State of the Economy 2018

Same Old Problem

Howrah’s traditional industries like jute and foundries are struggling, while younger sectors like software services face a Catch-22 situation

Photographs by Sandipan Chatterjee

Sector V in Salt Lake is a maze. The narrow streets that make up the IT and ITES hub of Kolkata look nearly the same. High-rises flank the road; makeshift tea and food stalls sell everything from rolls to biryani; and a movie theatre is the go-to place for Salt Lake’s corporate crowd. Somehow, every possible structure has managed to squeeze itself into an already jam-packed setting. And the neighbourhood has only become more crowded over the years.

In fact, ask any fresh engineering graduate of their company of choice, and it will be one of the IT giants such as TCS, Cognizant or Wipro. As for their city of choice, many are willing to relocate to grab their dream job. Abhishek Rungta of Indus Net Technologies calls it a Catch-22 situation where residents promptly leave the state for better opportunities outside while IT giants refuse to expand their operations in Kolkata, doubtful about their ability to get adequate talent. 

Sure, these IT majors have been in the city for a while, which means it is incorrect to assume that the city lacks jobs. A few of them, including TCS and Cognizant have even expanded their operations to New Town, the new IT zone of the city. Infosys, too, is constructing a campus in New Town at an investment of Rs.100 crore and has plans to recruit about 1,000 people.

While that may sound promising, the talent pool is still not large enough to get big companies excited. A lot of companies started out in Salt Lake in the 1990s, given its attractive low rentals. Even today, rent continues to be as low as Rs.35-45 per sq ft a month compared with Delhi (Rs.111) or Bangalore’s (Rs.81) IT hubs, but that is no longer seen as a big attraction, given the talent shortage. Besides the bigger IT firms, Salt Lake has a host of small local players and the story is no different for them. According to industry sources, they have to spend months retraining their employees because they are not job-ready, be it for software development or other IT-related jobs.

But some local IT firms are looking at this skill gap as an opportunity. Globsyn group already has its own finishing school and skill development programme, and plans to set up an incubator centre to train entrepreneur

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