"Unfortunately, at times in India, stones get thrown at the good people. The bad tend to get away and those that are good get hurt." This is a soundbite from the responses from T V Mohandas Pai (member of the Board of Directors of Infosys Technologies) to reports that the company has been sent a letter by the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC) seeking explanations on the use of land allotted to the company. The letter from the APIIC sent in the last week of March seeks to know how the company is delivering on the promises it had made to the state government and how it intends to use the 450 acres of land given to it at a concessional rate.
"Four years ago the company had signed an agreement with the state government promising that it will use the 450 acres and create 25,000 jobs at Pocharam near Hyderabad. We do not think that has happened and therefore we are only asking the company to let us know their plan and what they intend to do with that huge plot of land," says B R Meena, managing director, APIIC, who confirmed a communication to this effect was sent to the company. Pai, who is just back from London, has read about the letter in the media but has yet not got a copy, seemed upset though very keen to reply to the government.
"We fully respect the right of the government to ask any question and we will always respond but in all fairness they should have called us up and asked before going public on this after all we are the actual (genuine) users and the largest IT exporter from Andhra Pradesh."
Says he: "We have today nearly about 350,000 sq ft already built up with 2000 employees working from there. We will have another 2000 employees here by December. Right now we are constructing about 800,000 sq ft. We have already invested Rs 260 crore and another Rs 500 crore will be invested hopefully by March next year." What is more, he says, "we have the largest investment in IT in Andhra Pradesh and will create the largest number of jobs from a single location in Andhra Pradesh." He says all of this would also have to viewed in the context of the fact that the same government awarded the company recently for being the highest IT exporter from Andhra Pradesh.
Infosys, he says, today already has close to 14,000 employees in both its campuses in Hyderabad (including the first one - a 50 acre campus - opposite the Indian School of Business in Gachibowli that it was allotted in 2001 where as against the initial agreement for creating around 2000 jobs it has close to 12,000 people working there).
On the APIIC's concern that the company has perhaps been slow in meeting its promises (in terms of jobs to be created and the office space built), Pai says while they had signed the agreement "they did not give us the land for sometime and again it took further time as the land had to be declared an SEZ (special economic zone) and then there were building approvals that had to come." The company apparently got final approvals only around September- October 2009 and began construction in October 2009 and had some part of it operational by August 2010.
But what about the argument that why 450 acres for 25,000 jobs? Is that not a bit too much? "Those who put out this argument do not understand what 25,000 jobs mean. It is like creating a small town," says Pai. "If 25,000 people have to come to one place means accommodating 6000 cars, building a bus station to accommodate 300 buses, 15 MW power and creating 4 million litres water capacity with facilities to also treat water. We are creating a bus station at Rs 2.5 crore, our sewage treatment plant is costing Rs 10 crore and the power equipment Rs 20 crore." What is more, he says, "200 acres out of the total land is covered with hills and valleys. All of which we are preserving and want to build an environmentally-friendly and water sustainable campus."
As for the promise of creating 25,000 new jobs, he says while it was to be created over a 10 year period the company has "designed the new campus for 12,000 employees in the first phase to be ready in the next 15 to 18 months depending on the government approvals." What is more, he says, "depending on our need we may well accelerate our plans (go beyond the 25,000)." Pai perhaps has all the answers the government is looking for.