A tale of Kochi’s two IT parks
One booming, creating new jobs; the other in deep slumber. TNIE juxtaposes Infopark with SmartCity-Kochi for a spot analysis
KOCHI: This is the tale of Kochi’s two software parks - lying close to each other. But the similarity ends there. Infopark, Kakkanad, run by the Kerala government ’s IT Parks division, is fast-booming, attracting big and reputed companies to its sprawling 225-acre campus, generating jobs for hundreds of young engineers.
About 55,000 software engineers are employed at the bustling Infopark, where biggies, such as Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Technologies, and Cognizant Technologies, have fairly large operations. When IBM recently decided to establish an Innovation Centre in Kerala, it chose Infopark. Meanwhile, the story at the 244-acre Smart City- Kochi (SCK), located just across the road from Infopark, is dismal.
To some extent, depressing. It’s apparent that SCK, in which Dubai Holding owns 84 per cent stake and the Kerala government 16 per cent, is struggling. It has failed to live up to all the initial hype even 11 years after its launch. It has not only failed to attract big players but also got embroiled in a prolonged legal battle with some of its occupants, who slam the management for its lack of vision and commitment.
As per the ‘Framework Agreement’ signed in May 2007, SCK promised to create 90,000 jobs by developing 8.8 million sq ft space, of which 6.21 million sq ft specifically for IT and IT-enabled and allied services within 10 years. Though no official estimates are available, insiders say the current number of employees at SCK would not exceed 5,000.
“When conceptualised, the SmartCity-Kochi project was brilliantly showcased as a hub of ‘networking opportunities’, where the Dubai promoter offered the scope for companies in its other ‘smart cities’, such as the Dubai Internet City (DI C) and the one in Malta, to work from Kochi,” recalls a person, who was involved in the project as an SCK consultant in the initial stages.
“It gave hope to a large number of Keralites working in DIC or other parts of the globe, who would want to work from SCK for companies in Europe and West Asia. But nothing happened.” Several projects at SCK are running behind schedule. Sands Infinit - billed to be the tallest twin IT towers in south India at a height of 152m (three basements, ground + 29 floors) - was supposed to be completed by December 2020.
Promoted by Lulu Group International, the “architectural showpiece” was to create a workspace for 25,000 employees. There, however, is no update on its progress. Well, was there some scepticism within its management over the target of 90,000 jobs? A 2014 CAG report on ‘Smart City Project, Kochi’ noted differences in wordings in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) and the final Framework Agreement (FWA ) on the job creation.
In the MoU, it was mentioned that DI C “undertakes” to create 33,000 jobs at SCK in phases. In the FWA , however, it said Tecom (now Dubai Holding) would “make best efforts” to create 90,000 jobs in 10 years. Notably, the penalty clause in MoU for failure to achieve job creation was removed in the FWA . In the MoU, SCK had agreed to pay a penalty of “Rs 6,000 per job as applied to the shortfall in targets at the end of five, seven, and 10 years”. It’s high time the government and Dubai Holding sat together and ironed out the issues to revive the SCK, says the consultant, who was quoted earlier. “When the project was designed, SCK was like a celeb. However, with age, one might have to make wa y for new stars .