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India’s ‘Cyberadad’ Attracts Cos.

March 23, 2000

HYDERABAD, India (AP) _ Multicolored Nissan truck frames dance across computer screens at Tower Automotive, being revised by design engineers who, with the click of a mouse, ship them to the main office in Minneapolis _ while U.S. coworkers are home asleep.

And Tower Automotive is not alone.

Many multinational companies, some with high-level Indian employees who found success abroad, are flocking to this corner of India, where highly skilled labor is cheap, technology is booming and, because of the time difference, workers are available when Americans are at rest.

Once stinking and littered with garbage, Hyderabad now gleams with American computer companies such as Microsoft and Oracle. It even has a high-tech nickname: ``Cyberabad.″

President Clinton visits Hyderabad on Friday, bypassing Bangalor, in neighboring Karnataka state, which is known as India’s original Silicon City.

Hyderabad’s transformation began in 1994, when Chandrababu Naidu was elected chief minister of Andhra Pradesh state. Last year, Naidu established a software technology park on a 250-acre site, roped in dozens of computer companies to set up shop and provided all the facilities under one roof.

``Financial resources, technology can be borrowed,″ Naidu said. ``We have excellent human resources. More and more employment will create more wealth.″

Naidu persuaded software giant Microsoft to put a development center in Hyderabad, one of only two outside the United States. ``One of the largest pool of talented software professionals is in India; so we thought India is the best place to be,″ said Microsoft general manager Srinivas Koppolu.

Naidu was the first chief minister to computerize his government. Telephone lines were scarce here a few years ago, but now, Naidu meets with his department heads by teleconference.

Naidu still faces daunting challenges: poor health care facilities, a violent separatist movement in the north and widespread disparities in development. Critics say he is so focused on attracting technological investment that he ignores the needs of the poor.

``What will happen to low skilled workers? Lopsided development will increase employment problems,″ warns Gummadi Nancharaiah, head of the economics department at Hyderabad’s Central University.

But Naidu cites several projects he has launched for farmers and the poor, and industry proponents say booming revenues from high-tech enterprises eventually will trickle down to all.

For many here, Hyderabad’s growth stirs hope that India will soon join the ranks of Asia’s affluent nations.

``The first time I came back to India in 1996, I was blown away by the change, the number of foreign companies that are coming in,″ said Kishen Kavikondala, 31, a Hyderabad native who left 10 years ago to study in the United States. Kavikondala now heads Tower’s India operations.

Tower produces modules and assemblies of cars and trucks for clients like Ford, Nissan, GM, Honda and Toyota. It uses computer-simulated tests to judge a truck’s capacity to carry different loads.

Kavikondala persuaded his employer to set up a design center in Hyderabad after he learned last year that foreign automobile companies planned to expand production and sales operations in India.

Anil Garg, vice president of AristaSoft, says his company came here from Mountain View, Calif., to harness local talent. AristaSoft develops and integrates a client’s business system and reduces the time companies would spend setting up information technology systems.

``We didn’t come here just because I’m Indian. Most people in my company are not Indian,″ Garg said. But, he added, ``Indians leave a part of themselves behind when they go abroad. If there’s someway to stay connected, it’s great.″

Software exports are expanding by 50 percent every year. Last year, software accounted for 10.5 percent of all Indian exports, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies, or NASSCOM.

NASSCOM predicts information technology will create 2.2 million jobs within eight years. Another assessment by consulting firm McKinsey and Co. predicts revenue from information technology exports to rise from less than $4 billion this year to $50 billion by 2008.

More than 1,800 technical schools here are producing 68,000 software professionals every year _ in a country where only four in 10 adults can read.

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On the Net:

Government of Andhra Pradesh: www.andhrapradesh.com

Hyderabad highlights: www.twincitiesbbs.com

Hyderabad general site: www.hyderabad.co.uk

Information technology opportunities in Andhra Pradesh: www.hitech-city.net.

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