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West Bengal does IT

January 20, 2007 02:35 IST

If the announcement of big commercial real estate projects is any indication, West Bengal's information technology industry is booming.

According to the state government projections, additional floor-space of close to 13.3 million square feet will be available to companies ready to open office in Sector V, Salt Lake and Rajarhat, the IT hub adjacent to Kolkata.

So, which are the large projects under construction, or ready to open in the coming year or so in this area?

There's the high-profile Globsyn Crystals, a 6,00,000 sq ft 'intelligent work habitat' for the IT/BPO industry. The Rs 150 crore-project is a venture between IT entrepreneur and Globsyn Techologies chairman, Bikram Dasgupta, and two city-based realtors, Bengal Shrachi and the Surekha Group, who have set up Intelligent Infrastructure Limited, to look at IT-specific developments. The project received a boost when New Vernon, the US-based India-specific private fund, picked up a 50 per cent stake in it for Rs 30 crore last year.

Next, there is Bengal Shrachi which is coming up with the 6,50,000 Synthesis Business Park in nearby Action Area I in Rajarhat. "It'll be meant for all corporates, not just IT," says Rahul Todi, Shrachi's managing director.

Among the other huge projects in the area is Godrej Properties's first project in the state -- Godrej Waterside -- an 18 lakh sq ft commercial real-estate split into two towers -- and another for which the company has tied up with Simoco, making for a total built space of 3.3 million square feet and an investment of approximately Rs 350 crore.

Then there's Unitech Infospace, an IT park spread over 50 acres again in Rajarhat which will have 50 million sq ft of built space. The first 7,50,000 sq ft will be ready to enter the market by the end of this year, with the rest coming in six tranches of 7,00,000 sq ft every nine months or so, until the completion of the project in 2010.

As for the DLF IT Park, one of the four towers -- the 5,00,000 lakh sq ft IBM office -- was inaugurated in September last year. Companies like Genpact and HSBC have booked space in the other three towers of the 13 lakh sq ft park, due to be inaugurated later this year.

Of the other high-profile projects nearing completion in the area are Ascendas's 20 acre IT park, a 20 lakh sq ft BPO facility from the Videocon-Salarpuria combine, and another similarly large one besides the Bengal Intelligent Park's around 6,60,000 sqft.

There are comparatively smaller projects too -- The Hub, a 3,00,000 sqft office building by the PS Group and Srijan Group; and Pinnacle, another 3,36,000 sq ft property in Sector V by South City Projects.

Not only are these projects big in dimension, they are also ambitious in other ways. Technopolis, the 6,75,000 sq ft office building which became functional a few months ago, is the country's first IT-office space to be certified a 'green building' by US LEEDS. Bengal Shrachi's Synthesis Business Park will also incorporate elements of green design, and use 'modern materials and energy saving systems to produce a smart building'.

The projects are not lacking in aspirational adjuncts too. Globsyn Crystals will not only have facilities for round-the-clock global video-conferencing, but it will also have a lounge bar where office-goers can unwind after a hard day at work, and a high-end business club, besides the on-campus superstore, food courts, bank, and beauty salons which have become more commonplace in these swanky workplaces.

Unitech Infospace is the other one that will bring in 'futuristic concepts' of architectual design and technological convenience. Designed by RMJM of Hong Kong — the firm which has also created the Beijing Olympics Convention Centre -- the complex will house independent buildings with 2,00,000 sq ft-3,00,000 sq ft built space built around a central spine.

But the more important question is, is there adequate demand for this abundance of IT office space set to hit the markets, especially with the three bandhs that took place in a single month, December, and the setting up of the first trade union for IT workers late last year.

Opinion is divided on this issue within the real estate community in the city. Rahul Saraf, the man behind Infinity and Technopolis -- two of city's most largest and most cutting-edge IT real-estate projects until now, is cautious, "There's been a definite slowdown in demand. I'd say the bandhs have set back things by a year. Two companies, among the top 10 names in the country, were very keen to take up space in Technopolis. They had been sending us questionaires after questionaires on the mail. Now they've kept Kolkata on watch. Looking at all this, we've decided to trim down work on Technopolis II."

However, almost everyone elese is optimistic. Rahul Todi of Bengal Shrachi reports that the response to Synthesis, which opened for bookings a couple of months ago, has been decent. Pradip Chopra of the PS Group is similarly nonchalant, "There is no problem."

Given the large investments by real-estate companies and the dreams of industrial resurgence that the state chief minister has been weaving, one can only hope that he is right.

Gargi Gupta in New Delhi