Pics: Ramesh Pandith
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru
Mangaluru, Mar 2: Coastal districts of Mangaluru and Udupi are well-known as educational and healthcare hubs and we take pride to be called as intelligent, educated, industrious people who have shown extraordinary entrepreneurial skills. We fortify these claims by holding on to our past glory without giving an iota of thought to our present precarious condition and to the uncertain future staring at us bleakly. This is not an attempt to sound false alarm bells but is an effort to come face to face with some stark realities we are faced with.
Every year about 60,000 students of different streams graduate from various colleges from these coastal areas. But many of us have forgotten to ask and get suitable answers to some of the basic questions that we the intelligent lot should have asked a long time back. What does the future hold for our youth in this city? Do they get employment in commensurate to their qualifications in Mangaluru? How many youngsters go out to Bengaluru and elsewhere in search of lucrative jobs? How do the girls manage when they go out of their homes? What happens to the parents of these children who stay back in Mangaluru? What are the consequences of this on these families in the long run? Has successive political leadership failed in giving us a proper track to tread? Despite projecting Mangaluru as a Tier II city why nothing has been done to generate employment and absorb our youngsters in companies based here? There are questions in plenty but without reasonable answers.
The silver lining amidst this muddled atmosphere is that some individuals have taken the cudgels upon themselves to put us back on the track. ‘Mangaluru Angels’ is an initiative spearheaded by a few successful and altruistic Mangalureans who want to lend a helping hand to young and budding entrepreneurs of these coastal regions in the form of capital, technology and knowledge support.
One of the key members of this initiative is Padmashri T V Mohandas Pai, former CFO of Infosys and current Chairman of Manipal Global education.
A recipient of Padmashri recently, TVM, as Mohandas Pai is known to everyone is actively involved in issues concerning developing human resource and education. In a free-wheeling chat with Daijiworld.com TVM, talks passionately about issues that really cry for instant attention if our coastal districts are to prosper and provide a bright future to its raw youth power.
Q. During the recent confluence Prerna you announced the setting up of Mangaluru Angels. What is it all about?
A. Mangaluru Angels will be a group of individual entrepreneurs and professionals from undivided Dakshina Kannada willing to provide seed capital and management and business expertise to budding entrepreneurs. We will start an incubator here and we want to see the first billion dollar enterprise from Mangaluru emerge in the next few years. We need to identify and tap the raw talent of our youth and their bubbling energy. This would be a great opportunity to our talented youngsters who are bold enough to take the challenge.
Q. How did the idea come about and what necessitated it when we have financial institutions to do it?
A. Angel investors is a common phenomena the world over and these organisations successfully fund a wide array of business activities. Not having sufficient capital for start up business is a major impediment for many youngsters who want to be entrepreneurs. Mangaluru Angels would fill this lacunae faced by enterprising youngsters. Financial institutions can only provide capital and getting it is not easy. Angel investors will have personal interest in the venture and would willingly share their ideas, business know-how and experience which would go a long way in ensuring the success of a business venture. The idea was mooted by Sandeep Shenoy, the chief mentor behind the Prerna initiative for VKSS students held recently. We need more entrepreneurs to bolster industry and IT sector in these coastal districts.
Q. Except for Infosys and Wipro there is no influx of well-known IT companies in Mangaluru as they prefer Bengaluru...
A. It is true that despite being projected as a tier II city Mangaluru has been stagnant as far as IT sector is concerned. Bengaluru is the preferred destination of IT professionals and there are 11.5 lakh youngsters working in IT sector with a turnover of 2,40,000 crores. By 2020 the number of IT professionals would go up to 20 lakhs overtaking even the Silicon Valley. Bangalore suffers from prosperity and the atmosphere there is favourable for IT companies. Anyone can easily start a company there and do business anywhere in the world.
