Kochi // Work on a Dubai-owned IT park in Kerala in south India is ploughing ahead, despite the severe uncertainty and challenges that India’s IT sector is facing, according to a top executive behind the project.
Development of the next phase of SmartCity Kochi, one year after its opening, is under way, with new offices due to launch by the end of next year and a Gems school, operated by the Dubai-based education company, set to open in June.
“The starting problem was there and we had issues, but once it started it’s like an Indian elephant: once it starts moving then it’s unstoppable,” said Baju George, the chief operating officer at SmartCity Dubai, which is part of Dubai Holding.
SmartCity Kochi faced setbacks after it was first proposed more than a decade ago, including land disputes and red tape.
This comes at a time when India’s IT sector is struggling amid slow growth in the countries in the West that it services, increasing competition from other developing nations, and concerns about the US president Donald Trump’s protectionist approach and proposed plans to keep more jobs with America and curb immigration, which could hit India’s IT sector hard.
Kerala is pushing to establish itself as an IT destination. Mr George said that he was not worried by the political rhetoric in the US and noted that SmartCity Kochi was “Kerala’s IT game changer”.
The design of SmartCity Kochi is based on the Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City developments. The SmartCity Kochi project is expected to add 2 to 3 per cent to Kerala’s GDP once it reaches completion, Mr George said. It is anticipated that it will eventually create direct employment for 120,000 people.
SmartCity Kochi is being developed in three phases. The first, including the first IT tower and basic infrastructure was completed last year. In its second phase, 9 million square feet of office space is under construction, slated for completion between the end of next year and the third quarter of 2019, Mr George said.
The third phase would begin next year and include residential buildings and hotels, a convention centre, and sports facilities.
The first tower is almost completely occupied and leasing has already started for the second phase, he said. Companies including New York Stock Exchange listed oilfield-services firm Baker Hughes and MariApps, a Singapore-based maritime solutions company, are operating in the IT park.
“The good thing is that India is moving away from the low end of the IT chain like call centres,” he said. “Now we are going to get the activities of the high end of the IT chain,” Mr George said.
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