West Bengal hardsells Kolkata to semiconductor industry

By Fakir Balaji, IANS

Bangalore : After rolling out the red carpet for software and IT-enabled services firms, West Bengal is now wooing the semiconductor industry by offering a basket of incentives and concessions.

Support TwoCircles

“Just as we have opened up to the software sector of the IT industry, we are gearing up to attract investors, entrepreneurs and firms in the hardware sector, especially in chip and product design and IC (integrated circuit) engineering services, embedded software and manufacturing of electronic products,” Debesh Das, the state’s IT minister, told IANS in an interview here.

“We are building a 20-floor dedicated facility at Salt Lake in Kolkata for locating incubation centres, start-ups, software and hardware development centres and electronics manufacturing units.”

The Rs.1 billion (approx $25 million), 275,000 sq ft facility promoted by Kolkata-based Infinity Intech Parks Ltd will be ready for occupation over the next 18-24 months in phases.

“Besides state-of-the-art infrastructure with all utilities, the state government will offer seed capital and training subsidy of Rs.20,000 for every employee retained for a stipulated time.”

“As a special economic zone (SEZ), the facility will have 20 percent tax holiday for over 10 years. We will also arrange attractive venture capital funding,” said Das, who holds a masters in electronics and telecom engineering.

Inspired by the rapid growth of the knowledge sector in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, the West Bengal government has decided to replicate the same in Kolkata, with similar facilities and resources in and around Salt Lake.

“Though we may take years to catch up with these southern cities in terms of growth and investments, we are creating an enabling environment to position Kolkata as an equally attractive destination for IT, BT (biotechnology) and nanotechnology industries in the east.”

Apart from building massive infrastructure and connectivity, the state government is working with academia and industry to develop human resources for meeting the growing requirements of the knowledge sector.

“A high-level state committee is working with IIT-Kharagpur and Kolkata, Jadavpur and Durgapur universities and engineering colleges and technical institutes across the state to chalk out a five-year programme for churning out thousands of graduates and skilled manpower for software and hardware sectors of the new economy.”

In addition to hundreds of training centres across the state, the state IT department is setting up finishing schools in secondary cities and major towns to impart soft skills, including fluency in English, clear communication and personality development for ready absorption by industry.

“We are encouraged by the overwhelming response of the IT industry to invest in Bengal and take advantage of the infrastructure facilities and talent pool available at competitive costs. On a comparative basis, we have a clear edge over other states in operation costs and employee retention.”

Das was in India’s Silicon hub with a 10-member delegation to hard-sell Kolkata at the third Vision Summit of the Indian Semiconductor Association (ISA) here to Indian and overseas delegates, including non-resident Indians (NRIs), ready to return as angel investors or smart entrepreneurs. The two-day event concluded Tuesday.

“Many overseas and Indian semiconductor firms and entrepreneurs have shown interest to look at Kolkata as an alternative destination for expanding their operations or floating start-ups. Videocon, IBM, TCS and Wipro have expressed willingness to set up manufacturing and product development centres in the proposed hardware park.”

In a related development, a survey by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) said that West Bengal has the potential to emerge as one on of top five Indian states in IT and IT-enabled services.

“Bengal is poised to contribute about 15-20 percent of the country’s total IT revenue, including exports over the next five years. Between 2002-05, the state emerged as the fastest investment destination in the country for IT and IT-enabled services’ firms,” the survey said.Between 2002-05, the state emerged as the fastest investment destination in the country for IT and IT-enabled services’ firms,” the survey said.