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Tuesday, August 19


Oh, I think its time I've to be more optimistic about India on the global sport arena.

Seeing what this young man, Abhinav Bindra has done on the world's biggest stage, I feel (and hope) India is going to feature more prominently & consistently on the Olympic medal list. First of all whole hearted congrats to Abhinav! Words cant express the gratitude to you, the lone man standing among the Indian ruins of Beijing 2008.

Watching this video has been overwhelmingly emotional..Honestly, I never felt such an overflowing sense of patriotism, pride and euphoria, anytime in the 27 years of my existence, as seeing the Tricolour rising against the background of the National Anthem.

As always the sports-lovers of the country believe that this is going to change the fortunes of the cruelly neglected, mismanaged and corrupt sports arena in India. Dirty politics, chicanery, inefficiency and all sorts of synonyms you could think of, plague the respective sports regulatory bodies. We have illustrations all around us, and sports (except for cricket) take the backstage in Indian administrator's books.

A glimpse at the success story of Abhinav Bindra is a testimonial. He took up shooting seriously as a competition event in his early childhood and had the support of his affluent family. Abhinav also had the luxury of practicing in his personal air-conditioned shooting range at his Chandigarh home. This facility was fitted with all world class equipments including imported rifles, computer analytic system and other essential amenities.

Shooting is always a very expensive sport to pursue, which only the rich and affluent could afford. Abhinav and Gagan Narang have financially strong family backgrounds whereas Rajyavardhan Rathore is a high ranking Army personal. But what about those events which requires broader support and grooming from grassroot levels?

The plight of football, hockey and other physical sports events highlight the point that something is seriously wrong somewhere in India. And we all know what this 'something' and 'somewhere' is...The miserable state of our National sport, Hockey is a classic illustration. India last won the Gold in 1980, and from there its been a steady down slide.. And now it has hit the trough with a crash-bang, seeing an Olympics Hockey list sans India! A new low for the sports lovers...

The Hockey debacle has led to one of the major purification of the ruling body with the super-cop turned sports administrator KPS Gill and his footlickers shown the door, ending his 14 years of misrule. The next pest in firing line must be the Indian Olympic Association(IOA) President Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, who've been at the helm since 1996. The latest parasitic infestation of Sports Governing bodies by politicians is of BCCI by the useless Sarad Pawar, who doesn't even know how to hold a cricket bat.

This political interference is not the only cause of the Indian debacles on World stages. The ones in charge seems least bothered about the complete lack of Infrastructure at community levels. How do you unearth and harness talents if you don't have the necessary framework to mould it?

The sad state of the G. V. Raja Sports School in Trivandrum explains it all. The school, dedicated to sports development, doesn't even have a clay track for its athletes(dreaming of a Synthetic track is like going to Mars). The long jump pit has more gravels than sand and a swimming pool exists only as drawings.

International Stadium, Cochin pic courtesy Stillwater

The existing stadiums in the state are more often used for Film Award functions, dog shows and consumer exhibitions. The so-called International Stadium in Cochin only hosts Cricket matches every other year. A Swimming Pool Complex of 'International' standards is being built at Pirappincode for the last 8 still doesn't have even a drop of water inside. The University Stadium in my neighbourhood in Trivandrum looks better like the Serengeti plains during summer...brown and bushy...Oh, lately they've built a Synthetic track at Maharaja's ground..thats a biiiiiiig achievement. ;)

I've genuine doubts as to the job description of the Sports Ministry and its Minister. One main job of the minister seems to be giving out statements like "50 lakhs to promote Weightlifting in Kerala"( after Malleswari bronze in Sydney 2000), "Football to be rejuvenated"(after Santhosh Trophy win in 2003-04) and "Tennis clubs to be formed across the state"(when Sania Mirza came here for some Jewellery opening). The latest gimmick is about "a shooting complex in Thodupuzha" just after the Bindra Gold at Beijing...

Is there no end to this farce?

India will be second to none in the Global sports stage if adequate money and willpower is instilled into attracting and grooming the raw talents in the nation's heartlands. But with pests like Kalmadia and clueless administrators like sports Minister M. S. Gill reigning, the light appears far. A touch more effort from the administrators would've seen boxers like Akhil Kumar stepping up on the Olympic podium to glorify the nation.

Akhil, who had to choose between his food and boxing gloves, is a reflection to the state of affairs of our sportsmen.

How long will a person be able to keep the passion in him against the fire in his stomach?

Which parent will be allowing his child to pursue a career in Sports, risking the kids life and a chance to live well?

We've enough and more examples of sportsmen who struggled for a livelihood just because they became professional sportsmen... Vijayan, Pappachan, Satyan...They got nothing other than empty promises and broken careers. How long will we go on with one Cricket and self-built successes like Abhinav?

PS: If you wish to relay your personal greetings to Abhinav Bindra, log on to his blog . A really good role model for the youth...educated, humble, self-controlled, sportsman, businessman and familyman! May be like what Raymonds have been searching for all these years...the complete man.

Sunday, August 3

The Silicon State

If the ambitious plans by the Govt. of Kerala are turned to reality, then the state will soon turn into the first true Silicon Valley in India.

