Northeast can become an IT hub, say US returned professionals

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS,

Guwahati : Bhairab Das, 32, speaks with a strong American twang and shuttles between Assam and Bangalore, a sleek laptop keeping him company. He is part of a growing breed of US-returned computer professionals who believe India’s northeast can be an IT hub and serve as an IT gateway to Southeast Asia.

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Bhairab Das, the software engineer hailing from the northeastern state of Assam, had been working in the US for the past three years after completing his studies at a reputed college, but is now back in India.

“I wanted to do something back home in my country; so I left a cushy job in the US and returned to Assam,” Das told IANS.

Today he is a frequent flyer, hopping from Guwahati to Bangalore, referred to as India’s very own Silicon Valley.

“Information technology today is the buzzword everywhere and I realised there was enough potential back home in Assam as well – not just to make money but also to pay back to my state by way of knowledge acquired abroad,” Das said in between calls from his clients.

The vision of Assam and the northeast becoming the IT hub of Southeast Asia is not without some substance as there are already moves to re-open the World War II Stilwell Road. The road starts in Assam and cuts through the Pangsau pass in Myanmar to Kunming in South China.

The historic 1,726-km road, built by the Allied and Chinese forces under the command of US Army General Joseph Stilwell, was used to transport the first supplies to the beleaguered Chinese Army during World War II in 1945 when Japanese troops invaded China.

Even if the Stilwell Road is not re-opened, there exists a road connecting India with major Southeast Asian cities. It passes through Myanmar via the northeastern state of Manipur and connects Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

“Even now there are opportunities galore in the IT sector in Assam and just imagine if the Stilwell Road is re-opened. Prospects for IT professionals would be just unthinkable,” Das said.

He is currently developing a software that could help in creating a database for storing all crime records and networking police stations.

He got a team of about 20 junior colleagues to work for him in Bangalore as well as in Assam’s main city Guwahati.

“There are also other projects that I am working on at present for Assam and other northeastern states which I would not like to reveal at this stage,” Das said.

Like Das, Anubhav Sharma is a computer programmer educated in the US and is now back in Assam.

“Today Assam and the (rest of the) northeast are happening places and very soon the region could be the gateway to Southeast Asia and could well be the hub of the IT sector in this unexplored corner,” Sharma told IANS.

“You have small countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar adjoining the northeast and we can very well tap that unexplored IT market with a little bit of planning and vision,” he said.

Both Das and Sharma are of the firm belief that insurgency and ethnic unrest in the region can never be a deterrent to making the region prosperous.

“Let us simply not allow insurgency to dominate our potential,” said Sharma as he hurried to catch a flight to Bangalore for client meetings.

“I was in the US working as a software engineer for a reputed firm but decided to leave my job. I came to India two years ago as I found there are ample opportunities back home. I have now set up my own company and with me are a group of young professionals,” said Kaustav Saikia.

“Who said there are no opportunities in Assam or elsewhere in India? From fields as diverse as medicine to computers and education, there are opportunities waiting in Assam and other parts of the region if one is skilled and dedicated,” he said.

(Zarir Hussain can be contacted at [email protected])