The brick 'n' mortar story of Silicon City

The brick 'n' mortar story of Silicon City

Chronicling IT hub: It was R K Baliga who wrote the source code for the IT hub

The brick 'n' mortar story of Silicon City

Karnataka, in general, and Bangalore, in particular, have become synonymous with information technology (IT) in the last couple of decades.

While much has been written about the strides made by the technopolis, little is known about the humble beginnings of an industrial estate for electronics companies.

What began as the Keonics Electronics City in 1978 has today transformed itself into the country’s most important outsourcing hub.

Bangalore IT.biz, the State’s annual flagship IT event, began on Tuesday and it is only befitting that the pioneering days are rehashed. The contributions of R K Baliga, who conceptualised and implemented the plan for Keonics, are no less inspiring.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Bandu G Sasalatti, senior Keonics official who had known Baliga, said, “There is no doubt that Electronics City and IT revolution were the result of Baliga’s foresight. It would have been very nice to recall the great man’s contributions. Definitely, IT.biz is an occasion to talk about him and his efforts. Not much is known about him as it was in the 1970s that he launched the industrial estate.”

Baliga studied at the Indian Institute of Science and worked in companies like General Electric, Westinghouse Electric Company, Kaiser Engineers, BEL and finally, became the first chairman and managing director (CMD) of Keonics - acronym for the public sector enterprise Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation, set up in 1976.

The Electronics City was known as Keonics Electronic City in the late 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s, it came to be known as the Electronics City.

Brainchild

Shivakumar K Karadkal, in-charge of infrastructure, Electronics City and IT parks, Bangalore, at Keonics told Deccan Herald: “Electronics City is the brainchild of Baliga. He was the first to envision the idea of Bangalore as India’s silicon valley.”
Not many people took Baliga seriously when he expressed the idea of setting up an exclusive electronics industry.

As luck would have it, the then chief minister, Devaraj Urs, responded positively and gave Baliga the go ahead to start work on his idea. Baliga made the immediate move of purchasing 330 acres of land in Anekal taluk of Bangalore Urban district. The land was located off Hosur Road, in two villages (Konappana Agrahara and Doddathogur), 18 km from City limits.

Says Karadkal: “In the 1970s and 80s, Peenya on Tumkur road, Bidadi on Mysore Road and Old Madras Road had industries, but Anekal didn’t. Possibly aware of this, Baliga may have opted for Anekal to locate Electronics City. Availability of land and lower land cost may have influenced his decision.”

The land for Electronics City was purchased in 1978. In the 1980s, a few companies, most of them electronics industries, set up shop there. By the 1990s, just around and after the liberalisation policy, Electronics City began to be transformed into an IT hub with companies like Infosys, Wipro, Patni, HP, Yokogawa Electric, Tejas Networks, Siemens, Motorola, Tata, NTTF, and later Intel, TCS and Genpact setting up campuses there.

From electronics, it eventually became a hub also for software services, hardware, high-end telecommunications, manufacture of indigenous components and electronic musical instruments.

“Keonics was also the first agency to set up Bangalore’s and the country’s first Software Technology Park of India,” says Karadkal. In 1997, Keonics handed over the campus for maintenance to ELCIA (Electronics City Industries Association).

Major occupants

* CDAC - Formerly NCST
* IHMR - Institute of Health Management Research
* Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB)
* ICFAI
* International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore

Infobits

* First set up in: 1978
* Location: Anekal taluk
* Area: 330 acres
* Now home to: 185 IT/ITES firms
* Employs: One lakh people

Role of Keonics

Was established in 1976; has developed electronics industries in Karnataka during 1980-2000; now involved in the development of IT parks in State; Keonics founder Baliga passed away on October 26, 1988.

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