The Post-Pandemic Surge? Six MNCs Open India Centres In March 2022

by Anand Parthasarathy - Apr 4, 2022 04:53 PM +05:30 IST
The Post-Pandemic Surge? Six MNCs Open India Centres In March 2022 New India centres of MNCs: clockwise from top left: Trimble staff pose outside the company’s R&D Centre in Chennai; The World Trade Centre, Chennai, houses the new Amazon Development Centre across 18 floors; InfoPark Kochi, is home to a development centre of IBM’s recent US acquisition, Neudesic; the massive ABB Innovation centre in Bengaluru.
Snapshot
  • With the Covid challenge slowly tapering off, multiple international tech companies are recovering business – with an India-based centre.

    In one month – March—alone, ABB, Lowe’s and GE Healthcare have set up new development or manufacturing operations in Bengaluru.

    IBM launches new client innovation centres in Kochi and Coimbatore; Trimble and Amazon opt for Chennai.

We are just two years shy of what would be a century since novelist E.M. Forster chronicled a Passage to India in the heyday of the British Raj. Now it seems, bookings for a passage are open again – from all over the West. Major global technology companies are making an India-based development or manufacturing centre, a key part of their post-Covid recovery plans.

This underlines all over again, the compelling attraction that India-based talent and an Indian foothold offers for international players scouting for a lean-mean and cost-effective research and development location. In the last week of March 2022 alone, Bengaluru saw three international companies inaugurate a manufacturing or development operation in India’s Silicon City.

Switzerland-headquartered Swedish electrical giant ABB (formerly ASEA Brown Boveri) opened a massive 8-storeyed, 333,000 sq ft “green” tech innovation centre, which will house 2500 technologists specialising in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Intelligence, 3-D and robotics and serving the company’s Electrification (EL) and Motion (MO) business sectors. The facility will complement the innovation centre already functioning in Hyderabad.

“ABB is deeply rooted in India, with a full range of business activities, right from R&D and manufacturing to sales and services. We are committed to staying invested in the country and delivering globally,” says Sanjeev Sharma, country head and managing director, ABB India.

For Lowe’s, the 2200-store US and Canadian hardware and home improvement chain, too, it is a second time in India. Last week, the company opened its second 14,000 sq ft “capability centre” in Bengaluru’s central business district to support its post-Covid hybrid workforce strategy. Its India team of “associates” is now 3,600-strong.

“This expansion of our India operations will enable our teams to continue to grow and provide unique capabilities across our engineering, analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, product management, merchandising, supply chain, marketing, finance and accounting functions, and more. The India team has been pivotal in building and rolling out key tech solutions and business capabilities that have driven Lowe’s growth and helped us provide excellent customer service,” says Seemantini Godbole, Lowe’s executive vice president and chief information officer.

US-based GE Healthcare and its India partner Wipro, are among the first to avail of benefits under the Indian government’s atmanirbhar Bharat-driven Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme in the area of medical devices, with an investment of over Rs 100 crore. The new plant, ‘Wipro GE Medical Device Manufacturing factory’ (MDM), will produce affordable healthcare equipment like ultrasound scanners, patient monitoring solutions, ECG machines and ventilators, that are being developed in India, for Indian conditions and will sell well below the price of imported alternatives.

“India is on an accelerated growth path in gaining global prominence for medical devices manufacturing. Our new factory, with support from the government’s PLI Scheme, will aid the health ecosystem in India to realise its true potential in addressing local and global challenges for healthcare providers,” said Azim Premji, Wipro founder and chairman, Wipro GE Healthcare.

IBM has developed a somewhat offbeat system of Client Innovation Centres (CICs) where its engineers co-create, co-innovate, and co-operate with their clients and ecosystem partners in crafting solutions. To the list of 8 such CICs -- Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, National Capital Region, Pune and Mysore – IBM added two more – Kochi and Coimbatore – in the last month.

The Kochi centre flows from an IBM acquisition in February this year, of a leading U.S. cloud services consultancy Neudesic which already has a functioning development centre within Kochi’s InfoPark for 11 years.

“India is at the core of our growth strategy and plays an important role in enabling us to deliver greater value to our clients and partners across the world,” says John Granger, senior vice president, IBM Consulting.

Two Options For Tamil Nadu

On 29 March, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin opened Amazon’s new 18-floor, 8.3 lakh sq ft development centre in Chennai’s World Trade Centre – the fourth such facility in the state and the largest after the Hyderabad centre. Its 6000 employees will cover technology, engineering and customer support – and is expected to provide R&D support for Amazon devices like the Echo range of smart speakers, which have seen significant amounts of Indianization.

“We believe that the launch of Amazon’s new office in Chennai will have a multiplier effect on the state economy. The latest expansion and investment will bind both the economic and social well-being of the state,” said the Chief Minister.

Sunnyvale, California-based software, hardware, and services technology company, Trimble, has also opted for Tamil Nadu as its new home for innovation and development. On 30 March, it opened a new 300,000 sq ft facility in the Varalakshmi IT Park, on the Old Madras Road – Trimble’s largest R&D centre outside the US. Among the first structures to be designed with Covid sensibilities, the centre uses an open office design across sixty percent of the space with a minimum of six feet between employees’ seating arrangements.

“India’s abundance of skilled R&D talent in cutting-edge technologies such as cloud, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, analytics, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, and web services makes it the natural choice for housing one of our largest R&D operations. India is also a strategic market for our businesses, including construction, agriculture, and geospatial, and we remain committed to growing our operations here and delivering greater value through our innovations to our customers not just in India, but around the world,” says Ronald Bisio, Trimble’s senior vice president who was in India to inaugurate the new office.

Trimble’s India and South Asia managing director Rajan Aiyer put it succinctly: “We are making in India, for the world”.

That could well serve as the new mantra of global companies who find in India, the right post-Covid ecosystem and the appropriate skills to drive their businesses back into profitability.

Anand Parthasarathy is managing director at Online India Tech Pvt Ltd and a veteran IT journalist who has written about the Indian technology landscape for more than 15 years for The Hindu.

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