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IT Management: IT renaissance: India’s third cities

The extent of technological innovation coming out of an emerging tier of urban areas in India can provide lessons for IT abroad.

Romi Mahajan

India is a well-known entity to everyone in the IT world. From engineers and IT professionals in Silicon Valley to the notion of outsourcing IT services and development to teams based in India, it’s clear the country plays a strong role in the global IT value chain. Sure, there has been some controversy about jobs moving overseas, but there has been more than enough evidence to show that a strong value chain is good for all IT professionals.

There’s now a relatively unknown, but rapidly emerging, link in this value chain: India’s “third cities.” First, a quick primer on Indian political geography is in order. India has four large cities, which are referred to as “metros.” These are Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta and Chennai.

Following closely on the heels of the metros is a second tier of cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. Bangalore has long been synonymous with IT and has been dubbed India’s Silicon Valley. These cities house the bulk of India’s technology companies. They also currently occupy the majority of mindshare when it comes to India’s role in the global IT value chain.

Innovation abounds in these cities as large companies and small companies create the dialectic relationships and human-capital flow that in turn generate milieus of innovation, progress and wealth. Of course, a country of 1.2 billion people (of which 500 million or so live in urban areas) can’t be fully defined by the contributions of seven cities.

Enter the next emerging tier—India’s third cities. These are channeling grounds for incredible energy, inspiration and innovation as they apply to IT. The stories of progress emanating from these cities are noteworthy. This underscores the notion that innovation comes from all quarters, and reaffirms the importance and cohesion of the worldwide IT fraternity.

During a recent trip to Udaipur—a picturesque city in the state of Rajasthan—the potential and kinetic energy evident in the IT community was impressive. There’s some innovative and unique technological development being done there. By Indian standards, Udaipur is a small city. It boasts a population of 700,000. Within India’s boundaries, the city is known more for its lakes, palaces and tourist hot spots than for its IT community.

Nevertheless, during a visit to an animation lab that was exporting feature-length animated movies to France, Canada, and the Middle East, the renewed energy and sense of purpose was intense. The entrepreneur behind this animation studio and the bulk of his staff are native Udaipuris. They will continue to do what they do right there, as they have no desire to relocate.

Also on that trip, during a three-day-long survey of an emerging “IT Park” in the city, I had the opportunity to meet Manish Godha, an entrepreneur from Udaipur. His company is Advaiya Solutions, which creates marketing materials, product roadmaps and consumer experiences for companies such as Microsoft, Google and Boeing. The company also works closely with IT departments in North America and Europe, and domestically in India. Advaiya Solutions helps its clients manage the transition to mobile and social paradigms, and helps them position themselves as value generators, not cost centers.

During a visit to the Udaipur Chamber of Commerce and Industry, I had the opportunity to discuss the city and its IT potential with a group of successful businesspeople. They informed me an Udaipur company is the world leader in creating video walls. The traditional industries in the city, like engineering, mining, and transportation, were all hiring IT professionals to streamline operations and create value, transparency, and operational efficiency.

“Udaipur,” said one, “is a city few think about regarding technology, but it’s one in which we take tech very seriously.” The city, even though it’s thought of in India as a technology backwater, is in actuality very progressive and dynamic. Soon, cities such as Udaipur will be a haven for IT professionals, developers and the entire technology community.

The power of digital communication and digital delivery has created a world that’s more accessible to all, regardless of where they live and work. It’s a world in which two IT professionals, who live in circumstances defined by difference, can share the common threads of professional opportunities and stresses and who can work problems out together as they play their roles in the worldwide IT value chain.

Small companies in a small city in India can empower, energize and animate IT and IT professionals in Seattle, Silicon Valley, New York, London and Berlin. That’s a bold testament to the power of the value chain that thousands of people have built as they create companies—and opportunities—on a worldwide basis.

The innovation and energy of India’s third cities is something that all IT professionals should experience. These cities exemplify the importance of the trinity of themes that define IT professionals everywhere: innovation, excellence, and the desire to empower businesses to create new products and services.

Romi Mahajan

Romi Mahajan is president of KKM Group. Prior to joining KKM, Mahajan was chief marketing officer of Ascentium Corp. A well-known speaker on the technology and media circuit, he serves on a variety of advisory boards and speaks at more than a dozen industry events per year.

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