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India is second biggest investor in Northern Ireland

Indian companies, emerged as the second biggest business investors in Northern Ireland in 2005-06, next only to those from the US.

world Updated: Apr 23, 2007 08:27 IST

Indian companies, rapidly spreading their wings abroad, emerged as the second biggest business investors in Northern Ireland in 2005-06, next only to those from the US.

According to Lord Diljit Rana, honorary consul for India in Northern Ireland, prominent among the Indian firms investing nearly £ 30 million in Northern Ireland are FirstSource, part of ICICI Bank of Mumbai, Polaris Software Lab of Chennai, and HCL-BPO. The investment is likely to create 1,000 new jobs.

HCL-BPO operates the biggest independent customer contact centre in Northern Ireland, employing over 2,000 people at its operations in Belfast and Armagh.

FirstSource has recruited over 700 of the 1,000 people it intends to hire in its two customer contact centres in Belfast and Londonderry.

By 2008, it plans to increase its workforce to 570 people at its Londonderry centre, with around another 400 jobs at its Belfast base. It is seeking to fill customer service advisors at both centres.

Polaris has plans to hire around 150 people at a software development centre of excellence in Belfast.

Lord Rana said in a statement: "I am delighted that Indian companies are now recognising the immense potential of Northern Ireland as a platform for profitable growth within the enlarged European Community.

"It is proving to be a cost-effective and attractive base that offers them easy access to a pool of well-educated and computer literate young people.

"Furthermore, trade exchanges between Northern Ireland and India are blossoming and several Northern Ireland companies, especially in IT and software, have now either set up businesses or formed joint ventures in India."

Meanwhile, FirstSource has defended a disparity of almost £ 800 between identical jobs in its call centres in Belfast and Londonderry on the ground of differing cost of living indices.

Successful applicants in Belfast are to be paid £ 12,000 per annum, while in Londonderry the salary for an identical position is set 768 pounds lower at 11,232.

Liam Gallagher, general secretary of the Derry Trades Council, called the difference in salary unfair.

"I would call on Firstsource to ensure workers in Londonderry receive a comparable rate of pay for what is an identical position," he said.

Defending the disparity, marketing consultant Fraida Silver said FirstSource had "taken due diligence" prior to establishing pay levels.

"When we were setting up in Northern Ireland we consulted recruitment experts and employment lawyers. We were advised it is appropriate to have a differential because of the higher cost of living in Belfast," she said.