Director General of Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), Dr Omkar Rai, inked a MOU with the state government at the Vibrant Goa summit for an IT Park project in Dona Paula. STPI’s proposed project is important because it is the first definite investment that the state government is desperately seeking from outside investors. In the interview, Rai talks of the importance of IT parks and plans for Goa. He says to Shoma Patnaik that, STPI is willing to play a pivotal role in accomplishing the state’s vision of becoming a startup hub.
Q: How important are IT Parks today in boosting software industry?
They are very important because they create companies that will drive future industry growth. IT Parks are necessary to sustain startups and help them in ideation and product creation. Unless startups come up with new ideas they cannot generate more wealth. The IT industry of India is US $ 136 billion strong exporting industry. It provides R&D and products to customers based in Europe and America. Now the time has come for India to leverage its talent pool and covert India as a software product nation. Technology parks have a role to play in all this.
Q: What is STPI’s contribution currently in the Indian software industry?
In 2018-19, STPI contributed Rs 4,16,000 crore or close to 45 per cent or of the total software exports from India. All software exporters are not located in STPI premises. As registered units they are free to operate from wherever they are. At STPI premises we provided entrepreneurs with all the facilities, single window and the market promotion. We generally support small and medium entrepreneurs. The requirement of bigger IT companies that employ large number of workforce is met by the private sector. They require huge infrastructure that cannot be provided by us.
Q: Please elaborate on the project in Dona Paula for which the MOU is signed.
At Dona Paula we propose to set up an incubation and innovation center. The project will be developed in such a manner that it becomes a resource center for all the startups and young entrepreneurs who want to convert their ideas into software products. It will act as single window clearance for all software exporters in the state. Under the terms of the MOU the Goa government provides the land and we contribute towards creation of the facility, viz. develop the premises, the facilities, equipment, etc. As soon as we get the land we will commence work. The timeline for completion is two-and-half years time. The proposed project will involve investment of Rs 40 crore from STPI. The land is of about one lakh sq. ft.
Q: Since STPI is creating centers of excellence, will the Dona Paula project also be a new center?
STPI is creating 28 centers of excellence across India. About our Goa project I cannot say that it will be another center for excellence because it will take two-and-half years and by that time lot of developments may happen. But it is for sure that Goa is on our agenda and because of this MOU that has been signed.
Q: How do you rate Goa as an IT destination compared to other states of India?
It is a very serious destination owing to the talent it has as well as the proximity to marine installations, engineering colleges and several good academic institutions. Most important is that Goa is a very famous brand because of which it should be easy to attract investors to the state. The presence of large IT companies like Persistence and TCS and certain electronic companies indicates the possibility of mentors. We see lot of potential in the state of Goa in terms of supporting the startups in the state.
Q: So Goa has the potential to be a software hub?
Of course it has. Goa is already exporting software and has nine exporting units. The state exports software services, products and electronics. It is the testimony that there are people working here and good companies are operating from the state. Goa has people in the IT sector who are working across the value chain. They can act as guides or mentors to new units.
Q: How can Goan IT companies be pushed into the mainstream?
The government and organizations like the STPI can only create the ecosystem. It is the market forces that play a significant role in the journey of a startup. The point is that, the state can play a role by providing maximum ease of doing business through infrastructure, seed capital, risk capital, etc. Local startups can be guided but most important they have to graduate and succeed. It is very important that they work in tandem or in line with the market norms.
Q: Does working as per market forces pose a big challenge?
The point is you can take a startup to a certain level. You can provide them with incubation facilities, etc but after that it the zeal of the startup to establish themselves and their capacity to operate in an uncertain
Q: What are fab labs being set up by STPI?
A fab lab is a place where we allow engineers, entrepreneurs, artists and designers to create their own prototypes. The lab provides all sorts of facilities equipment that are needed for creation of prototypes, such as moulding, 3D printers and all sorts of things. It is an initiative in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and they have already opened a centre in Bhubaneshwar. We are trying to replicate this experiment all across the country. Democratisation of prototype is v important to India.