West Bengal – a gateway to eastern India, and one of the most densely populated State, has always been regarded as one of India`s States with high intellectual capital and with immense potential to emerge as one of the most attractive investment destinations for the Information Technology (IT) and Information Technology enabled Services (ITeS) sectors. But unfortunately during the 34 years of the Left regime it has witnessed acute negligence in terms of investment in various sectors and particularly in the IT sector. In fact the Left Government had an anti-computer policy, fearing introduction of computers would lead to limiting employment opportunities.
Bengal ranks 6th in the nation (after Karnataka, Maharashtra, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu respectively), constitutes only 3% of the country`s IT exports and provides employment to an estimated 1,00,000 persons, concentrated in the Kolkata metropolitan area.
The present Bengal Government, under the remarkable leadership of Ms. Mamata Banerjee, has vowed to bring the derailed Bengal IT sector back on tracks. The Government has identified that Bengal, in particular Kolkata, has a vast reservoir of talent and an appropriate milieu to propel the growth of the IT service sector. Based on this the State Government has set an ambitious target to increase its software exports to 25% of the country`s export against 3% at present. The government has a well planned and effective strategy to encourage investments from large IT companies, to revitalize and tap the talent of home-grown entrepreneurs in the small and medium sector and to enable the spread of the industry to Tier II and Tier III locations. The State`s IT Ministry, under the proficient leadership of Partha Chatterjee, and the blessings of Mamata Banerjee, has also felt the need to move up the value chain from merely providing services, to the development of products and registering Intellectual Property Rights.
The Government also wants to make IT tools and communication hardware accessible by all sections of society. This would facilitate the electronic delivery of Government services through effective e-Governance measures and would have a positive impact in the social and economic lives of a larger community of citizens. The Government also aims to provide seamless and reliable citizen centric services and information for the public, thereby enhancing efficiency, transparency and accountability in Government and to ensure e-literacy among the masses to reduce the so-called `digital divide`. The West Bengal Government will soon participate in the National Optic Fibre Network mission to connect all villages with broadband and hence boon the small-scale industries (in the rural areas) to access technology and common facilities with more internet penetration.
Over 42 private engineering colleges churning out over 7000 graduates each year, Bengal is already a rich source of talent. The quality of talent available is demonstrated by the fact that students from the State fare well in all India engineering entrance examinations and a significant section of the NRI entrepreneurship in this sector, too, belong to this region. Premier educational institutes such as the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Bengal Engineering and Science University (BESU) and Jadavpur University are located in the State, besides Presidency and St. Xavier`s. The creative tradition of the State in different fields of entertainment-related IT and ITeS activities e.g. animation can significantly help it in attaining its vision. West Bengal has enjoyed lower attrition rates compared to the industry averages in India and the State offers IT players one of the lowest operation costs in the country.
West Bengal has a couple of other plus points like availability of power, low cost of living, a new airport, good road connectivity, good supply of ready plug and play office space etc to attract investment in the state. The state Government in its IT policy, has also stressed on developing infrastructural facilities in tier II and III cities like Durgapur, Asansol, Kharagpur, Kalyani and Siliguri. Apart from that, `IT Hubs` and `incubation centers` are also being planned at Falta, Haldia, Barjora and Purulia. An IIT is being planned at Kalyani with assistance from the Central Government.
The Government`s IT project is already on a roll and the people of Bengal will soon reap the harvest.