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How Pune morphed into a technology capital, in 20 years.

FOCUS ON PUNE:
Auto and infotech are the twin 'astras'  in  the city's quiver

By Anand Parthasarathy
Pune, June 25 2016: Three days  ago ( on June 22),  Maharashtra Chief Minister  Devendra Fadnavis  was in Chakan, Pune, to inaugurate a new plant at Force Motors, a respected Indian name in automobile ancillaries.  Also on hand was Frank Deiss,  global head for Powertrains at Mercedes-Benz. 
Why? Because the new plant   was being set up with just one agenda: to manufacture engines and axles for Mercedes-Benz -- with a rated capacity of  20,000 each.  The plant  could handle  14 different engine variants with 8 production lines... something made possible by today's  assembly line automation technology.   It made splendid sense for M-B to entrust its engines to Force, because its own India plant  was almost next door  in Chakan... a canny  move to  ensure a smooth supply chain.
The Force-- Mercedes-Benz  synergy  is an epitome  of  what has transformed  Pune, within 2 decades into a high-tech hub for the automobile industry.   Even 8 years ago,  a UK newspaper, The Independent, headlined a report on the gradual shift of the global auto industry, eastwards:  "The boom is over in Detroit. Now India has its own Motor City".  That city is Pune.
The article went on to suggest that the car industry around Pune would help the Indian market overtake China. And with reason.  Historically, Pune  has been home  for  half a century to  two of the nation's leading automobile makers:  Tata Motors and Bajaj Auto --  with  Kirloskar Oil Engines, Cummins ,Sandvik  and Bharat Forge provided much need ancillary support by way of engines and auto components and tools. 
Then came the auto boom -- with  international biggies General Motors, Volkswagen, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz, JCB, Piaggio, Skoda, Bridgestone  and others   following one another to set up plants around Pune. In the process   this  turned  the Chakan-Talegaon belt into one of the world's largest automobile  industry cluster . 
This period also coincided with other Indian leaders like Mahindra, Premier Motors, consolidating in Pune.  The distinction between Indian and foreign brands  became irrelevant  when  Tata Motors began assembling  Jaguar-Land Rover cars  for a global market in its   Pimpri-Chinchwad  plant.
One  reason why  Pune has proved a magnet for auto majors , beyond its logistical advantages, access to Mumbai and its port etc,  is the support ecosystem that has grown here by way of R&D and testing  facilities.  Technology  watcher Zinnov Consulting,   predicted in 2014 that the country had become a preferred destination for automotive  R&D , with  local engineering and science talent fuelling 'made in India' solutions  for a global auto industry.  Zinnov  found this activity    peaking in what is now being called the Deccan Triangle  of the auto industry -- Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore.  Pune has a headstart on  the other two metros, with its larger installed capacity of automotive manufacturing.|
This  captive auto R&D  infrastructure   is complemented  by the presence in India of the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI)  which has been providing various services to the Automotive Industry in the areas of design & development and know-how for manufacture & testing of components  and systems to national  and international standards. ARAI   recently marked its golden jubilee by inaugurating  a suite of facilities -- Passive Safety Laboratory, Powertrain Laboratory, Fatigue and Materials Laboratory and Automotive Electronics Laboratory -- at Chakan.
With all three legs -- research, manufacturing and testing -- firmly grounded in Pune, the city is poised to  consolidate its position as India's auto city -- and  among  the best and  biggest such consolidations worldwide.
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Infotech: an exemplar of quality, not quantity
Over 2000  Information Technology companies; a skilled workforce of over 200,000  generating  IT-fueled exports in excess of $ 10 billion. That at twitter-length is the story of Pune, India's emerging silicon plateau.
It didn't happen overnight.  In fact the somewhat sleepy and laid-back Queen of the Deccan  was content to call herself India's Oxford ( or Cambridge) -- till the 1980s -- respected for  an  eclectic mix of  hardcore and esoteric  learning centres: an Engineering  College (COEP) ranking among the oldest in India; the  premier Defence academy (NDA), pioneering institutions for women's education ( SNDT)  and  an institution  for research in history and culture.
Learning was fine; the proof of the pudding was in putting it to productive use -- and Pune  got down to business -- literally -- around the turn of the century,  to attract the cream of Indian infotech players and Fortune 500 corporates with  its canny combo of  skills and a salubrious environment for work.  IT Parks sprang up on the edges of the city --  the Rajiv Gandhi IT Park at Hinjewadi,  Magarpatta CyberCity, MIDC  Software Tech Park at Talawade, Marisoft IT Park at Kalyani Nagar  - to provide  the international ambience that is required to   do world-class work.   The Usual Suspects  among Indian tech giants  -- Wipro, TCS, Infosys, Mahindra-Satyam-- were soon here, as were global names like Symantec, Veritas, British Telecom, Cognizant  and dozens of others.  Some of them  sited their key operational units in Pune.
Only last  week, networking leader Cisco opened its second Global Delivery Centre in Pune.   
Before it became part of Symantec, storage security leader Veritas  centred its global research efforts in Pune  and the  centre churned out so many patents, the parent company  had an annual event to honour the inventors here.  
Symantec's Pune centre in Baner,  houses  its global command centre, a nod of its  global intelligence network where hostile activity on the Internet worldwide is monitored 24by 7. 
The presence of the biggies  has in turn made Pune a welcome home to hundreds of startups  whose innovation feeds the technology ecosystem in the city.  Local entrepreneurship in the tech arena has  seen the  steady growth of  Pune headquartered  companies like Persistent Systems and Josh Software  who have carved out a niche for the Pune Brand  in a competitive global maidan.

 




    


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