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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
A day in India's Silicon Valley
Spencer Kelly
By Spencer Kelly
Reporter, BBC Click Online

What is it like to live and work in the fastest growing technology market in the world? Spencer Kelly has been following tech workers Dipti Kothari and Sachin Bedare at a small company in Bangalore, known as India's Silicon Valley.

Naviplay unit
Dipti is working hard on improving her wireless Naviplay unit
It is early Thursday morning and the start of an important day for 25-year-old Dipti Kothari, a senior software engineer.

Today is the day she receives feedback from clients on her major new project.

Each morning she leaves her shared apartment for the short journey to work at Impulsesoft.

It is a small business of 55 people based in a busy suburb of Bangalore, a city which has seen a lot of changes because of the technology boom over the last 10 years, says Dipti.

"The traffic has become worse, pollution has increased. There are a lot of software professionals living here, so the cost of living has increased."

Perfecting the product

Impulsesoft works mainly on wireless technology.

The Naviplay unit is one of its most recent projects, and it is also Dipti's pride and joy.

INDIA'S SILICON VALLEY
The district of Bangalore includes Anekal, Bangalore North, Bangalore South and Bangalore City
Home to more than 6 million people, and a base for 10,000 industries
India's fifth largest city and the fastest growing city in Asia
Half way between the coasts of Southern India. Latitude: 12 8' North, Longitude: 77 37' East
Altitude: 3000 feet above sea level. Area: 368 square kilometres
Population: 60 Lakhs
Language: Kannada, Hindi and English
Literacy: 75.42%
Green Cover: 40%
It allows you to plug in a stereo headset, which then connects wirelessly to both an iPod and a mobile phone at the same time.

This means that you can listen wirelessly to your music, but when a call comes in on your phone the headphones interrupt the music and become a hands-free set for your mobile.

The new version will also display relevant information - either the details of the track you are listening to or, when your phone receives a call, the caller's number. It will also act as a wireless remote control.

Today's meeting is to review the latest changes to the specifications requested by the clients.

Sachin
Indian IT workers like Sachin still earn much less than in the West
Meanwhile, Dipti's colleague Sachin arrives at the office. The company is based in a large house, rather than purpose-built accommodation.

This means it has inherited some unusual features, like a bell (which is now only rung when a new contract is won), a swing (used mainly for thinking time) and very spacious company restrooms.

Sachin is a hardware engineer, and from his office he designs the circuit layout for projects such as Naviplay.

Once the circuit prototypes are made, the team can make small changes and tweaks in the makeshift workshop.

Lifestyle comparisons

A typical working day for Sachin is about 10 hours.

"Usually I work from 9.00 in the morning to 7.00, but actually it depends on what phase of the project you are going through," he says.

"As the release days come further, you tend to spend more and more time in the night.

"After going home, I generally tend to spend time with family, watching TV, the news. If I have more time I go and play some sport. If I still have more time, sometimes I end up going to the gym, but very rarely."

Dipti and Sachin have jobs and lifestyles which are not dissimilar to their counterparts in a more traditional software environment. The main difference, of course, is the money they earn.

Wages have been rising steadily, on average between 15 and 20% each year, and I see the same continuing in the near future as well
Mr Chandrasekaran, Impulsesoft chairman
An average starting salary for an Impulsesoft software engineer is around $9,000 (5,000).

But this is changing, according to the company's chairman, Mr Chandrasekaran.

"Wages have been rising steadily, on average between 15% and 20% each year, and I see the same continuing in the near future as well," he says.

"The reason is that there are certain types of jobs for which the supply is constrained and the demand high.

"It depends on what level you are talking about. There are lots and lots of people at entry level in IT jobs, but not a sufficient number of people, in my view, for the kind of complex jobs that have to be done in more experienced kinds of assignments.

"So until that stabilises, until that young crop grows up, in the next seven to 10 years, this will continue."

Opportunities and uncertainties

Dipti is out of her meeting, and has been asked by the client to add some more features to the new device, including the ability to pause the iPod music automatically when a call is taken on the phone.

Naviplay prototype
The new version of the Naviplay will display relevant information
Implementing the feature will take a few days of development, and after working late into the evening, it is time for a well earned dinner with Sachin and their boss.

If she was not working in technology, Dipti says: "I might have started a restaurant of my own, since I love food so much. I could get seafood every day."

It is thanks to Bangalore's booming economy that its tech workers can afford to consider such opportunities.

If that boom continues, more and more workers will have access to the money and lifestyles of IT employees the world over.

And of course, they will be faced with similar choices, opportunities and uncertainties.


Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0745 . Also BBC World.



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