Q. Where does Mangaluru stand vis-a-vis Bengaluru in placement of IT professionals?
A. It has been nearly 2 decades since major IT companies came here but nothing has changed in all these years. There is no IT boom though Mangaluru is projected as a tier II city. As per our vision 2020 we wanted to have 50,000 people working here in the IT sector and to have a turnover of 10,000 crores. As of now the turnover is only 2400 crores, which is way behind our expectations. I see no visible improvement in the coming years if we go by the current standards.
Q. Mangaluru, well-known as an educational and healthcare hub, can provide a similar conducive atmosphere for IT companies...
A. Mangaluru has failed to provide an effective eco-system for the IT industry to thrive. In the absence of a valuable ecosystem it is not possible to do business here. Therefore many companies hesitate to risk investing here unless we create an environment suitable for IT business.
Q. Mangaluru has use huge raw talent waiting to be tapped as 60,000 youngsters graduate from various colleges and universities every year...
A. A lot of our youngsters after graduation relocate to Bangalore and elsewhere as there are no job opportunities here. Where are the industries to absorb this huge number of graduates year after year? Young professionals migrate to places that offer them opportunities to use their talent and skills. Once they go to bigger cities it is not easy to bring them back. About 1500 top IT professionals from this part migrate to other cities never to come back. These districts lose a turnover of almost 150 crores every year even if we take into account only the top 1500 professionals who migrate.
Q. Is it the inadequacy of infrastructure facilities that deter IT companies?
A. Lack of infrastructure is one among the many hurdles. IT majors Infosys and Wipro have set up their campuses in Mudipu near Mangaluru University in an IT and IT enabled SEZ. The IT companies have been demanding converting the road from Thokkottu leading to SEZ into a four-lane road. Even after so many years nothing has been done so far and it is really impossible to work in a stifling atmosphere where basic infrastructural facilities are hard to come by. Look at the slow pace at which Shiradi Ghat road repair work is progressing. The proposal for carving out a tunnel road in Sharadi Ghat stretch in collaboration with a Japanese company is waiting for approval. There is lack of coordination between central and state resulting in undue delay in its repair.
Q. What happened to the IT taskforce report submitted by representatives from IT sector?
A. We submitted the report to the authorities last year and are waiting for a response. We hope the authorities concerned would respond favourably and provide necessary infrastructure to tier II cities. Unless the authorities wake up to this reality we are doomed as far as service industry is concerned.
Q. Are you saying inviting more companies to open shops here and creating more jobs is the need of the hour?
A. There is a pressing need to increase the total quantum of jobs which can be done by inviting more companies to set up business here. Now that we are planning to set up an incubator we have made a right beginning. That alone is not enough. We need a favourable support system for its smooth functioning so that companies are tempted to come here.
Q. Where do you think we have gone wrong?
A. I believe our people are truly not interested to prosper which explains our lack of progress and inability to provide job opportunities for our youth. Instead we are uprooting them from their homes and native places by sending them to other cities in search of good jobs. In is unfortunate that we suffer from leadership vacuum and there is lack of political will. If the political leadership had evinced interest and taken initiative we would have achieved the desired results. The city leadership also has failed miserably to provide leaders with vision. Can we name five city business or political leaders from this coastal area who have the capability to get things done on their own? I am disappointed by the shilly-shally attitude of our leaders towards issues that in reality call for resolute and spirited efforts and actions.
Q. What needs to be done to come out of the uncertain future staring at us?
A. We need to have a political leadership with vision. They must create different groups by involving citizens and business leaders and have a clear policy framework. They must sit and confabulate on what needs to be done and then act. We want jobs to absorb youth who graduate from the various colleges of the city. We must have more and more service industry jobs which would provide stimulus to tourism, real estate and other auxiliary industry. We need to prevent the migration of youth to bigger cities as only their aged parents will be left behind to fend for themselves if the trend continues. It is only the older generation who have an emotional connect with our native place come here and get involved in various activities. Today’s youngsters, bereft of such emotional attachment, will not take the trouble to come back. Unless we act now with the seriousness it deserves Mangaluru and Udupi will be filled with only old people in the next 25 years. The choice is ours.