Why Pune fails to match San Jose

By siliconindia staff writer   |   Tuesday, 23 March 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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PUNE: Enough has been written about why Pune is still not evolving as a software destination. Most meetings and conferences that one attends on this subject in Pune, as head of a technology company with branches in three Indian cities, seem to trot out the same old tales: The lack of an international airport, the high cost of communications or it not being a state capital, reports Economic Times

These are what are typically known as "hardware solutions", involving high capital cost to rectify.

That these, and other similar reasons, are of no tangible weight, can be best understood if one compares the situation with Pune's "soulsister city", San Jose, California. Better-known as "Silicon Valley", San Jose does not have an international airport. It depends on San Francisco, over an hour-and-a-half drive away. (Mineta municipal airport, San Jose, like our very own Lohegaon, also shuts down at night).

California's capital city, Sacramento, has very little relevance on what happens once the taxes are collected. And as for communications, the functional port of Oakland is as distant from San Jose as is our very own JNPT/Uran.

But hey, does anybody have any doubts that San Jose is the centre of the infotech world, and makes sure that everybody knows it? So what are the real reasons behind Pune not emerging, if not in fact, at least in perception, as the leading technology centre it rightfully should?

Here is one considered analysis, after five years in Pune. The downsides specific to Pune, within an Indian scenario, unfortunately, are of the sort that add up.

a) Octroi: Starting from when you are accosted at Pune's Lohegaon airport, if you are carrying a camera or laptop, to the grovelling octroi person demanding entry into your unit to charge octroi on software sales. We need not even mention the confusion around octroi payable on dutyfree imports. The complete experience is very unpleasant and unnerving. Especially if an octroi vehicle is parked outside your software unit, insisting on "checking" octroi documents of private and personal vehicles owned by staff.This is unique to Pune. There are more "jakat nakas" (octroi posts) in and around Pune than any other city in India.

b) MSEB: In spite of paying every possible commercial charge and higher deposits, a regular visit by state electricity board (MSEB) inspectors, about once every six months,with verbal threats of shutting off the power supply, is part of the routine. Again, proper and absolute paperwork as well as filing saves the day. But being hauled up for placing eight-to12-hour battery back-ups, in addition to gensets, due to MSEB's own problems, is not experienced in other cities.

c) PMC: Road repairs are used as an excuse to block access to software units and this is a game played with reasonably regular accuracy.

First, roads get damaged for a variety of reasons. Next, wait for the monsoons to destroy them completely. Third, collect funds through the societies.

Fourth, dig the road, destroy or block alternative access routes, lay huge boulders, and then vanish from the scene, leaving behind two labourers with hammers.

Meanwhile, tow away the two-wheelers left parked on the roadside. If that is not enough, cut the various telephone and telecom lines.

d) Fear Factor: Again, very specific to the Mumbai-Pune belt, and need not be discussed much further. Due to... fear factor. There is more state-of-the-art technology moving out of Pune but the entities involved would rather keep quiet about it.

This is the single largest reason why many technology companies in Pune choose to remain low-key.

e) Public transport: The lack of proper taxis and autorickshaws, like in Mumbai, is devastating, especially in a city where parking problems are catching up with those in Mumbai.

f) Access to government: In cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad, software units can approach various arms of the government in case of help. This, in turn, leads to a very healthy two-way relationship. Here in Pune, this simply does not happen

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