Reproduced from Economic Times, Bangalore Edition dt 07-10-2016
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu wants to make the state a technology hub like Hyderabad -a city which he single-handedly put on the global IT services map in the late 90s and one his newly-formed state will lose to neighbouring state Telangana within the next 10 years. The loss of Hyderabad, which clocked `75,000-crore worth of software exports in FY16 and employs over 4 lakh people, has scuppered one of the key engines of job creation for Andhra Pradesh. Naidu has set a target of creating 5 lakh jobs in the state by 2020 and plans to target the technology industry to help the create bulk of these jobs, say bureaucrats and consultants who are working with the state government.
“The IT industry will not grow the same way as it grew in the past decade. We need to focus on the new sectors and encourage them. We have to focus on the futuristic technologies.This is the vision of the chief minister,“ said PS Pradyumna, IT secretary , Andhra Pradesh.
For starters, Andhra Pradesh has identified a set of futuristic skill sets like cybersecurity , financial technology like blockchain and internet of things, and is creating labs and courses in universities to boost skills. The state has also roped in Tirumalarao Chamalla, the former head of IT firm Happiest Minds’ banking unit, as president of its IT and Electronics Society to attract technology companies to the state. The society has `200 crore in funding and a mandate to create technology jobs not just in Amaravati and Visakhapatnam but also in growing towns like Hindupur.
“We have partnered with Israel on cybersecurity . We have another partnership with the University of California, Berkeley , to create a blockchain centre in Vishakapatnam. We have signed an MoU with the Monetary Authority of Singapore to develop Vizag as a fin-tech hub,“ Chamalla told ET. Unlike other states, Andhra is not just handing out incentives to Indian IT companies to set up centres. “We can’t have a me-too kind of attitude. But if we create the next-generation skills, then companies will come,“ he said.
The project to recreate Hyderabad’s success in Andhra Pradesh is a personal mission for Chandrababu Naidu, say executives who work with the chief minister. Sixty six-yearold Naidu, who was the chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh between 1995-2004, wooed the likes of Bill Gates, former British prime minister Tony Blair and former US president Bill Clinton to visit Hyderabad during his tenure, and sold the state as an IT destination when it was known largely for its history and culinary prowess than coding strength.
“A weekly meeting is held with the IT secretary , consultants and other government officials to keep track.The chief minister personally keeps track of the progress on a monthly basis,“ added an executive who has been part of these meetings.
The state is also hoping to create an ecosystem by pushing the adoption of technology in all walks of life. For instance, Andhra’s state education department is using Microsoft’s machine-learning technology to identify which students may be at risk of dropping out. It is also using the technology to help farmers identify the right time to sow their crops. “The idea is that if the companies see how easy it is to do business with AP , they will want to do business in AP ,“ Pradyumna said.
The state has also appointed Infosys-backed ANSR Consulting’s Lalit Ahuja as a special representative to make the state an attractive destination for captive units. Ahuja was pre viously the head of the US retailer Target’s Indian offshore centre and has helped bring over 20 captives to India. “The agreement with Andhra is around two facets; to build worldclass infrastructure and to make it very conducive for people to live and work out of some of these locations.The majority of the business we have done is in Bengaluru. To some extent it is also about creating an alternate hub because Bengaluru is almost sold out as a city ,“ Ahuja said.
Experts on the Indian technology space expect the state’s bets to bear fruit. “The state is trying to attract new-age industries namely in IT, robotics and digital space, which are seeing the maximum growth and will help in employment generation,“ Akhilesh Tuteja, head of IT advisory at KPMG, said.