Bring IT on, Coimbatore!

The long awaited IT boom, which had been dragging its feet for a while now, seems to have finally arrived at Coimbatore. EXEC investigates.

Rajiv Ramadoss, software engineer at Bosch recently packed up from Bangalore, the IT Mecca, and moved to Coimbatore. He said, “The quality of life here is good. The pay is better than what it was even two years ago. And with the IT industry at the stage where it is, I almost feel like a pioneer. Just getting an early start before it all goes through the roof.”

He is not the only one. Now many software companies are looking closely at Coimbatore, the IT hub-in-waiting.

All the Signs Are Here

The 12th edition of Connect Coimbatore recently conducted by the Confederation on Indian Industry draws attention to the fact. Attended by IT stalwarts like Ganesh Lakshminarayan, President of DELL India, Sridhar T, Executive Vice President of CTS, Ananth Krishnan K, Chief Technological Officer, TCS and other moves and shakers of the industry, the conference was about further growth and value creation to the IT Industry in Coimbatore. Sanjay Gupta, General Manager of Le Meridien, which played host to the conference, was, at the centre of the action. “There is only good news for the IT sector as far as Coimbatore is concerned. Despite the delays”, he said.

If anyone has a finger on the pulse of Coimbatore’s economic climate, it has to be the hospitality industry. A little more than a year ago, there were no five star hotels in the city. Then out of the blue Le Meridien burst into the scene, closely followed by Aloft and Taj (which was completed in a record time of just three months) and more are in the pipeline. Surely, the sector is sensing something in the air.

And if the exponentially expanding leisure industry is anything to go by, the city seems well on its way to sorting out any deficits in its social infrastructure as well. Fun Republic and Brookfields draw such crowds that it is hard to believe the city was completely devoid of malls not too long ago. According to Karthik Balaganesan, a native of Coimbatore, “The mall culture has caught up in a big way in the city. A lot of stand-alone restaurants and fast food joints like Cream Centre, Little Italy and KFC now have outlets in Coimbatore. The city is slowly but surely shedding its conservative skin and slipping into a more cosmopolitan one”. Déjà vu, anyone?

What Took IT So Long

The initial momentum in 2005 when Coimbatore was widely being talked about as the next IT destination was not sustained. Tidel Park, a government owned SEZ, which opened two years ago, still remains largely unoccupied. Of the seven tech parks that were planned, only three seem to have taken off. CTS, L&T and Bosch who entered the market early on have existed and even thrived across the years. But not many have made the attempt to follow them. Throwing insight into this, Gupta said, “I was speaking with a few Tidel Park officials at the conference and they believe that tedious government sanctions and red tape in obtaining approvals has been a major deterrent”.

Another official from a leading industrial association sited other reasons. “Lack of good infrastructure and connectivity had been slowing down the entry of many big players into the scene”, he said. “Even 10 years ago, thought many would have liked to hope otherwise, the city didn’t have the kind of infrastructure to support IT. But there has definitely been massive improvement in these areas recently.”

Naren Rajan, Chief Executive Officer of real estate giant Tristar is fiercely proud of the city. He believes its bad policy making and not lack of demand that is driving away IT investors. “Tidel Park charges exorbitantly for space”, he said, “and CII has really not being doing enough to sell Coimbatore”. But IT or no-IT, he is confident that land is only set to increase in value. “We are just coming out of a bad phase (and seven year oscillatory real estate cycle), a lot of political money has gone into land and developers are expecting growth, especially in the residential sector. There is currently an over-supply of apartments in the city”. He pooh-poohs the low take off rate among tech parks. “40 percent of all planned projects have been executed. Can’t imagine anyone having any complaints with that”.

Techie Trouble

But R Venugopal, General Manager and Centre Head at Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions believes that the problem is not unique to the city. “IT has not caught on most Tier II cities because, though they have specific advantages, not many people are willing to relocate there because of language barriers (English not being widely spoken), lack of entertainment venues and housing issues”, he said.

Last year, IT exports from the city were close to 700 crores . Malay Krishna Ray, General Manager of Sales and Services at Lokesh Machines Limited, shares his apprehensions. “Definitely the emergence of IT will boost the economy, there is no denying that. We have witnessed this in cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad. But I fear the poaching of manpower away from the manufacturing sectors and into the IT industry.”

But with over 25 engineering and 18 polytechnic colleges in and around the city, a constant and steady supply of manpower is assured, according to the Principal of PSG Tech, Dr R Rudramoorthy. “We, as a city, have more than enough educational institutions to supply human resources to the multi-industrial landscape. And the IT industry, more than anything else, craves fresh talent. Our students are always closely working with IBM and other top technological companies for a variety of projects”.

