Andhra split may help Vizag develop into IT hub

Visakhapatnam or Vizag was expected to be developed as the second IT and IT-enabled services hub after Hyderabad, but it never really took off. With division of the state, there may yet be hope. When the AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC) made land allotments in 2006 to set up the IT Park on Hill Number 2 at Rushikonda, there was a lot of interest among investors to develop it as a major IT destination. However, the government bungled its policy and as a result the IT Park still remains without basic amenities. Not even a proper bus connection has been provided.

P Vishnu Kumar Raju, president of the Rushikonda IT Park Association. says a year after allotting, the APIIC decided to convert it into a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and converted the land allotments into lease agreements of 99 years. "The lease agreements were full of conditions that were not conducive when you are just starting up. There were conditions that there should be 100-employees per acre, you cannot sub-lease the premises or, have a co-developer. As a result, apart from those who invested initially, no new company is willing to come. It has become a sick SEZ now without even basic amenities like streetlights and public transport connectivity. In spite of having so much potential to do more, Vizag has been able to contribute only Rs 1,600 crore as IT exports. No one listens to our complaints. We meet ministers and officials, they make plans and they remain plans only,"' Raju said.

The existing IT firms and the IT associations are making concerted efforts to draw the attention of the state government to Visakhapatnam, especially after the Congress Working Committee paved the way for Telangana on July 30, but they say the government's response is cold.

The state government is building incubation centres at two places in Visakhapatnam but Raju, who also heads the Vizag Development Council, fears they may suffer the same fate as the IT Park. "Buildings have been constructed by developers and owners and there is so much empty space available for any new company to come and start work but the existing rules are detrimental. Even if a few amendments are made in the lease policy, a number of new companies can come in and start operations immediately," says Raju. He feels that if a few more IT companies come in and other sectors develop, the migration of talent from Seemandhra to Hyderabad will reverse as employment opportunities increase.

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