Tvm: It was in June 2009 that Mervin Alexander, a 1987 batch Indian Postal Service (IPoS) officer, took charge as the Chief Executive Officer of Technopark, Trivandrum, on deputation with the Government of Kerala and recently, he completed his tenure (in November 2011). Kerala IT News caught up with him before he leaves for New Delhi to do a one year course in Defence Security and Strategy Studies at the National Defence College.
During his term, Technopark grew in size and stature, as the number of companies went up from around 200 to 250 (this includes TBI companies also) and the number of employees almost doubled, from about 15,000 to about 30,000. Over the last three fiscals, there has been a substantial increase in the SEZ exports from Technopark, from Rs.18 crores in 2008-09 to Rs.234 crores in 2010-11. The total software exports from the campus also saw a marginal rise, from Rs.1,356 crores in 2008-09 to Rs.1,439 crores in 2010-11.
Getting funding from NABARD for Technopark Kollam and the land acquisition for the proposed Technocity project in Thiruvanathapuram are some of Mervin’s accomplishments but in his words, “The biggest achievement was getting TCS to start a development centre here. Even though they had their training centre here, it was a tough job to convince them. Oracle, Capgemini and ITC Infotech are the other big names that we could get during my tenure and I am sure others would soon follow them”.
“We could bring in a lot of value addition to the companies in Technopark. We always welcomed constructive criticism and that actually gave us a feedback audit on the quality of our services and other related issues”, adds Mervin. He can be credited with bringing in and developing procedural framework in the Technopark administration. His experience in the postal department helped him set the standards, especially in staff matters. All Technopark projects are on schedule and he gives the credit to the good contractors.
It was not a bed of roses for the Technopark CEO who had to perform multiples roles like Real Estate Manager, Marketing Manager, HR Manager and Liaison Officer. According to Mervin, “We cannot afford to have this negative perception about Kerala tagging us all the time. Political parties and politicians alike need to realise that IT means business and clients don’t understand about bandhs, hartals or strikes. The IT & ITeS industry needs to work 24×7 and it’s all about meeting project deadlines and delivering quality work on time. The political environment here constrains growth. Political assurance and continuous support from the government can only sustain this momentum which we could achieve in the last few years. Technopark is a classic case where a positive image building helped and this helps boost the morale of the employees”.
Not many know that Mervin had earlier worked in Kerala, on deputation as the Chief Vigilance Officer in Cochin Shipyard Ltd. & Cochin Port Trust. As Post Master General in 2009, he has played key role in post office computerisations in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. He is still a Director of the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd. (KSITIL) and an Executive Committee member of the Kerala State IT Mission and the LBS Academy of Science & Technology, Thiruvananthapuram.
On being asked if he missed doing something, he said, “We could have done a lot better if there was support from other Government departments. The approach road to Technopark, the development of the Kazhakuttam bypass, adequate power and water infrastructure could have made a difference. Even though we have good facilities, we need to build them to international standards. A leading MNC wanted to start a Data Centre here but we could not meet their stringent infrastructure requirements”.
“In order to attract good talent from outside Kerala to Technopark, there’s need for more social infrastructure and better schools around the campus, in fact we need some branded CBSE schools in Trivandrum. The public transport connectivity to Technopark has improved considerably in the last two years but there is scope for further enhancements. Companies should encourage their employees to use public transport and those using them should be given incentives. This would reduce congestion on the roads and also free up parking space in the campus”, says Mervin.
As he looks back, Mervin is satisfied with his stint in Technopark Trivandrum which incidentally happens to be the first IT Park in the country, “The Technopark staff and the CEOs of the companies in the campus were very supportive. I owe my success to them and may be, my background of not being from the IT industry also helped me a lot. Miles to go but happy at what I could do in Technopark!”
Kerala IT News