2011 was an outstanding year for Thiruvananthapuram as we witnessed so many breakthrough developments all over the city mainly in Technopark (India’s Greenest and Biggest IT park and one of Asia’s landmark IT destinations,) Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, road infrastructure etc. And the city hosted so many World-class Festivals, celebrations, conferences and expos. The city even had a rather lengthy limelight period, when all eyes of the world were on Thiruvananthapuram. We are talking about the “discovery” by the outside world about the treasure of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The story struck chord everywhere in the world with its underpinnings of honesty and devotion to duty over the centuries.
We would like to begin with Technopark because it has given Thiruvananthapuram a global position in IT industry and has visibly improved the city’s financial profile and its residents’ quality of living. It’s been a fantastic year for Technopark for so many reasons.
- The breakthrough story here is one of the world’s biggest product development software company, Oracle Corporation‘s decision to make Technopark as its first investment for a development center outside a Tier-1 city in India . After almost six months of background work (in which eight other cities of India were studied by Oracle’s team) and some really great pitching/presentation of Thiruvananthapuram as a world class IT destination by Dr Shashi Tharoor, the Honorable Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram, Oracle’s decision to open a center was taken by February 2011. The center had a soft launch, utilizing a conference area in Technopark by June with 50 employees, while interior work was going on in Leela building for the more permanent center. The formal inauguration was done on September and Oracle’s India Development Center, Thiruvananthapuram is a realty! The plan is to have around 500 employees over a couple of years.
- A product development MNC was missing from Technopark’s roster and now that it is fixed, we hear of the French consulting behemoth Capgemini, rolling into town and a lot more companies are on the queue!
- ITC Infotech and Aegis are two others that has decided to start major operations here
- INFOSYS (shown below) also expanded its operations in Thiruvananthapuram by opening its development centre last year.
- Phase III of the Technopark Project, with some architecturally exciting buildings (shown below), made substantial progress and would be operational by 2012.
- The IT giant TCS has started it’s construction works for the 8,000 seater Development Centre (shown below) in the 26 acre plot in Technopark last year.
- Technopark hosted the NASSCOM Executive Council Meeting for the first time in a Non Metro city. NASSCOM were so impressed with the facilities in Technopark and they opened their office at Technopark which is also first in a Non Metro.
- MobME Wireless, Innoz Technologies and Flytxt, all headquartered at the Technopark Campus in Thiruvananthapuram, featured in the NASSCOM’s list of 50 top emerging IT companies in the country last year. Technopark got numerous recognitions from national as well as at international industry bodies.
- The Park got recognition for Best New Incubator 2011 category in the 10th Annual Incubation Conference held in Auckland, New Zealand, and selected as the best IT park in India by rediff.com, a leading Indian news portal.
- Technopark got a lot of world attention for launching a new Green initiative to promote bicycles for intra-campus travel in association with Allianz (an Insurance major, who is one of the bedrock companies of Technopark).
- And big ‘Thank You’ to former CEO Mr Mervin Alexander for his efforts as well as wishing the new CEO Mr Girish Babu the very best.
- Also wish to call out Mr Vasudevan, Head of Business Development for Technopark, who during his long tenure has made substantial contributions towards facilitating companies (big and small) to start operations in Technopark. One of this blog contributors has heard first hand praise by Oracle’s decision makers, calling out Mr Vasudevan in particular as “most business friendly and an effective facilitator”
On to the rich spiritual and cultural scene of Thiruvananthapuram. The world was watching Thiruvananthapuram as the supreme court appointed committee started counting the treasures at Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. Television Channels all around the world were flashing news regarding the treasure inside the temple. What caught the world’s attention is not the wealth (which is bigger than GDPs of most countries), but the subtext of the story.
In this era of financial mismanagement and corporate looting worldwide (as exemplified by Indian scams and certain Wall street firms), we have this giant wealth lying untouched at the feet of a diety in a temple for centuries. Not many could believe that a family of royals and a city that forms their powerbase for centuries can be this truthful and honest. Hard questions on “who owns what” was asked and the current head of the Travancore royal family said it succinclty – “It is the Lord’s. never belonged to anyone, never will”.
The inflow of devotees from all over India and from abroad has increased by magnitudes. State of the art security measures are in place at the temple and its surroundings are guarded by Trivandrum PD’s SWAT teams. Government has proclaimed the temple as a high security zone. Proposals for setting up a world class Museum to showcase the riches inside the temple are being considered. Supreme Court would take a decision on various aspects, once the documentation and evaluation process is over. The State Archives Department is now digitising the Mathilakom Records (ancient palm leaf manuscripts and scrolls of Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram) as part of the second phase of digitisation of old records. To history aficionados, the actual wealth of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is the Mathilakom records which has the complete logs of Travancore’s rich cultural heritage.
