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Kerala Budget has Big Plans to Boost Tech Manufacturing

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is readying for a great leap on the technology front with the State Government gearing up to create and mobilise technology infrastructure and inventories. The State Budget 2018-19 presented by Dr. Thomas Isaac, Finance Minister, seems to have carefully weighed the possibilities of going for technology manufacturing, which so far remained negligible in the State, though Kerala has already emerged as a potent hub for software skills and outsourcing.

Minister Isaac, in his Budget speech, stressed on the need for developing technology manufacturing centres in Kerala which has a sea of talents that could cater to industrial demands. “One of the sectors in which Kerala can attain prominence is electronics hardware. A major share of electronic goods is being imported from China now,” he said.

Needless to say, the Budget decision to form ‘Electronics and Hardware Mission’ will give a renewed impetus to the sector and position Kerala on the leader board of Electronic System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector in India. “A wide network of experienced professionals from the State in key positions, who are willing to support the cause, is an added advantage. But Kerala needs to make a quick move to grab the first-mover advantage and counter the incentives offered by competing locations in the country,” said M Sivasankar IAS, Secretary, Department of Electronics and IT, Government of Kerala.

The Budget has allocated Rs. 30 crore for the project. Also, with an additional budgetary allocation of Rs. 40 crore, a joint venture of Intel and Keltron will start manufacturing laptops and servers under the Electronics and Hardware Mission. The operationalisation of Electronics Hardware Park Amballoor, which is currently under construction, will complement the State’s initiative in this regard.

Another move on this front is ‘Meds Park’, a joint venture of Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) and Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) for manufacturing modern medical equipment.

Yet another announcement in the Budget, giving momentum to information and technology revolution in Kerala, was the decision to scale up the status of Technopark-based Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala (IIITM-K) to a deemed university with an annual intake of 1000 students. The Budget has earmarked Rs. 65 crore for this initiative.

The other major allocations in this regard were for IT Parks in the State. The Budget has set aside Rs. 84 crore for Technopark, Technocity and Technopark in Kollam. An amount of Rs. 67 crore has been earmarked for Infopark and Rs. 30 crore for Cyberpark. Kerala’s ambitious K-FON (Kerala Fiber Optic Network) program, which is expected to bring in revolutionary changes in e-governance, would get an amount of Rs. 823 crore through Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB).

With the State Government heavily cashing in on the infectious startup aspirations in ‘God’s Own Country’, it is widely speculated that the potency of IT startups would grow exponentially, leading to a ‘Kerala Model’. For promoting startup ideas, the Budget has earmarked Rs. 5 crore. It will include support for schools, tinkering labs and colleges, and performance grant to the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centres (IEDC) for holding boot camps and workshops. For supporting incubators, the Budget has proposed Rs. 10 crore. This will include financial grants to technology incubators, IEDC incubators, sector-specific incubators and incubator support services. Similarly, Rs. 25 crore has been allocated for knowledge and skill development. Enterprise development has received a major boost with an allocation of Rs. 20 crore. One of the aims of the grant is to contribute to funds approved by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) so as to help startups raise working capital.