GIM vs Vibrant Gujarat – A contrast in branding and governance
That the first BJP government in South India has not delivered is a widely known fact to the people of Karnataka. Hopes were riding high after it was voted to power in the year 2008 that the state will be able to match the progress of Gujarat in both economic and social development.
Instead the government of the day has floundered and has been in crisis mode from the very beginning. Riddled by factionalism and unbridled corruption, it has failed to deliver on its promise of good governance. Rather than focus on policy making, leaders have been infighting and jostling for positions that has led to faltering economic growth and poor investment climate in the state. Governance has taken a backseat to politicking.
A comparison of ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ - the Gujarat state government’s summit to attract investments and ‘Global Investor Meet’ (GIM) - the flagship programme of government of Karnataka modeled on similar lines symbolises the marked differences in administration of the two states. It provides sufficient confirmation and explanation as to why the first BJP government in Karnataka has been an unmitigated disaster.
Evidence gathered from published data and anecdotes from participants in both the events suggests that Vibrant Gujarat is miles ahead compared to GIM. The investor summit hosted by the Gujarat government is much superior in creating a brand value for the entire state. And when it comes to follow up and execution after the event, Gujarat’s governance and commitment far outweigh that of Karnataka.
During Vibrant Gujarat, the entire gamut of the state -- from their culture, cuisine and language to their entrepreneurial spirit, quality of life and Gujarati pride is marketed to investors and visitors. Without preference for any sector or district in the state, the strength of Gujarat as an engine for growth is promoted and noticeable to all investors and participants much to their own admiration.
At the GIM, a lack of vision is palpable. Government and its advisors have failed miserably to promote the overall strength of Karnataka. Along with mining rich districts, most of the attention revolves in and around Bangalore. Missing is the Kannadiga pride at the event.
There is no mention of the beauty of the state, its salubrious climate and its outstanding educational institutions. The stunning architecture, iconic food, great wildlife, the myriad places of historical prominence and cities that are in close proximity to ports and sea coast finds no mention.
As far as follow up and execution of projects are concerned, a member of United States India Business Council (USIBC) recites a familiar story that illustrates the divergence in governance, commitment and follow-through of the two states.
A foreign investor decides to invest in a manufacturing plant in Gujarat after attending the Vibrant Gujarat meet. The investor requested certain information regarding clearances, location comparison etc. via the government website. The investor received a surprise response within 24 hours and included in it was the cell phone number of the state bureaucrat and the minister responsible for the sector.
The bureaucrat then proceeded to greet the foreign investor at the airport in Ahmedabad, explained the necessary formalities, provided additional information regarding location advantages and disadvantages and demonstrated keen interest in making Gujarat investor friendly. All this without ever hinting or demanding payment. Such outstanding commitment enables Gujarat to convert more than 80 per cent of signed MOUs at the event into reality.
That kind of follow through, dedication and enthusiasm is sorely lacking in Karnataka. Thus many investors and attendees who participate in the event get the impression that GIM is a photo-op for political leaders. At the second GIM, although some big ticket investments were announced, many important policies like Tourism Trade Act and Karnataka Aero Space are still in draft stages while investors lurch in the dark till the final outcome.
As for the first edition of GIM, not only has the government retracted on many commitments to investors but also has failed in its assurance to keep the people of Karnataka informed about the status of MOUs. Accordingly official claims of 65 per cent of projects has gotten off the ground from the first GIM is widely viewed with suspicion. Many analysts and experts believe it is more like a 10 per cent to 15 per cent success rate.
For future GIMs to be successful, the Karnataka government needs to do three things to attract investments and create good paying jobs for the people of the state.
First, the government along with the bureaucracy and consultancy firm responsible for promoting the event should endorse the entire state, its people and culture in order for GIM to become a recognizable brand outside the state and country. Second, there needs to be timely and persistent follow up after the meet.
The state bureaucracy should be agile and nimble in answering questions from investors and remove red tape wherever necessary and convert commitments or MOUs in to projects and jobs.
Finally, there needs to be a quantum leap in governance. The political masters should present a futuristic vision of Karnataka at GIM that is grounded in sound policy framework and combines the innovative culture, entrepreneurial spirit of Karnataka with a commitment to attract investments.