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Visakhapatnam: Indias Bay Area

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DQI Bureau
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'Meeting your aspirations as a knowledge city of the future

proclaim large hoardings set up by VUDA (Visakhapatnam Urban Development

Authority) across several vantage points in this second largest city of Andhra

Pradesh. Few would dispute VUDAs claim. With IT and BPO biggies like Satyam,

Wipro, IBM Daksh, HSBC, Capgemini (Kanbay), Kenexa and Infotech among others

either already established here or setting up shop, we would stick our neck out

to claim that Visakhapatnam would emerge as one of the Top 5 IT destinations

amongst tier-2/3 cities in the next three years.

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And even if that somehow does not happen, the city should

definitely emerge as the most scenic IT hub in the country and one of the most

beautiful in the world. What with the new IT zone in Kailashgiri overlooking a

range of hills on one side and the angry breakers of the Bay of Bengal lapping

the rugged coastline on the other, Visakhapatnam could surely prove to be Indias

answer to the Bay Area of the US. Satyam, Wipro, and HSBC (besides their current

locations) have already started working on campuses on three of the hills

overlooking the sea, where a host of IT companies are looking to populate VUDAs

new IT zone.

The IT zone in Kailashgiri, under

construction

The new IT zone (Symbiosis Technologies and Sankhya Technologies

look like the first here to become operational in the next two months) also

symbolizes the demographic change the city is undergoing, primarily under the

influence of the IT sector. Explains Anand Narla, MD of Pioneer Marketing,

probably the earliest and one of the leading local SIs, "The center of

gravity (read business influence) of every city shifts by some distance every

10-15 years. This is true of even large metros like Mumbai and Delhi and is now

happening in Vizag too."

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Coming Full Circle



While IT is expected to make the destiny of the city, for Narla and Prasada
Rao, MD of Laser Systems, another leading SI of the town, this is just the

coming of the full circle of what started about three decades back.

Visakhapatnam has always been an important Naval base (Eastern Naval Command);

it has also housed the Vizag Steel Plant and major oil companies like HPCL, IOCL,

Andhra Petroleum among others. Rao informs that all of them have been heavy

spenders on IT and have, therefore, inculcated the spirit of automation in the

city. Even today, the Navy spend is an average Rs 10-12 crore on IT while the

annual IT outlay for the Vizag Steel Plant would be in excess of Rs 20 crore.

A major role has also been played by the engineering colleges.

While the Andhra University affiliated college is expected to be upgraded to an

IIT or NIT soon, the likes of Gitam College of engineering have played a dual

role of providing quality manpower as well as acting as large consumers of IT.

This has resulted in IT not just connecting the citys past with its future,

but also in becoming the citys sunshine sector. Numbers too support this: the

IT/BPO exports from Visakhapatnam is expected to reach Rs 1,000 crore by 2009

with more than 200 companies, up from Rs 70 crore in 2004-05, when with its 37

export companies it ranked seventh amongst the countrys tier-2 locations.

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Strengths

  • Its strategic location

    allows it to control the entire hinterland market from Tirupati to

    Karimnagar

  • One of most scenic

    locations for the IT industry anywhere in the world

Weaknesses

  • Not being a capital city

    can stunt its growth

  • Population explosion may

    become a problem in the days to come

Narla, who in a way has lived the life of the IT industry of the

city, is the ideal bridge between the old and the new. While he reminisces of

the late 80s when he started selling to the Navy mainly, he is also proud about

the new SOHO/home user market that has boomed in the city in recent times,

mainly contributed by the engineering colleges and their students. While both

Narla and Rao agree that the software boom of the future would make

Visakhapatnam the entire hub of the IT market from Srikkulam to Karimnagar

(encompassing the likes of Vijaywada, Rajahmundry and Tirupati among others),

the former laments the lack of growth of the SMB sector amongst enterprises.

If Narla is the face of the transformation, the face of the new

confident Vishakpatnam is Gopi Kumar Bulusu, the CEO of Sankhya Technologies. A

product company dealing in embedded design and boasting of clients in the US,

Israel, Taiwan and China among others.

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Armed with a major degree from the US, Bulusu had initially set

up shop in Nungambakkam, Chennai but shifted to Vizag in 2003. "We

sacrificed 2-3 years of our growth owing to this shift, but it is paying off

today by giving us a distinct identity, and, most importantly, allowing us to

maintain our quality of living. After all, even if Vizag has 25% of the

infrastructure of metros, it has only 10% of the population" says Bulusu.

Vizag today has the highest per capita income in Andhra Pradesh, and, with

Hyderabad saturated to the seams, looks set to don the new IT mantle of AP.

A Proactive Government



Vishakpatnam today has most things going for it, but many of these might not
have been possible without proactive government support. The previous regime in

the state might have been accused of not looking beyond Hyderabad, but under the

aegis of VUDA, the government has already allotted 130 acres of land to 21 IT

companiesbesides the majors the list includes the likes of Mahati Software,

Miracle Software, Nunet Technologies, Color Chips and VisualSoft Tech among

others.

The following tale perhaps illustrates best the governments

seriousness to develop Visakhapatnam. EPDPL, the local power provider, delivers

electricity connections to company campuses only subject to conformance to a

strict set of norms. One of Satyams first centers deviated slightly and was

subsequently denied connection, thanks to the head of EPDPL, a technocrat turned

IAS. Not even Ramalinga Rajus understandable clout in AP could tilt the

decision till the compliances were conformed with. Amen to such technocrats,

that one day scenic, idyllic Visakhapatnam could make its mark on the global

tech map.

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