"WELCOME to Coimbatore the fast-emerging IT technopolis marching towards becoming another Silicon Valley of India." So reads an advertisement brochure brought out by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Concerted efforts are on to turn this industrial hub from the Manchester of the South to another Silicon Valley.
The Coimbatore zone of the CII thinks that the enterprise of the people and the presence of educational institutions should leverage the mega opportunity offered by Information Technology, which may catapult this city into higher orbits of growth and development.
In its bid to market this industrial city, with a population of over 1.2 million, the CII is launching `CoimbatoreIT.com', which is not just a website but a package of initiatives for IT companies here. CoimbatoreIT.com has been conceived by the CII (Coimbatore zone) in association with the Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT), the State government's Department of IT, the Software Technology Park of India (STPI) and Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL) as a mega-marketing exercise to promote this new-generation industry in a big way in this traditional textile hub.
Encouraged by the Tamil Nadu government-CII moves, several IT majors such as Wipro, Cognizant Technology Solutions and Satyam Computers are looking at moving into Coimbatore.
PricewaterhouseCoopers has rated Coimbatore among the top four cities with considerable IT potential and this is well corroborated by the fact that exports here have zoomed from a mere Rs.2 crores worth in 1998 to over Rs.100 crores now. Half of this is from business process outsourcing (BPO) services.
The IT effort in Coimbatore got a boost from the PSG College of Technology- Science and Technology Entrepreneurial Park (PSG-STEP). Established in 1998 by the PSG College of Technology in association with the Department of Science and Technology and financial institutions, PSG-STEP aims to promote technology-based enterprises in the areas of software, electronic products, hi-tech mechanical products, eco-friendly textile products and biotechnology. According to executive director V. Raghavendra Prasad, PSG-STEP has established an IT incubator-cum-software park, the country's largest such venture attached to an educational institution. This facility has a VSNL international gateway (satellite earth station) for high-speed data communication with fibre links to Chennai and Kochi. Among PSG-STEP's activities are product development, calibration and testing facilities, consultancy services (technology studies, market research, techno-economic feasibility report, industry analysis and development of new technologies/products with focus on futuristic ideas), creation of an information data bank and training in ISO 9000/TPM. Its other activities include prototype development, project funding, incubation facilities for start-up projects, and implementation from concept to commercial production.
One of the largest BPO operations in Coimbatore is KG Information Systems Pvt. Ltd. (KGISL) from the KG group of companies, which meets the needs of 75 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies. According to KGISL managing director Ashok Bakthavatsalam, the company, with a built-up area of over 100,000 sq ft, specialises in BPO and software and has an excellent product range. The company operated the first international call centre out of Coimbatore. It contributed to over 35 per cent of all software exports from Coimbatore in the last three years, he said. Among its specialities are health care (medical transcription, coding and billing), engineering (high-end computer-aided design and simulation), postal automation (the only vendor in India), and media services (the largest in India). It provides telemarketing services; and human resource back-office services to several multinational corporations.
Software expertise of KGISL includes e-governance solutions, workflow management solutions, e-payment gateways and network management solutions. But KGISL has identified financial securities as its thrust area. It offers services to such leading companies as Merril Lynch and HSBC. Says Bhakthavatsalam: "Our solutions are 18 months ahead of the market." The company is also into retail services and derivative markets. The company also offers IT support in various segments. For instance, it provides engineering services to General Motors and Isuzu; finite element method analysis and engineering design services; 3-D simulations; and Computer-Aided Design.
The company has a home STPI (first satellite earth station in Tamil Nadu) and an on-site residential complex. KGISL's speciality is that it trains and absorbs people with varied educational backgrounds (from school pass-outs to post-graduates). It trains them in the English language, financial knowledge, typing, summarising and journalistic skills. The company is ISO 9001-certified for software services and ISO 9002-certified for engineering design services. It also has a Six Sigma rating in BPO. It has set up the KGISL Institute of Information Technology, affiliated to Bharatiar University, for good-quality manpower. As a social responsibility, KGISL provides employment to the visually imapired in medical transcription and has sponsored over 50,000 intra-ocular lens surgical procedures so far.