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Interview with Mr. Jitendra Virwani, chairman of Embassy Group

Cord Magazine, January 2014 Issue No.111

First Steps in Tech

■Indjija, located almost directly between Belgrade and Novi Sad, could prove to be the location of Serbia’s rebirth as a European ICT centre. Bangalore company Embassy Group’s investment in the state-of-the-art Embassy Techzones IT Park will call upon Serbia’s already-established know-how in the ICT sector and encourage further investment in the field. As well as facilities for use by tech companies, the complex will also feature an IT academy for training the workforce of the future. Embassy Group Chairman Jitendra Virwani speaks to CorD about his company’s plans for the future and Serbia’s tech-sector potential.

The Embassy Techzones IT Park is the first project implemented by Embassy Group in Europe. What made you pick Serbia and the town of Indjija as the location for your first ever project in Europe?
- In 2008, Financial Times magazine presented the Municipality of Indjija on the list of the top 25 European destinations for foreign investments. We believe that Serbia is a geo-strategic location for us given the proximity to mainland Europe and the East. Serbia is one of the largest and fastest growing markets in the region in the IT sector. We believe that Serbia will be the future hub for ICT in the region and we wanted to be a part of this growth story.

Exactly how many IT parks does Embassy Group operate today?
- Embassy Group has completed more than 60 commercial projects, including 10 IT parks delivering more than 2.4 million square metres of space across India, Malaysia and now Serbia. Embassy’s award-winning business parks play host to large multinational corporations and Fortune 500 companies such as Alcatel-Lucent, Atos Origin, ANZ, Cognizant, Computer Science Corporation, Fidelity, Geometric, IBM, LG Soft India, McAfee, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, NetApp, Nokia Siemens Networks, Target, Vodafone and Yahoo!.

What is the capacity of the Embassy Techzones IT Park in Indjija now?
- In Indjija we have built a two-floor, 10,000m² campusstyle building with a net leasable area of 8,170m². This building consists of six independent office blocks with state-of-the-art infrastructure: a high-performance internet link, on-site data hosting, processing and storage, business continuity and disaster-recovery management processes. This building is the park’s ‘flagship’, with communal elements such as a restaurant, master control centre for security and facility management, and virtual and pay-per-use business and conference facilities. The building has the capacity to employ 1,500 people.

The project complies with the requirements of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certificate. Could you elaborate on that and what criteria does the project fulfil as regards to the certificate’s requirements?
- All Embassy projects, including Embassy Techzones IT Park Indjija, are designed for LEED ratings as part of our focus on creating sustainable developments. LEED is the world’s most recognised standard in green and eco-friendly developments, monitored by the US green building council (USGBC). Factory Mutual (FM) is the highest safety standard recognised by leading insurance companies. All commercial properties currently developed by us are either LEED platinum- or gold-certified and FM compliant. LEED-certified buildings provide both environmental and financial benefits, as they are designed to lower operating costs, reduce waste sent to landfill and harmful greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy and water, and be healthier and safer for their occupants. The process was complex and expensive but we believe that we need to be responsible, especially with today’s environmental issues and our drive to stay ahead of the curve.

The entire project will be implemented over the course of several stages. On 20 November, the company announced the first stage had already been completed. What was involved in the first stage and what is the value of the initial investment?
- We have invested around €20 million in our existing building and are planning to invest another €300 million for future developments. Of course, this will be invested over a period of time and take into consideration the requirements of the market and the economic scenario at the time of investment.

Could you tell us about the next project stages and the deadlines for their completion?
- We are planning to create a leisure component, Data Centre Park, an advanced manufacturing hub for semiconductor manufacture (FAB), solar panels and electric mobility, a biotech park, and an aerospace park for the design and production of the best aircraft and aero structures to meet the varied needs of the global market. You should understand that our role is to provide a state-of-theart environment under a recognised brand. However, the growth capacity depends mainly on the economic and social environment. This requires a significant effort from all stakeholders. Embassy will commit to do its part of the work.

Is it fair to say that the IT park is an incentive for other Indian investors to come here too?
- We are proud to be the largest Indian investor in this country to date and are looking to expand rapidly. We are willing to share our experiences, local knowledge and know-how with Indian companies potentially looking to invest here in future.

How interesting is Serbia and its business environment as an investment destination to a country that prides itself in being a global leader in IT?
- As the world market for ICT continues to evolve, Serbia is well placed both geographically and structurally to provide a cost effective and reliable alternative to other, already established markets. An outstanding pool of intellectual capital, attractive labour costs, a highly educated and technically skilled workforce, already-developed telecommunication infrastructure and a high fluency in English are just some of the key competitive advantages that have already attracted international ICT companies to expand to Serbia.

Apart from being a leader in IT and other sciencebased sectors, India is considered globally to be a great hub for scientists and technological expertise. How can India share this ‘treasure’ with Serbia?
- Both countries have a historical friendship and mutual respect. I think the respective governments can do a lot to develop this relationship by creating partnerships that transfer and share knowledge and experience in various sectors. Our Minister of State for External Affairs, H.E. Ms. Preneet Kaur, along with H.E. Mr. Ivan Mrkić, were present at our press meet held recently at Embassy Techzones IT Park Indjija and discussed mutual cooperation between the two countries. This sets a good precedent for setting up a continuous knowledge-transfer model in various fields of scientific and technological innovation and economic cooperation. Serbia has valuable treasure in the form of rich technical and scientific skill and knowledge, which needs to be discovered. We are now offering to the market an infrastructure solution and platform to nurture and showcase that skill and knowledge globally.

In terms of the IT sector, do you think this project can help Serbia to earn a reputation and play a role similar to that India has worldwide?
- I would like to mention that this building has been designed, built and certified by Serbian companies. I believe that the Embassy Techzones IT Park Indjija is the perfect example of the highest-quality infrastructure, effectively showcasing what Serbia can produce to companies worldwide. Serbia needs to start focusing on value-creating industries and the Embassy Techzones IT Park Indjija is the ideal location and platform for setting up those industries and businesses.

First Steps in Tech