Time to walk the talk after Invest Karnataka

Time to walk the talk after Invest Karnataka
Rather than merely extolling its virtue as the best investment destination, Karnataka has succeeded in notching up the pole position in India’s industrialisation trip through Invest Karnataka 2016, highlighting its importance as “Where the future is made”.

Invest Karnataka has proved again that Karnataka is the preferred place for an investment. At a time when a few other states of South India have successfully been able to beckon investment and large-scale development, Karnataka has stood up to the competition, and as seen at the just-concluded global investors meet, the state continues to be much sought-after.

Today, Karnataka’s business milieu boasts of all the latest trends the world has to offer, thanks to Bengaluru’s place as the IT/BT capital of India. Between every large information technology corporation in the capital, are hundreds of interesting startups, adding their piece to the Karnataka growth story.

The doyen of Indian industries, Tata Sons Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata, said that Karnataka has had visionary governments all through the years, and it was a pleasure doing business in the state. “Karnataka is one of the places the world should be looking at. This is a place of opportunity,” he said.

Invest Karnataka witnessed the startup ecosystem committing its responsibility to begin another disruptive era in the history of global industrialisation, in the presence of Indian and international industrialists, along with the central government.

Having already witnessed the growth stories of many an IT giant, the state is equally passionate about its little startups, coming out with its own startup policy, and several programmes to benefit the burgeoning segment. To make things more exciting, startups have found pastures far beyond Bengaluru. For instance, Abhishek Latthe from Belegavi, who runs the wearable and IoT company SenseGiz is on ‘cloud’ nine thanks to the opportunities thrown open by the Karnataka government, offering exposure to global ideas.

“I am very much enthused by the phenomenal transformation happening around, through the growing technological and cultural synergy to get along with new feats in the state,” Latthe said.

How is all this possible? Karnataka’s prowess in R&D aligned with its IT capabilities, backed by a bubbling talent pool have really overwhelmed global players to restart their next journey from Karnataka. And the entire state is surging ahead — from Electronic City, Bengaluru, Tadadi village in Uttara Kannada, to Dharwad and Belagavi in North Karnataka — all the districts joining hands in this great march.

The three-day Invest Karnataka witnessed signing of 121 projects with a commitment to invest Rs 1.33 lakh crore across energy, information technology and biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, infrastructure and tourism, among others, with foreign countries relaying their enthusiasm in investing in the state. Over 5,000 participants, including a thousand from abroad attended the investors meet.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who inaugurated Invest Karnataka, said he expects the state to surpass the national growth rate. “Karnataka has the potential to grow at least 2-3 per cent ahead of India’s GDP. It has the needed human and institutional resources to grow faster than India,” he said.

“One of the best things that happened to Karnataka over the last 2-3 decades is that even at the age of regulated economy, some wisdom dawned on this country and we decided to leave the IT sector alone. Since we left the IT sector alone, free from any interference of the government, they prospered, and became a face of India’s growth potential,” Jaitley said.

Let’s make something

Pointing its natural innovation culture backed by startups and R&D centres, Jaitley rightly pointed out that the state should look at large manufacturing investment potential.
“Manufacturing is where the jobs are... if we are able to concentrate on this with natural advantage of R&D centres worldwide coming into the state, I think we can exploit all this potential and really convert Karnataka into a destination of investment and economic activity of growth,” Jaitley added.

Even though the crippling infrastructure gnawed at investors, the tremendous opportunity open up by Karnataka to give a microcosm of global marketplace, backed by cutting-edge technologies, really brought laurels.

German Consul General Jörn Rohde said that Karnataka has enough talent pool for German companies to invest in R&D. “In the next level of industrial revolution with IoT and Industrie 4.0, we need Indian support. Here the government should take up the infrastructure issue seriously to attract more investments,” Rohde said .

Despite the infrastructure mess, Bengaluru and Karnataka are taken very seriously by investors. Leading the pack, Anil Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Group, announced his  knowledge-driven technology venture — an aerospace R&D centre — in Bengaluru, to symbolise the city’s spirit of innovation.