The year 2011 started with media speculation and some political drama regarding inauguration of New International Terminal Building at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport as all thought it would happen in the first weeks of Jan 2011.But it was delayed for another one month and finally on March 1st 2011 it was inagurated by our Honorable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The year saw a HUGE spike in air connectivity between Trivandrum and the key airline hubs of India (Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore). This was due to the arrival of low-cost airline majors of India – Indigo and Spicejet to Thiruvananthapuram. Their arrivals gave a drastic improvement in Domestic passenger traffic when compared to year 2010 (Source: AAI website) and the connectivity to other Metro’s & Tier II cities. Indigo got the nod to go international and would commence operations from Thiruvananthapuram this year. Kingfisher Airlines started its first international service from Thiruvananthapuram to Colombo last October. Jet Airways has hugely increased their services in Trivandrum has started a new daily service to Sharjah last September. Another low cost carrier Jetlite has restarted their operations from Thiruvananthapuram last year. Saudi Arabian airlines has increased the cargo operations last year and will commence passenger service from March 2012. The ground handling of TIA has been privatized last year and now world class equipment’s are in place for the ground operations.
Airport Authority of India has upgraded the ATC last year with “INDRA“, an air traffic control technology developed by the Spanish Information Technology and Defence Systems Company at Thiruvananthapuram Air Traffic Control Centre.
Also the AAI has renovated the old International Terminal and opened for Domestic operations from November 2011.
Boeing MRO facility (shown above) of Air India Express was commissioned by Civil Aviation Minister Mr.Vayalar Ravi on 16th of December last year. This is Air India’s second MRO unit after Mumbai and puts Thiruvananthapuram into the list of global MRO destinations. One more feather in the cap of the Thiruvananthapuram!!!
One of our long term dream was the completion of Vizhinjam Container Transshipment Terminal and last year it got some momentum to come to a reality. The previous government decided to go ahead with PPP model. Bids were opened and some 14 companies participated in the bid and 12 were selected. MoU was signed with SBT for financing, and with Railway Vikas Nigam for rail connectivity, with KSEB for electricity for the project. Nothing really happened after that as State Elections were due and election rules prohibit any big decisions by the state executive.
After the electoral process got over and the restrictions on executive decisions got over after the present government came into power, there was some delay , as Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh gave the go ahead for EIA study which was delayed during previous state government’s tenure. One more major hurdle had been overcome to make the port project a reality. Few days later Jairam Ramesh himself visited Vizhinjam and gave the go ahead for technical biding.
Consortium of Welspun Infratech Limited (India) Welspun Corp.Limited (India), and Mundra Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd were shortlisted and both got clearance from Ministry of Defense. The Australian firm Leighton Holdings Private Limited, a partner in the Welspun Consortium got clearance from Ministry of External Affairs while Mundra Ports is still pending. Both companies have to get clearance from Ministry of Home Affairs too and there are some concerns on Mundra Port’s past history with Home Affairs clearance. Currently the three-season Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study is going on and State government is working on the improvement of road and rail connectivity.Latest news was Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd will finalise the master plan for the project by June 2012.
Cochin Shipyard Limited came with a proposal for a new shipyard in Thiruvananthapuram that will utilise 150acres of land for the project which is estimated around Rs.1500 cr. Vizhinjam and Poovar were their favorite spots. A 500-tonne ‘bollard pull test’ facility was installed by Cochin Shipyard Ltd at Vizhinjam.
Government has approved Monorail as the mass transit in Thiruvananthapuram last year. Initially the plan was to setup from Balaramapuram to Kazhakuttam, later it was extended to Neyyattinkara & Mangalapuram. NATPAC has done the fesiblilty study for this project and is expected to submit the report by January 2012. The state government is considering the setting up of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for executing the Monorail project in Thiruvananthapuram and final decision will be taken only after the NATPAC study report.
Proposal for the New International Stadium at Kariyavattom, Thiruvananthapuram has approved by the State Government. This would be India’s first DBOT (Design, Build, Operate and Transfer) model outdoor stadium. This would be a multi purpose stadium which can be used to host Cricket and Football matches and would build it under ICC and FIFA norms. Mumbai-based IL&FS Transportation Networks Limited won the bid for constructing the stadium at a cost of Rs 141 crore.This is the main venue for the upcoming 35th National Games and efforts are now on to finish it before 2013.
