What prompted you to set up an STPI facility in Mohali ?
We basically wanted to take advantage of an ecosystem which already existed in the Tricity – Mohali, Chandigarh and Panchkula. If you look at the profile of the city, it is very close to Delhi NCR (National Capital Region) and already has a successful chapter of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs). There has also been a lot of activity by angel investors and there have been some incubators and startups in terms of technology. Also, a lot of merger and acquisition activity had taken place in the past. Keeping in view the potential of the city, we planned in 2010 to develop infrastructure and we chose Mohali.
How do you compare Mohali with other Tier-II cities of India, in terms of IT industry?
Mohali, put together with Chandigarh and Panchkula, is one of the top 10 cities of India after six Tier-I locations with respect to IT. After that, it is in league with Indore, Coimbatore and other such cities. Advantage here is that it is a city fully complete and sufficient in many aspects. Many educational institutions, investors and proactive governmental framework exist and that makes this place very unique in the entire north Indian region. This is the largest pan-India investment which the STPI has made in Mohali. Thereafter, we have taken few decisions like we are investing in Kolkata and Bhubaneswar. So, smaller cities are also on our radar.
What is the way forward?
India is transiting towards a product development country. So far, there had been outsourcing model and Indian IT industry was surviving by providing service to their customers. Now, India is creating products and IPR (intellectual property rights) and in these times, startup hubs would really help India in transiting from a service sector to a product developing nation. The next wave of growth which we want to see in India is of product creation. There are a lot of job opportunities in it. In India, we had startups in the past also, but those startups were working on the service model and cost arbitrage. Now, the startups are of a different nature and they require whole collaborative mechanism and ecosystem to support their endeavor. Thus, we need angel investors, mentors and experts. Incidentally, this ecosystem now exists to promote the startup movement in the country.
What role is the STPI playing in promotion of product industry?
The STPI is promoting the product development industry across India in a collaborative framework. In the last 25 years, India has been doing very good in terms of export of software. The time has come where we have to focus on product creation. Further, tech startups are really required and the whole ecosystem has to work. When IT industry is $117 billion export industry and 3 million engineers are already in place working at all levels of the value chain, you have availability of a lot of experts in this field who are doing work for multi-national companies. If we are able to promote the startup industry movement in this country, we have in place a large number of technically capable people who are able to mentor and join these startups.
You have got a good response in Mohali for the IBPO scheme.
India BPO (business process outsourcing) scheme has been launched under the Digital India programme for promoting BPO industry and disbursing them to Tier-II and Tier-III cities. It is a viability gap funding (VGF) programme. Under this, each state has been allocated seats. For Punjab, we had allocated 1,200 seats. We got such a good response that we had to allocate 1,700 seats last year. So, the quota has surpassed for this state. We have got such kind of response only in Andhra Pradesh. There are few other states which have shown such good response and Maharashtra as well as UP have also surpassed their quota.
What are the challenges?
We have a lot of good engineering and other colleges in the region and students from these institutes are being employed by the industry. Their quality is beyond question. The point is that we have to promote establishment of a lot of entrepreneurs and companies and we can employ them here. That is the challenge. This is why we have to position Tricity and Mohali, in particular because Mohali has that capital, infrastructure and support mechanism which can house a large number of technology companies and, in turn create a lot of jobs.
Do you see the urgent need of collaboration between the industry and education institutions?
I think there should be collaboration between industry and the government or educational institutes. Graduates are to be groomed right from the beginning. As soon as they enter educational institutions, their connection with the industry is a must and that would create much needed collaboration and would make them ready for jobs. The industry is not keen to provide onthe-job training now and they want to cut short that time period. That is why this collaboration is a welcome step.
Please throw some light on the STPI facility at Mohali.
Planning started in the beginning of 2010 and the Mohali STPI building took around four years to come up. It is the largest investment that we have planned beyond Tier-I cities of the country. This is the most modern infrastructure that any modern government can develop right now. It is already a Griha-4 (green rating for integrated habitat assessment) building and going to be Griha-5. We have one of the largest data centres in this building. Most of the infrastructure which is available here is dedicated for the startups and small companies. We have 40,000 square feet of space for Startup Punjab hub being put to use by the Punjab government. In a leap forward, beyond plug and play (PnP) support service, now we are collaborating with the Punjab government, Punjab Technical University for technical support, Indian School of Business for thought leadership and also with TiE to support one of the largest incubation centers in North India.