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Disruptive technologies need of the hour: JA Chowdary

Jayarama Emani

Mr. Jakkampudi Adiseshaiah Chowdary has been a prominent name in the IT industry of AP for well over two decades now. JA, as he is popularly known is credited with developing the IT Industry in the States of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. He has also been the Founding Director of STPI Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.
Being one of the prime movers in establishing the IT Industry in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, JA played a major role in initiating the IIIT at Hyderabad.
Apart from the IT industry JA has also contributed to several reputed organizations like the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), The Corporate Research & Development Wing Of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Department Of Electronics, Software Technology Parks Of India (STPI),Metamor Enterprises Solutions (India),Portal Player Pvt Ltd & NVIDIA Graphics Pvt Ltd.
Currently with Talent Sprint as Its Co-founder & Executive Chairman, JA Chowdary is also The Chairman of Monarch Infotech Services Pvt Ltd.
In a freewheeling chat with Vizag Industrial Scan, JA shares his views on the future of one of the most significant and revenue generating IT industry in Telangana and the still nascent IT industry in Seemandhra.

Your thoughts on Bifurcation and how the industry should deal with it?
Bifurcation though bit painful to each one of us is helping both the States. Concentration only on Hyderabad alone was a mistake. After all, Ananthapur from where I hail is close to Bangalore also. Similarly, each district could have been developed based on its inherent natural resource advantage.
After the bifurcation, Entrepreneurs, Politicians, Governments and Citizens both in Telangana and Seemandhra have realised that focusing on Hyderabad alone in a big way was a mistake and this awakening will augur well for both the States.
However, every challenge throws an opportunity and the ones who think out-of-the-box and are innovative can make the most out of a new State like Seemandhra that too under a proven leader who is tech-savvy.
A crisis if not initially, will always pave way for development of intellect. For example, the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki awakened the Japanese to become one of the super-powers in the World.
Similarly, the bifurcation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh has also awakened the local entrepreneurs to focus on the development of their native districts and towns which is a healthy sign. The days where everyone will only look at Hyderabad as the epicentre for development will end sooner or later.

What would you identify as some of the Challenges and Opportunities that the two new states now face?
The Governments of both Telangana and Seemandhra must look beyond Hyderabad and other developed areas and start focusing to build IT clusters in other districts because each job generated in the IT and ITeS domain(s) creates additional four jobs – be it a cab driver, a security guard, a cook or a call centre executive.
A well-educated youth can find work anywhere and he will go places. But it is not the case with un-skilled labour that generally prefers to stick to their place of nativity. So the development or employment generation needs to happen at the district level.
The concept of “Smart Cities” will throw a plethora of opportunities for technology-driven companies starting from Wi-Fi to installing state-of-the-art security systems. It is also a boom time for construction companies to innovate and come big on e-constructions.
The case of Seemandhra State is that of “incubating” phase whereas Telangana thanks to Hyderabad is on the expansion mode. While Telangana is like the big-brother which does not need any hand-holding, Seemandhra is like the younger one who still needs the impetus and guidance to the future. It’s not like which is the most loved one, but that needs care to grow into the future.
Seemandhra neither has the revenue nor capital or the necessary infrastructure to create jobs. Employment generation can only be done through private sector and private investment.
Now is the time to think about policies that are not only innovative but disruptive to fuel growth in Seemandhra like the Telecom revolution. Disruptive technologies like mobile technologies or any other out-of-the-box inventions need to be given a fillip to fast-track development in Seemandhra.
World over wealth creation is done by SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) at the micro level and then come the Fortune 500 companies at the macro level. For mid-size companies getting quality workforce is a big challenge. Fortune 500 companies or other Indian IT majors can heavily invest for their training needs.
But with meagre margins, SMEs cannot invest on manpower and they need ready to use workforce.

