IT industry veteran, TV Mohandas Pai, was recently in Goa on a short visit. As an outsider member of the state IT advisory committee, Pai’s perspective on the Goan quest to become a future technology hub is important. His frank reply to questions posed by Shoma Patnaik reveal that, Goa certainly faces a challenge in coming up in IT
- Q: When cities like Bang, Pune, Hyd are already well developed in IT, does Goa faces a challenge in becoming the next hub?
Of course Goa faces a challenge. It is way behind. We have to admit that. Goa has to move very fast and it must have a unique strategy. The unique strategy can lie in focusing on the creative aspects of IT. For e.g., design, the intersection of design and IT, the intersection of media and IT, creation of content, video content, and some cool stuff with data analytics. So you have to do some specialized stuff and for that you have to attract smaller IT companies to come. Smaller creative companies will come provided there is a good quality of life. What we recommended to the Goan government is have a policy whereby they companies can go take a bunglow and make it as an office. So that it will be a nice place to work.
- Q: Don’t you think Goa already has good quality of life?
Goa has good quality of life, but what is your good quality of life? You got beach, sun, friendly people, good food, but do you have IT? So how do you connect the availability of good quality of life and say it is good for IT? For e.g., the air in Delhi is foul, in Bangalore there is a massive traffic jam, Hyderabad also has the same problem of congestion because of high growth. So there are many people who say I want to take a break. You can attract them by focusing on your strengths. Goa’s strengths are not technology. The strength is also not wonderful people coming out of its universities. As a small state, your strength is being well governed with nice surroundings. But of course there are some challenges, for instance, the taxi mafia and also the problem of lack of talent.
- Q: What is lacking in local talent?
Goa does not have the talent that IT requires. The industry needs high quality engineers. High quality means specialized engineers. You have the IIT here but with IIT’s you can’t do anything. On the other hand, you have the NIT with 40 per cent reservation for locals. That is good. But you have the GEC which is untapped. The GEC requires massive investment by the state government so that it becomes like an IIT over the next 10 years. It needs investment, sprucing up of the campus, new labs, specialization in courses and syllabus.
- Q: Did you visit GEC recently to make the judgement?
I visited GEC but I am very disappointed. GEC should be the jewel in the crown for Goa. You have to invest in the institution to bring it up. GEC is funded by the government so government needs to give it more money. The most important asset any state can have is its people and the most important input for people is higher education. So Goa has to invest in its higher education system, invest in the schooling system. Goa’s schooling system is good but lot more can be done. Because you are a small state if you invest in people and in good schools, for the next 10-15 years you will do very well. So the state needs to use its strength to attract and build human potential. It has to create opportunity for educated Goans. And the best opportunity is in technology. It requires a strategic plan which we have discussed with the government and given them the road map. The government has to start implementing. Your implementation is slow.
- Q: So Goa has lot of challenges?
Yes. Every state has challenges. Today the problem in Indian states is, we are solving lot yesterdays problems but not investing for the future. We have to solve yesterday’s problems and also invest for the future. And over a period of time investment for the future should be more. I am sure things can be managed in Goa but the government needs to talk to residents and communicate with them. It needs to tell them what kind of Goa can be created.
Another thing is Goans must come together. Right now there is lot of confusion too many people talking of too many things. The opposition is to good development. Some are opposing the IT Park. But the IT Park will create jobs for young people. You can’t remain cut-off from rest of the country. People are opposing beach resorts, casinos. But look what Singapore has done with casinos. For locals the Singapore government is imposed a high entry fee. So if you don’t want Goans in your casino have a high entry fee but allow outsiders to visit. The government needs money for infrastructure.
- Q: What are the three things you suggest to fast track IT in the state?
Investment in higher education, improve schools and step up the marketing. My suggestion is invest in labs, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, IoT, life sciences, cloud. At schools make sure that IT is there in all schools and colleges and teach students coding. Lastly increase the marketing and push it aggressively among investors?
- Q: Has the outside perception, in terms of Goa as the place for business?
It is happening and in fact beginning to happen. Every year in India, 3.5 lakh people get jobs in IT. Goa should get at least 15,000 -20,000 of the jobs.
- Q: What model would you suggest?
In Bangalore you can come and hire 1,000 people in any technology. Here you can’t hire even 500 people. But Goa should not follow the Bangalore model. Bangalore has got 17 lakh people working in IT which is more than the population of Goa. There will always be the question of outsider-insider in Goa because the local population is steady and outsiders are moving in.
- Q: How important is government support for creating an IT industry?
Government support is important for creating good policies, improving the quality of life, building infrastructure and for creating a good ecosystem. Government support is very important for locals as you want to boost Goan startups. Local startups have to be supported with capital and investment or else outside companies will take over.
- Q: The state has an angel investor, viz. the Goa Angels Network. How do you assess it?
It is good but they got limited capacity in terms of investible companies. So they cannot do much.
- Q: How is India’s tech economy doing?
Very well!. It will go on and on. The industry is worth around US $ 200 billion or Rs 15 lakh crore. It is possibly the largest or second largest industry in India. It is growing very fast. It will continue to grow because India requires lot more technology. The state must participate in the tech economy. It cannot be sleepy. Do more and move quickly. Goa’s pace of life and IT pace are very different. If best and brightest of local talent go away they are not going to comeback.