

services to US clients.

Much of the companies that operate out of Vadodara are 300-500

seaters. Though the biggies are coming in a small way, as of now, TCS has a

200-seater facility in Vadodara, set up especially to work with Gujarat State

Electricity Board. "There are a few call centers in the city like Fortune

Infonet and others. Slowly and steadily, Vadodara is catching up as an

investment destination. When Dewang Mehta was alive he used to push the city.

Sadly, after his death, there was not much action," says Nilesh Kuvadia,

CEO, IT Consultancy.

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A Computer Savvy City



Like any other smaller city, the biggest asset of Vadodara is the workforce.
Thanks to the numerous colleges like Sardar Patel University, Sigma Institute of

Management Studies, Parul Institute of Engineering and Technology, and of course

MS University, which ensures there is a steady stream of well-educated youth

flowing into the marketplace. "Vadodaras biggest strength is its

well-educated talent pool from the only English-medium University of the state

and the growing private sector educational institutions. The quality of

education is as good as those available at high-tech institutes like IIT Roorkee,"

says Indranil Deb, manager (Program), ONGC.

Naresh Kumar Garg, senior scientific officer, BARC, also

underscores the same point. "To be honest, over the last many years a lot

of amazing work has been done on the e-Governance front, especially the

computerization of land records. This has led to high computer literacy.

Indebted to his Highness



Vadodara has a nickname, Sayaji Nagari, and it is quite an apt one. Any
discussion on Vadodara cannot be completed without mentioning the name of the

former ruler of the state, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, who ruled the state

from 1881 to 1939. The visionary ruler is responsible for all that Vadodara has

to offer. He was a reformist, and on assuming power, made primary education free

and compulsory, banned child marriages, encouraged fine arts, among his other

achievements.

"The Maharaja was so ahead of his time that he had created

a man-made reservoir in Ajwa that would take care of the water needs of the city

for the next two centuries, and it is very much doing so," says Deb.

Situated some 40 minutes (air) away from Mumbai. Vadodara is an

ideal location for back-office and BPO work. As of now, the real estate prices

have not peaked and this makes the city an ideal location for investment. The

only possible drawback is probably the prohibition policy. Other than that, it

really showcases all that is good in a small town-city of India, be it culture

or its warm people.

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