Finding skilled manpower is a crucial issue faced by the IT industry. What recommendations would you give to the government in addressing this problem?
Government should address this problem by revamping the syllabus of important disciplines like Engineering and Management so that they are industry-ready. Institutions should be tailored made in such a way that they act as “finishing schools” for the industry.
Where human capital is good, industry will flourish be it Engineering, Management or any other technology.
Unlike in the past, most of the jobs in IT sector have become digitised. Today most of the jobs are high-end skill jobs. Complexity of jobs is increasing but the quality of manpower is dropping which is a precarious situation.
The economies in the West especially US and Europe are picking up again and there are a lot of business opportunities cropping up. But for the SMEs to catch up with these, they do not have the funding to scale up their business because Bank funding in India is too expensive and a cumbersome process. As a result, the SMEs are not able to grow they want to and facing stiff competition from big companies. There is no level playing field.
There are no SEZs for SMES, no funding from banks and with no chance of hiring skilled manpower, the SMEs which are the growth engines are going down the drain. Lack of tax holidays is also turning out to be big bane for SMEs.
If a comprehensive IT Policy can be brought into effect addressing the problems mentioned above, you can expect companies from India and across the globe to show interest in setting up shop not only in Hyderabad or Vijayawada or Visakhapatnam, but in a majority of the districts from Telangana and Seemandhra.
Gone are the days of subsidies and free power and other amenities, the government should provide concessions that the industry particularly SMEs need.

How do you see the road ahead for the two states? Also could you elaborate on IDF and its role?
In Telangana, Hyderabad has the potential to become the new silicon valley of India. With educational institutes of repute like ISB, IIIT, NALSAR, BITS Pilani and great infrastructure to its credit coupled with low cost of living as compared to other metros, start-up companies can become great incubation companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.
Telangana IT and Panchayati Raj Minister, Mr K T Rama Rao has already open the doors for a big incubation centre in IIIT which is a very good move. So far we have been shouting about IT Services from roof tops, but the next wave in Hyderabad must be of product companies. Services sector will take its natural growth path.
Made in Hyderabad products or IP should be the next milestone for many of the start-up companies. This Telangana government should be keen to promote.
IP Creation, Product Development and Electronic Manufacturing Processes should be the focus areas for start-ups around Hyderabad and neighbouring districts. As a result, Hyderabad can be positioned as a Global Silicon Valley start-up.
Branding exercise for Seemandhra capital needs to be perfect similar to the way me, Chandrababu Naidu and others have done for Hyderabad two decades ago. Now is the time to take branding exercise for every major city like Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Vijayawada and Ananthapur which is close to Bangalore. This branding exercise needs to be done on a massive scale to attract investments in the Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals, Automotive and Tourism sectors. When Goa with such a thin coastline can promote tourism then why cannot Seemandhra.
Visakhapatnam is highly connected and is a good option for developing IT clusters. Bhubaneshwar (Orissa), Kharagpur, Kolkata (West Bengal) have traditionally been industrial hubs neighbouring Visakhapatnam. Beach, Araku Valley and the destinations on the hill side augur well for the development of the IT sector in Visakhapatnam.
IDF (Industrial Development Fund)
Industry Development Forum (IDF) is a self-funded non-profit advisory body promoted by me and a group of CEOs and Entrepreneurs who are very well connected locally and internationally and whose primary objective is generation of employment for the youth by involving both the Industry and the Government. Other objectives include how to mentor budding entrepreneurs and how to create wealth through skill.

Have you been able to garner any investments/commitments for the fund?
So far, we have got Rs 500-600 crore investments committed to Seemandhra. Fifteen NRI companies have also shown interest in setting up operations in Seemandhra due to our efforts. Some Bangalore-based companies have expressed interest to set up facilities in Visakhapatnam.
Through IDF we are giving lot of suggestions to Government and the IT Secretary not only on IT Policy but also on Industrial Policy in general.
Because of the presence of many ports in Seemandhra, Manufacturing sector will flourish there. As a result, employment generation will also take place at a brisk space. Our IDF team went to Gujarat and studied some of the policies and procedures implemented in ports out there and we have suggested some of them to the Labour Secretary here in Seemandhra so that we have conducive environment to bring the manufacturing giants to Seemandhra through proper Labour Policy.
IDF has become an ambassador for both States of Telangana and Seemandhra to attract investments with little more emphasis on the later as it is taking its first steps towards self sustenance. At the same time, I have made myself and will be available to K Taraka Rama Rao always.
The idea is not to do anything to one brother at the cost of the other. At the end of the day, we are all Telugu speaking brothers.
If we are able to invite good anchor companies to Visakhapatnam to generate the critical mass, a majority of middle management employees from Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune and Chennai will be willing to migrate to Visakhapatnam.
If SME companies can be given packages, more of them will be willing to set up operations in Visakhapatnam which will help in the development of the Port city.
Brand Visakhapatnam needs a push and if it is done, it could be a good viable IT destination for Seemandhra.

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