Kerala's lack of youth joints may hamper IT growth

Monday, 27 October 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as Kerala woos technology firms, company officials and footloose and fancy free employees say one of the biggest problems of the state is the lack of discothèques, pubs and leisure facilities.

The Kerala government is busy trying to get IT firms to set up shop in the state, particularly in the Technopark here.

But the lack of hangout joints where busy employees, mostly youngsters, can let their hair down after a hard day's work, is seeing cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad gain an edge.

"It is difficult to get high profile IT professionals from elsewhere in the country to come to Kerala because what we lack is a cosmopolitan outlook and facilities.

"The social infrastructure is lacking. Nor do we have the facilities at Technopark, even though there is a club that has come up recently," said V.K. Mathews, chairman of IBS, one of the biggest IT companies in Technopark.

Thiruvananthapuram still does not have a discotheque, nor are there beer pubs or a club with these facilities near the Technopark campus. The nearest clubs the city provides are at least 17 km away and access is restricted to members.

Technopark opened its doors to companies in 1993 and today it has 65 firms.

The Technopark's first CEO, G. Vijayaraghavan, said a lack of hangout joints wasn't the only problem afflicting the state.

"The frequent strikes that are causing impediments to the smooth functioning of IT companies are another problem.

"Also, despite the government saying it is promoting IT in Kerala, politicians and the bureaucracy are found wanting."

He admitted: "Yes, I don't rule out the lack of social infrastructure, but that is not a major handicap. A few high brass of certain companies in fact have said the lack of these facilities has helped them because a lot of distraction to their employees actually causes more harm than good."

However, there are many who would disagree with Vijayaraghavan.

Sunil Gupta, chief of IVL India, one of the first companies to open at Technopark, said officials had not yet fulfilled their promise to give an easily accessible club in this city a liquor license, despite repeated requests.

"Why talk only about here, I was really surprised and so were my Australian clients who were told at a hotel in Kovalam that beer couldn't be supplied.

"Definitely, a lack of leisure activities is a big drawback and this could be one reason why Kerala has not made the desired progress in this area," said Gupta.

IT professional Kiran Mathews lamented: "This is the right place for newly married couples and young families and not for bachelors. Friends often call up to find out if the position has changed. But this place is really conservative."

Another employee of a tech firm, Jacob Thomas, said the lack of places to unwind made Kerala an unattractive destination for the mostly young workforce.

Now all eyes are on Infosys, which is going to set up shop opposite to the Technopark campus here shortly. Young IT professionals hope the tech major's arrival will liven up things and encourage more firms to come to Kerala.

Source: IANS
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