CII Speaks

Chairman of CII’s Coimbatore chapter, Ashok Bakthavathsalam, Director of KG Information System, feels that the social infrastructure is one of the key aspects that need to be looked at. “Many developers and investors were worried that we might have missed the IT wave”, he said, reflecting on the bouts of bad luck the city had been facing. “Post the 2000 dotcom burst, we were pushing to put Coimbatore on the IT map. We wanted to embrace this lucrative, fast growing service sector. Then the dip in Coimbatore’s economy in 2005 threw things off track a bit. We were geared up to take it to the next level in 2008 and the big financial crash happens.” Still, he is optimistic about the current situation. “I feel we are finally on the right track and if nothing else goes wrong, Coimbatore will reach its peak potential, in terms of IT, by early 2014.” His line of reasoning has been proved right with various companies signing up for around four lakh square feet of office space in Tidel Park. By June, five more major IT companies are slated to set up shop here.

The government seems to be making amends, many private parties have set up SEZs and are now outsourcing the space to other companies and the existing IT majors are in expansion mode. It looks like Coimbatore is finally getting its act together.

Lust in Tokyo

Enjoy the naughtier side of life in Tokyo with experiences that are as slinky as they come.

A grey business capital by day and a delightfully kitschy destination at sunset, Tokyo comes alive in all its naughty splendour come nightfall, offering entertainment that would bring a blush to the most worldly-wise of faces. Lust and life in the fast lane are what define the Tokyo of today, brimming as it is with forbidden treats for the roving eye. A handful of bootie if you should like it, an all-holds barred date with an ethereal Geisha or even a sinfully wayward tryst with a life-sized doll… in this city, you can immerse yourself in all things sexy.

Oppai pubs:

Stroll right in to one of the many ‘oppai pubs’ (which mean ‘breast pubs’), where customers are free to kiss their hostesses and touch their heavenly melons. You can even choose the kind of deal you want- go for the all-you-can-touch-and-kiss package, which is more expensive but allows for unlimited interaction, or go for the option that lets you engage her during show time only. These shows last for three-five minutes during which time, the lights will be turned down and your hostess will sit on your legs. However, try to explore the region down under, and you’ll be kicked out before you can even say ‘o’, let alone reach the O.

Jail S&M and Fetish Bar:

If you happen to have a fetish for pain, the Jail S&M and Fetish Bar will make you ache in all the right places. This diabolical dungeon features a torture chamber bed in an alcove of white tiles, metal cages, a dominatrix, and loads of equipment meant for those who take ‘pleasure in pain’ too seriously. But if you’re weak-hearted, best stay away, lest you end up with whip-ridden nightmares.

Image clubs:

Pandering to almost every forbidden fantasy of the Japanese male, these places are painstakingly decorated to transport their clients to whatever erotic paradise they choose. While some of the rooms are exotic and glamorous, there are those that are made to look like schoolrooms, offices, or changing rooms. Each room is provided with a willing ‘actress’, who’ll be as reluctant as you desire. A hospital room comes complete with a naughty nurse and an office features a rather risqué secretary, but surprisingly, the most popular is the ‘subway carriage’ room where you can revel in everyday-erotica and grope (what is with Japanese men and groping?) to your heart’s content.

Peep Show:

If you want to indulge your inner peeping Tom, visit one of the many Peeping Rooms or Pink Salons, where you can get touchy-feely with one of the girl’s on offer. Each client gets a cubicle, sometimes with a view of a live peep show, sometimes with just a TV.

Doll Clubs:

One of the more unusual club concepts is the doll club where you can pay by the hour for a room with a doll. Patrons can choose the face, hair, clothing and certain other body parts of the doll too, as per their specifications. The dolls are incredibly life-like, and weigh about the same as a real woman, and guess what- the price for alone time with one of these dolls is almost the same as with a real woman!

G-1 International Hostess Club:

Tokyo is famous for hostess bars that are concentrated in nightlife areas such as Ginza and Shinjuku, and like the experience to be had with the more exotic Geisha, the sex is implied but almost never offered at a hostess bar. G-1 International Club, in Ginza, is touted to be one of the city’s most elegant hostess clubs, with hostesses from around the world, and counts many VIPs as its customers. If you go with a regular, the proprietor (Mama-san) will be awaiting your arrival and will put on a big display of gratitude and warmth. At your table, you have 90 minutes of chatting and drinking with a highly-trained Geisha.

Seventh Heaven

This is one of Tokyo’s original strip clubs. A gentleman’s club styled after Occidental strip clubs, Seventh Heaven has American, Asian and European girls, and is said to be ideal for those who’re too time-pressed to negotiate second-tier establishments. One of the several exotic dance clubs in Tokyo, this one features international dancers and is popular with foreign business travellers. Easy to find on one of the main street of the Roppongi crossing, Seventh Heaven is the last standing household name in Tokyo, after the legendary One Eyed Jack disappeared. Once inside, you can choose from around 30 girls- private dances are priced at around US$80.

Key Icon:

This one’s a male strip club in a seemingly deserted location under a flyover near the Rainbow Bridge. The audience is almost entirely female, giggling and hooting as the men strut their stuff on a small stage, and shed their clothes against the backdrop of pop tunes. A few women, many of them who are out on a hen’s night or birthday party, are even led up onto the stage for an ‘innuendo dance’ and given the opportunity to get touchy. If you happen to be a woman and want a bit of action while on a business travel, forbidden fun lies right here.

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