The arrival of tourists to Thiruvananthapuram was pretty much all through the year with domestic tourists from all over India visiting. International tourists arrival was not bad too as so many arrived here after breaking the news of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple treasure. Since then tour operators includes Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple into the tour packages. Meanwhile a tour operator based in Thiruvananthapuram has tried to bringing vacationers from Russia here with the help of Russian Cultural Centre Thiruvananthapuram during late December and expecting their arrival this year. Another good news was the arrival of Cruise ships at Vizhinjam, Thiruvananthapuram. A total of seven cruise ships are expected this season.
TRDCL has been carrying out the development of roads in Thiruvananthapuram city and it’s going at a good pace. They have completed first phase (Pattom-Kowdiar Road, Kuravankonam-Bypass Road, Chenthitta-Power House Road except the Flyover, Bakery Flyover-Model School Road, Road around Secretariate, LMS-Overbridge) and construction of second phase is going on and are targeting to finish it before March this year.
A vestibule bus has joined KSRTC’s City Service last year nearly after two decade and two Double Deckers are back in city roads after five years. One is brand new and other one is reconditioned which was running back in 1990’s. KSRTC offers Double Deckers on daily rental basis with in city limits.
Pothys and Jayalakshmi Silks opened their showroom in Thiruvananthapuram last year. With the arrival of these leading brands, Thiruvananthapuram became a well-rounded shopping destination. Pothy’s Thiruvananthapuram is their first ever showroom outside Tamilnadu and is known as a great destination for silks and silk sarees, perfect for weddings and other festive occasions. It is perhaps the first “major retail box store” of the kind of Walmart in deep South-India, with a lot of retail other than clothing being transacted
Thiruvananthapuram had been chosen for hosting so many National and International events. Kovalam Literary Festival, Hay Festival Kerala, International Film Festival Kerala, National Energy Parliament Meet and Global NRK Meet were held here at the end of the year.
This blog has covered quite a few of these festivals, by posts, original photos and op-eds. Hay Festival-one of the biggest International Literary events was held in Thiruvananthapuram for the second time from 17th to 19th November 2011 proved to be the perfect destination for conducting such International events. Kanakakkunnu Palace, Nishagandhi Open Air Auditorium, Sooryakanthi Auditorium were the venues. 16th International Film Festival Kerala (IFFK 2011) was also held here in Thiruvananthapuram. Kairali, Kalabhavan, New, Sree Padmanabha, Ajantha, Dhanya, Remya, and Sreekumar theaters were the venues for IFFK 2011. On both occasions, the crowd support was amazing and delegates from Hay Festival and IFFK were appreciative of that fact, from their positive comments. Kovalam Literary Festival was also held last year on October 1st and 2nd, and the key point of interest was the arrival of Fatima Bhutto, a Pakistani poet and grand-daughter of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Onam and Christmas was also celebrated in grand style last year.One week celebrations were held for Onam in various venues in the city. December Fest is taking place at Kanakakunnu Thiruvananthapuram as a part of Grand Kerala Shopping Festival and will finish on Jan 5 2012.
We are very fortunate to have a person like K.Chandrika at City’s top level administration as she did a splendid job last year. Her efforts were highly appreciated by the Central Government and was awarded Thiruvananthapuram Corporation “The Best Corporation Award” for implementing the Community Mobilization Scheme under JNNURM.
The only city in the state selected for the implementation of this initiative — ‘vegetable initiative for peri-urban cluster’ has been a big success. A total of 18,000 households already under the scheme. The program was started in August. Thiruvananthapuram was selected out of the 20 cities in the country for the first phase of the programme. The Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram Corporation K. Chandrika was leading from the front.
Honorable President of India, Smt.Prathibha Patil laid the foundation stone for IGNOU’s South India Centre here in September. A 25 acre campus of IGNOU is also coming up at Vithura. It would include a student support centre, computer centre, training centre, full-time campus rooms, community college, library, conference room, Gyanvani FM studio, Teleconference centre, satellite terminal, evaluation centre, guest house and students’ hostel.. It would cater to the activities of IGNOU in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Lakshadweep.
105.6 Mhz Gyan Vani Radio Station, set up by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) also started transmission from Thiruvananthapuram.The programmes are now being transmitted from the studios of All India Radio, Thiruvananthapuram.
With this I would like to conclude this article about the happenings and events for Thiruvananthapuram in 2011. I, alongwith other contributors of this blog, Wish All of You a Very Happy and Prosperous 2012.
News clips and Images Courtesy: Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Kerala Kaumudi, The Hindu, technoparktoday.com, 35thnationalgames.in, Yentha.com etc.