Too tall a hope, some would say, and even I'm not so freak an optimistic to dream that Kerala would threaten the throne of Bangalore, the undisputed Silicon City of India. Numbers make the fact clear; Bangalore employs 6 lakh software professionals and Kerala just over 25,000...comparing Ferrari with Maruti 800 eh?

Kerala plans to follow the Bangalore success story in its own unique way, by spreading the IT wave all across the state. The state has adopted a unique scheme to augment and disperse its IT development instead of the single-city oriented method adopted by our neighbouring states.

In other words Kerala plans to become the first real Silicon Valley in India, adopting the same pattern of development of the Californian blue chip valley.

Silicon Valley in California encompasses the whole of the northern part of the Santa Clara Valley consisting of as much as 25 cities and counties. With a population of 2.4 million, the Silicon Valley is home to the giants of the hi-tech industries like Apple, eBay, Google, Cisco, Intel et al. It unofficially stretches to about 150km from San Francisco to Gilroy and another 100+ km from San Jose to Union City and beyond. In simple words, a colossal continuous techno-corridor.

Silicon Valley map

This is exactly what Kerala hopes to emulate...a continuous urban conglomerate dotted with hi-tech industrial havens at regular intervals. The hub-and-spoke model, as they call it, envisages mega IT Parks at hub-cities and associated technology parks at neighbouring districts. Arguably a greener model of development; also a balanced and sustainable one, if everything goes according to plan.

And that is one biiiiig 'if'...

There are obvious advantages and drawbacks to such a structure, especially in the IT world. Advantage being that our cities would be relieved from a permanent market-day scenario as in Bangalore or Chennai, where the roads to these Software Parks are chronically plagued by gridlocks. Concentration and load of pressure on the infrastructure could be well dispersed and the cities will be more equipped to catch up with the necessities. And development would reach out to all corners of the state, instead of intensifying in a single city or region.

As per the blueprint, there will be 3 Technology hubs in the state. The Technopark in Trivandrum, Infopark in Cochin and the upcoming Cyberpark in Calicut. The Technopark is already the biggest IT Park in the country in terms of built-up space and employs over 18K professionals. Infopark, around 200km from Technopark has grown pretty quickly in its short tenure so far, and is going to harbour the much touted Smart City in its premises. The Cyberpark in Calicut is still in the womb, and is also located at about 200km from Infopark.

The idea is to develop satellite centres to these 3 IT hubs and allow development to spill into neighboring districts. The Technopark, nestled in 375+ acres of evergreen land is getting a sibling in the name of Technocity, a massive 500 acre park, threatening to outdo the big brother in all aspects. The third IT Park will be developed in Kollam district, 50 km from the Technocity.

Technopark areal pic courtesy Ajay Prasad

Plans are afloat for a Trivandrum- Kollam infrastructural corridor, and these 3 technoparks will form the nucleus of the development. Already the stretch of NH 47 along this Technopark-Technocity corridor is witnessing unprecedented boom and a handful of private technology parks are slated to appear along this corridor.

Inforpark will be the hub of developments across 5 districts in Central Kerala. Apart from the Smart City which promises nearly 1 lakh jobs, there will be 3 more technology parks coming under the Infopark brand; 2 each in Alappuzha district and 1 in Trichur district. The triplets will be at a radius of 75km from Infopark and will be christened Infopark-Cherthala, Infopark-Ambalappuzha and Infopark-Trichur, after the places they will be born.

Smart City and Infopark plan

Ernakulam district which houses the Infopark is already on the overdrive with over a dozen massive IT-related projects up its sleeve. This region is expected to throw up anything over 2.5 lakh blue-chip jobs when the proposed developments are realized.

, the new yet-to-be-born kid on the bloke is all set to regroup the surging hopes of Malabar. This small 68 acre affair has already started making waves in the regional real estate front. Cyberpark will come up along the newly opened NH 17 Calicut Bypass, and the space has already been reserved by IT companies.

This development is a crucial shot in the arm for Calicut city as well, which was forced to take the back seat in Kerala IT development. A major commercial centre and the capital of the Malabar region, Calicut has all the necessary ingredients to become the third software hub of Kerala. Cyberpark, once up and running, will have associated centres in Kannur and Kasargode districts. The Calicut International Airport, IIM-Calicut, NIT-Calicut and the proposed Kannur Airport will add to the advantages of this region.

Malabar area and the proposed IT Parks (click for higher resolution)

Such a model of development enhances the growth of local IT entrepreneurs like UST Global, IBS and co as we could provide easy low cost start-up options for the newbies. Local economy will flourish all around the state. This model could also reduce the attrition levels in the companies as the professionals get increased chance to work near their native places.

Development of infrastructure is quintessential to the success of this style. There should be quick, hassle-free and efficient modes of transport from one end of the state to another. Cities must adapt themselves to the requirements of the young professionals, and Kerala must shed its orthodox and archaic mindset against industrialization. A new work culture must evolve, devoid of hartals, nokkukooli and other menaces which hinder development.

Silicon Valley

It will be interesting to see how this model works out, say in 15 years time. Trivandrum, Cochin and Calicut would've established themselves as IT heartlands but the growth in the associated small centres remains to be seen. But the officials in charge seems confident; it will be slow but sure!

So is this the start of another Kerala model of development?