Known around India as “God’s Own Country,” the state of Kerala is a lush locale tucked away in the southwest corner of the Indian peninsula. Surrounded by the Arabian Sea and Western Ghats mountain ranges, Kerala is an idyllic setting for relaxation, business and pleasure.
However, Kerala, composed of 14 districts, is best known for its scenic and diverse landscape. Driving through the city of Thiruvananthapuram (commonly referred to as Trivandrum), the capital of Kerala, sightseers will find themselves surrounded by tiny streets, roaming livestock and constant greenery. Throughout the city and state, pulsing cosmopolitan centers are interspersed with tranquil shores and swaying palm trees. That connection paves the way for the state’s extensive and breathtaking backwater waterway system, which is used for both transportation and tourism.
The state of Kerala is largely agricultural, specializing in cardamom, cashews, coconuts, coffee, ginger, pepper, rubber and tea, the production of which amounts to about 40 percent of the land use throughout the state. Unique to the area is commercial poultry farming, which has become very well developed over the past decades. Perhaps most interesting, Kerala is also well known for applying Ayurvedic principles (a lifestyle philosophy based on the balance of energy) to the development of spa treatments.
With three airports — Trivandrum (TRV), Kochi (COK) and Kozhikode (CCJ) — and multiple train stations, Kerala is a well-placed tourism destination. Its tropical setting and temperate climate appeal to visitors from around the globe and the distance between its major cities, all about two hours by car from one another, is a key drawing card — especially for travelers looking to combine business with pleasure.
While the state’s coastline boasts an unrivaled beauty, tourists and those traveling on business truly get a feel for the heart of Kerala when they venture into the cities where they’ll find street vendors selling popular local foods (don’t miss the bananaand- tapioca chips) and artisans creating beautiful handicrafts from recyclable materials including coconut shells and newspapers.
India has one of the largest populations in the world. Currently estimated at 1.1 billion, it’s increasing at a whopping 1.3 percent every year. With that population growth comes economic growth, as India sees more and more of its population moving away from the agricultural industry and toward the service industry. (A fact clearly demonstrated by India’s dominance as the go-to destination for global outsourcing.) In addition, the country is known for its highly skilled workers, particularly in the fields of software programming and engineering.
India still faces constraints that hinder its drive to a full economic boom. To address that situation, the government has initiated foreign investment incentives designed to capitalize on the state’s assets — strong communications infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce and low operating costs. Incentives include duty-free import of capital goods, office equipment, raw materials and consumables; liberal conditions for foreign equity participation; and corporate income tax exemption for a continuous block of five years during the first eight years of operations. In addition, controls on ownership, planning, managing and profiting from industrial ventures in India are falling by the wayside.
The United States has heavily invested in India, about $5 billion a year, and growing numbers of U.S. business travelers make frequent visits to the country. The state of Kerala has seen an influx of business travelers tied to the development of commercial centers, Technopark and Infopark.
Technopark (http://www.technopark.org), located in Trivandrum, provides jobs for approximately 15,000 area professionals. U.S. companies with a presence in Technopark include Infosys, Ernst & Young and IBS; and more are on the way as t he park proceeds with plans to expand to 300-plus acres, improving on an already extensive infrastructure that includes convention space, meetings facilities and dining venues.
Another rising business center, Infopark (http://www.infoparkkochi.com) is located near the city of Kochi. At about 100 acres, Infopark currently houses 35 companies and is a favored location among start-up ventures. Due to its proximity to Kochi, Kerala’s second largest city, the park is well known among IT investors.
Kerala is expanding both its tourism and business sectors at rates that overshadow some of India’s larger metropolises, including Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. Its appeal is vast; offering leisure and business travelers a place to work, kick back and experience India.
U.S. citizens must have a visa to enter and exit India for any purpose. Visas can be obtained at any Indian Embassy or Consulate prior to departure.
Embassy of India 2536 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008 tel 202 939 7000 http://www.indianembassy.org
Kerala State IT Mission ICT Campus Vellayambalam Junction Thiruvananthapuram – 695 033 Kerala, India tel 91 471 272 6881 http://keralaitmission.org
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