The IT industry, globally, has undergone a massive transition during the pandemic period and tech parks are no longer what they used to be.
With the hybrid mode of working – a combination of work from home and office – becoming the new normal, IT parks have been compelled to redefine their roles. It is at this post-pandemic juncture that Susanth Kurunthil has assumed the office of the chief executive officer (CEO) of Infoparks Kerala.
Kurunthil, a seasoned IT professional and business leader, is clear about the task at his hand. “We are trying to become an ecosystem builder rather than an infrastructure provider,” he says in a special interview with Onmanorama.
Kurunthil’s appointment comes at a time when Kerala is re-branding itself as a pro-business state aiming to become a knowledge-based economy. The State Government has announced its ambitious plan to become ‘industry 4.0 ready’ by 2028. The CEO, who manages the five Infopark campuses in the state, is confident that the entity is equipped to contribute maximum to the plan and to embrace the imminent AI revolution.
In this interview, he also speaks about the IT park’s proposed work-near-home facility, the need to build a resource pool, and the debate on whether pubs are necessary for the IT industry to thrive.
“We have close to 580 companies operating out of five Infopark campuses – three in Kochi and one each in Koratty (Thrissur) and Cherthala (Alappuzha). About 65,000 people are employed in these companies. As of last December, software exports from Infoparks stood at about Rs 8,500 crore. If you compare this with the national figures, it would be minuscule, but we have quite a lot of plans to see how we can increase our footprints in the national IT scenario,” Kurunthil says.
Post-pandemic, work culture has moved from being time-based to outcome-based. This is one of the major areas where Infoparks has to adapt, he says. "Now people are looking if they can get a job done rather than looking at the time one spends on the task. Overall, the workplace has become very different. We have been an infrastructure provider so far. When we look at how things are working after the pandemic, we see we will have to provide a lot more facilities to our customers as compared to just infrastructure. We are trying to become an ecosystem builder rather than an infrastructure provider,” he says.
‘Work near home project’
“Enhanced productivity, less commute and hence lesser carbon footprint and better ‘work-life balance’ are the advantages of 'work from home' concept. At the same time, working in an office means you will have better socialisation, teamwork and better infrastructure. We are looking at how we can combine the best of both worlds. ‘Work near home’ means an office much closer in terms of accessibility. If you have an office which is at the centre of a transportation hub then it will be much easier for people to get there. The Kerala government has been discussing this concept for some time. We are building a pilot facility at Ernakulam South which is a major transportation hub. People from nearby districts and even within the city can easily reach the place as compared to travelling to Infopark (situated on the outskirts of the city at Kakkanad). Or even if somebody's employer is in Technopark Thiruvananthapuram or Bengaluru or Hyderabad, and their place is somewhere close to Kochi they can come to our facility and work. Once the pilot project is successful, we will be expanding it to other parts of the state as well.”
Talking about other IT majors starting their offices in the state, Kurunthil says the need is to build a resource pool that suits the demands of the industry. “Post-pandemic, the focus has shifted from infrastructure to resource availability when it comes to somebody coming and setting up their shop here. We need to ensure that we have the right resources – starting from freshers to experienced hands – available for companies working on cutting-edge technologies. To get experienced talents, we really have to attract them, and then once we have a good resource pool here, obviously the big players will come.”