How coastal Karnataka is emerging as a hub for education and technology
Sunday January 31, 2016,
6 min Read
YourStory is proud to partner with Government of Karnataka’s ‘Invest Karnataka’ that will showcase the strides made in industrial development by the State and will also attract investments from across the world. The event is to be held between 3 and 5 February 2016 in Bengaluru (Register here). As we begin the countdown to the event, we shine a spotlight on coastal Karnataka that is quickly emerging as a hub for education and technological advancements.
The Konkan coast of Karnataka is generally known for its beautiful beaches and culinary delights made with fresh seafood. Though not as developed as State capital Bengaluru, many smaller cities and towns along Karnataka coastline have been growing steadily over the past few decades. Mangaluru and Udupi are two key locations on the map that stand out for a variety of reasons.
Located 371 km from Bengaluru, coastal Mangaluru is a chief port city of Karnataka. New Mangalore Port Trust (NMPT), inaugurated in 1974, has round-the-clock pilotage, land and marine security and is equipped to handle liquid chemicals, hazardous cargoes, heavy lifts and machinery.
In terms of public sector enterprises (PSE), the coastal city is also home to Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL), a subsidiary of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). This grassroot refinery has a design capacity to process 15 million metric tons per annum, has two hydrocrackers producing premium diesel and also has two catalyst regenerators producing high octane unleaded petrol. By providing jobs for both skilled and unskilled workforce, MRPL has boosted the economy of nearby areas.
Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilizer Ltd (MCF), a subsidiary of Zuari Fertilisers and Chemicals Limited, is the largest manufacturer of chemicals fertilizers in Karnataka, India, with a turnover in excess of Rs 3,000 crore. Some of the company’s products include granulated fertilizers, micronutrients, soil conditioners and speciality fertilizers, which benefit the lives of farmers across southern India.
Dakshina Kannada has always been considered one of the most sought-after education destinations, especially in Mangaluru, which provides quality education in higher and professional courses. The Dakshina Kannada district is home to a wide variety of schools, engineering and medical institutions as well as health, management and hospitality. National Institute of Technology, Surathkal (earlier KREC), among the country’s premier engineering colleges, is located 10 km from Mangaluru. Some other notable engineering institutes are N.M.A.M. Institute of Technology, St. Joseph’s and Canara Engineering College.
Coming to medical institutions, Mangaluru is home to Kasturba Medical College (KMC), A J Institute of Medical Science, Father Muller Medical College, KS Hegde Medical Academy and others which provide access to quality healthcare and also teach and train future medicos.
Mangaluru was ranked India's 13th and Karnataka's second best destination for business (Bengaluru being the first), according to a survey conducted by GIREM in 2013. While Mangaluru has been a good location for traditional businesses, it currently lags behind to a certain extent when it comes to new-age ‘tech businesses’. However, many schools and colleges in the city have their own entrepreneurship cells and are encouraging students to start their own companies.
The lack of too many new-age tech startups is not because of lack of talent. Global IT giant Infosys, has a huge establishment in Mangaluru and has easily been able to find the tech talent it needs. The lack of mentors, role models and interest from angel investors and VCs may be the reason startup culture is not yet mainstream in the coastal city. With relatively less traffic, reasonable real estate prices and well connected to rest of Karnataka (and the world) by land, sea and air (via an international airport), Mangaluru has great potential for growth.
Located 422 km northwest of Bengaluru and 60 km north of Mangaluru, Udupi is a landmark for its Krishna Temple. The town has great significance for ISKCON devotees, as it is the native place of Shri Madhvacharya, who founded the dvaita (sect) of Vaishnava Hinduism and the Udupi Krishna Mutt.
Udupi is also well known for its local cuisine and there are now a chain of restaurants that serve ‘Udupi food’ in different parts of the country and all over the world. It is also believed that the popular masala dosa had its origins in Udupi. Udupi’s beautiful temples, beaches and local cuisine provide considerable boost to the tourism industry of Karnataka.
While there are no major large-scale industries in Udupi, the town’s economy depends partly on agriculture, fishing and educational institutions. Milk cooperatives, the cashew industry and the food and hotel industry also contribute to the local economy and create jobs.
Technology is also becoming mainstream in Udupi. Just last week, the District Administration, Department of Tourism and the Malpe Beach Development Committee announced that visitors to Malpe beach will get access to free Wi-Fi (for 30 minutes, per device) at 4G speeds. There are other plans in the pipeline also to further boost tourism.
While driving across National Highway 66 and passing Santhekatte, on the way to Udupi, it is impossible to miss the large multi-storied corporate headquarters of Robosoft Technologies. Founded in 1996 by Rohit Bhat the company develops software products and mobile apps for Apple’s iOS devices. Going against conventional wisdom of setting up a corporate HQ in a major metro city, Robosoft has been able to thrive in Udupi by providing world-class infrastructure in a small town and also hiring locally from nearby educational institutions.
Located a few kilometres from Udupi is the university town of Manipal. Once a barren hill with few trees, Manipal has undergone tremendous transformation to become a university town within a few decades, with over 22 institutions. Dr T.M.A. Pai was the proponent behind this change. He founded India’s first private medical school Kasturba Medical College in Manipal in 1953 and then set up Manipal Institute of Technology, five years later.
With an estimated population of over 20,000 students across various disciplines, Manipal provides a big opportunity for them to work together and develop new and innovative technologies. To facilitate the same, Manipal University had set up a business incubator - MUTBI to provide the necessary infrastructure, financial aid and other resources to students and faculty who wished to start their own businesses.
The university town was in the limelight two years ago, when its alumni Satya Nadella and Rajeev Suri were named the CEOs of Microsoft and Nokia respectively. Another alumnus from Manipal that has also gone on to achieve great success is Michelin-starred Indian chef, restaurateur and Founder of ‘Junoon’, Vikas Khanna, an alumnus of Manipal’s Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration (WGSHA).
Karnataka has shown that it is possible to achieve global successes from even Tier II and III cities. They may not have the best infrastructure but have their own merits in other ways. But while the success of outliers boosts the confidence of the general population it is important to provide sufficient assistance so that more success stories can emerge from the smaller towns and cities of India.
With an aim to provide a digitally enhanced user platform to all the participants in the Invest Karnataka, Global Investors Summit, the Government of Karnataka recently launched the Invest Karnataka 2016 mobile application. You can download the app on your Android device.