India's reputation as a low-cost hub for IT "offshoring" is becoming a thing of the past and the country is emerging as an innovation hub with capacity to take ideas to commercial scale, says a leading member of a 15-strong delegation from the Indian state of Kerala, visiting New Zealand for the first time to seek new investment opportunities.
"We are looking for technology partnerships," said Hrishikesh Nair, chief executive of Infopark, an IT park in the Keralan city of Kochi, during presentations in Wellington arranged in concert with the India-New Zealand Business Council before spending two days in Auckland to meet a range of New Zealand IT companies.
Kerala state agencies, in combination with an industry body, GTech, are purusing a strategy to target markets outside the US, including Australia, Nordic countries, the UK, and eastern Europe, and has added New Zealand this year as part of a swing through Australian states.
"New Zealand is an unexplored market from the Indian side," said GTech chief executive Renjith Ramanujam, who described the mission as "exploratory", with previous experience suggesting that if there was "chemistry" for perhaps one in five of the group, new business was likely to be written.
"We are happy with ICT being 10 to 15 percent of the total engagement," he said. "We would be happy to make any number of introductions. There are lots of areas for exchange.
"If luck favours the brave, I'm sure we will have a lot of business happening," he said. A similar visit to Victorian IT companies last year saw a burst of activity and a return visit by a Victorian delegation to Kerala, which is seeking to position itself as an IT hub, with three technology parks strung along the coast of the south-eastern state, known for its environmental purity and social cohesion, as measured by the United Nations Development Index.
Compared with partnerships in China, Indian intellectual property protection was strong, said Binu Jacob, managing director of Experion Technologies and convenor of GTech's business development focus group, which is coordinating the Global IT Connect strategy.
Kerala state is targeting a doubling in its IT workforce to 500,000 in the next five years and pursuing a range of business incubator programmes, as well as lobbying the newly elected federal government of Narendra Modi to reinstate concessionary tax treatments for Software Technology Parks of India.