“It is important that we start developing and designing cutting-edge systems. Given the emerging scenarios, where air power will play a decisive role in any conflict situation, aerospace technologies were the obvious choice for us, and Karnataka is best-suited for such a venture,” said Ambani. Besides his nearly Rs 5,000-crore investment already made in Karnataka, across a wide array of sectors from telecom, energy, entertainment, to financial services, the new investment will create an additional 1,500 jobs.

The group had, last year, announced the Dhirubhai Ambani Aerospace Park, spread over 400 acres at the multi-modal international cargo hub and airport at Nagpur, to create an ecosystem for the indigenous manufacture of aerospace components. If we look at the investment Karnataka received during Invest Karnataka 2016,  the energy sector garnered the highest investment with over Rs 1 lakh crore. The beauty of these projects is that majority of them will come in the renewable energy, and particularly in the waste, solar and wind energy sectors.

Even though mining got hit this time, the steel sector got the second maximum proposals with a tune of Rs 38,000 crore, and the promise to employ 6,000 people. Sajjan Jindal, CMD of JSW Steel, announced a Rs 35,000 crore investment over the next 4-5 years. JSW Steel operates one of India’s largest steel plants in Vijayanagar, in Karnataka, and has till date, invested around Rs 60,000 crore in the state.

Speaking at the meet, the rising star in India’s infrastructure segment, diversified business conglomerate Adani Group, led by Gautam Adani, promised investment in power  generation and port development.

“We are investing Rs 11,500 crore for increasing the capacity of the Udupi Power Company from 1,200 mW, to 1,600 mW. When this expansion happens, it will cater to 20 million households,” he said. The group also plans to invest Rs 500 crore to expand its coal-handling capacity in the state. “We plan to invest Rs 7,000 crore to set up a 1,000 mW solar plant in Karnataka. We are intended to develop Tadadi port by spending Rs 2,000 crore,” Adani added.

Centre’s help hits the road

Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said the central government will contribute Rs 1 lakh crore in the next two years for road development in Karnataka. “I am ready to solve the problem of Bengaluru by supporting the government initiative to expand elevated highways, suburban railways, peripheral ring-roads and metro railway expansion,” he said.

Apart from the claimed Rs 3-lakh investment proposals in Karnataka, the state will also receive Rs 1 lakh crore over two years for the development of 4,000 km of national highways in the state.

The chemicals sector saw investments of about Rs 24,000 crore with an employment potential for 5,000 people. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah assured to allocate 500 acres for a urea factory in one of the four districts — Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Dharwad and Raichur — in North Karnataka. The other big ticket announcements included a Rs 2,000 crore investment in the state by the Aditya Birla Group across sectors like telecom, apparel and retail.

The Karnataka government will also set up a PPP company called Karnataka Invest where industrialists will advise the government, and function as an ambassador to attract global investments.

Karnataka Industries Minister R V Deshpande had told Deccan Herald that mobilising investments is a continuous process, and cannot be done in two days. “We have achieved our maximum as the investments have been spread across the state, including districts of Ballari, Dakshina Kannada, Mysuru, Tumakuru, Shivamogga, Bengaluru Rural and Kolar. Now we will look at the execution of these projects. We have the process of approvals by Cabinet committee and the Udyog Mitra taking the lead in this,” he said. The said investment proposals cumulatively is expected to generate a total employment of 6,70,931 jobs across the state.

Karnataka, with its $120 billion economy, has succeeded in attracting global companies such as Airbus, Bosch, Cisco, Dell, GE, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, and Toyota. Now it is high time that backed by R&D institutions and innovation centres of global companies, the state should further solidify its position in manufacturing.

If government succeeds in tapping its capacity in agro industries and tourism full-scale, there is no doubt that it can excel in giving massive rural employment, and reducing poverty levels, an important goal.

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