Rajasthan in our minds oft invokes images of a vast land of kings and warriors, palaces and forts and vast expanses of desert. It is perhaps befitting that the current chief minister is a former Maharani, belonging to one of the noblest royal houses of the country. Vasundhra Raje for long has been fired up by a vision to provide a royal welcome to intrepid captains of industry to come to her State to invest in big projects and huge industrial units. Leveraging the myths and legends of its hoary past, Rajasthan has now embarked on an ambitious mission to sell dreams to the corporate world and attract huge investments not just from tourism but also from modern industries and Greenfield projects. A report…
It is with this in mind that the State held a spectacular event, the “Resurgent Rajasthan Partnership Summit 2015”, organised by the Rajasthan Government in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The two-day extravaganza was a big success, with 25 corporate tycoons flying in from across India and abroad to declare their willingness to gamble on the compelling old world environment of Rajasthan being an ideal investment destination for 21st century business projects.
The past, they say, often holds the key to the future. Held in a sprawling convention complex on the outskirts of the famed Pink City of Jaipur in the third week of November, the summit proved to be not just a mind-blowing cultural extravaganza where business magnates talked shop with political heavyweights but also a platform for hard commercial commitments and done-deals. The total investments pledged reached a staggering three lakh crore rupees. This was the quantum of an amalgam of big ticket memoranda of understanding (MoUs), new project announcements, signed document exchanges, serious expressions of interest and exploratory investment proposals on the run-up to the actual Resurgent Rajasthan Partnership Summit.
The Resurgent Rajasthan summit began on a balmy pre-winter Thursday with Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje proudly announcing that commitments for investment in the State had surpassed the INR 3,30,000 crore mark, with the potential to generate 2.5 lakh jobs. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, chief guest at the inaugural session, put his finger on the USP of the Raje government that would matter most too hard-headed investors. “In the past two years”, he said with precision, “Rajasthan has already pioneered far-reaching Labour Reforms. All it needs to do going forward is to ensure Ease of Doing Business. Global and domestic investors will flock to this beautiful State”. Quick to take the advice, Vasundhra Raje promised to accelerate the process of making the State a paradise for investors. Asserting that 2015 summit would not be a one-off event, she said: “The Rajasthan Model of Development rests on the triad of ‘Effective Governance’, ‘Social Justice’ and ‘Job Creation’.”
An estimated 25 of the top names of Indian business were personally present. The list of tycoons included Adi Godrej, Cyrus Mistry, Anand Mahindra, Uday Kotak, Anil Ambani, Anil Agarwal, Pawan Munjal and Kumar Mangalam Birla. Each one of them hailed the state government’s implementation of reforms agenda and promoting of ease of doing business. If Anil Agarwal of Vedanta said Rajasthan has the potential of being “another Australia and another Canada”, Anil Ambani of ADAG Group made the big announcement that his conglomerate had decided to make Rajasthan its main solar power hub.
Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu praised Rajasthan for being the first state to sign a MoU to promote housing projects. The proposed investment expected from these 27 MoUs is INR 12,478 crore and direct employment expected is 38,950 jobs, he said.
Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers, Ananth Kumar, committed to set up projects worth INR 10,000 crore in the state. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced that the Railways would enter into a joint venture with the State to develop infrastructure, adding that 24 new railway stations will be developed in the state.
Among the global participants, Japan sent a one hundred strong delegation. Japan’s long-standing business association with Rajasthan saw a defining moment when representatives from both sides signed MoUs worth INR 685 crore. During the country-specific session on Japan, four MoUs were signed in the Auto, Logistics and Air-conditioning categories with Nagano Products, Daikin Air-Conditioning, Nippon Express, Sankyu Indian Logistics & Engineering among others. Japan is already the beneficiary of a country-specific investment zone at Neemrana, Rajasthan, with a second one coming up nearby at Ghilot. The delegation, led by Takeshi Yagi, Japan’s Ambassador to India, comprised representatives of leading Japanese companies like Daikin, Mytex Polymer, Hitachi Chemical, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, and Mitsubishi Logistics.
Even before the summit, SB Solar Service, a subsidiary of Softbank, had signed an MoU with the Rajathan Government for setting up a solar power PV plant with a capacity of 10 GW in phases. The company plans to make an investment of USD 1 billion in phase 1.
Singapore Home Minister K Shanmugam announced that Scoot, a group company of Singapore Airlines, would soon commence direct flights between Jaipur and Singapore. Shanmugam also declared that Rajasthan was one of only two States in India that his country had decided to partner with in wide-ranging initiatives. A MoU has been signed between Singapore Cooperation Enterprise and the Rajasthan Housing Board for developing the master plans of Jodhpur and Udaipur. Key areas of partnership that Singapore and Rajasthan have identified and will be exploring going ahead are potable water, sustainable urbanisation, affordable housing, waste management, cleantech, human resource development, smart cities and food & agriculture.
Another highlight of the meet was an MoU worth INR 10,000 crore that was signed between the Public Works Department, Government of Rajasthan and the Construction Industry Development Board of Malaysia.
South Korea came in with two MoUs worth INR 67.8 crore that were signed between the State Government and South Korean firms. Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO) and the Korean water testing instrument manufacturer, HM Digital India Pvt. Ltd., have joined hands for a project to produce water quality testing/measuring instruments with an investment of INR 7.8 crore. RIICO has also signed an MoU with the Korean engineering plastic sheet manufacturing company, Spolytech Co. Ltd., for the production of PC (Polycarbonate) and PMMA (Poly Methyl Methacrylate) sheet & film products. Both the MoUs will generate direct and indirect employment for 150 people. South Korea and Rajasthan are also working together in two other priority areas – Smart Cities and Affordable Housing.
South Australia and Rajasthan have agreed to establish a Sister States relationship. Their MoU will be supported by a Cooperative Action Plan which will be developed to target specific trade and investment opportunities and needs in the key identified areas on mutually agreeable terms. Some of the areas of cooperation are: Water & Environmental Management; Resources & Energy; Agribusiness; Education, Skills & Training; and Tourism & Sports.
Italy, designated as a Partner Country, has sent a high-powered delegation to the Summit led by Mr. Lorenzo Angeloni, Ambassador in India, and comprising several senior diplomats, including the Trade Commissioner, Mr Francesco Pensabene.
If Day One was a resounding success of Big Business pledging big money, Day Two was a fitting finale with the emphasis on medium and small-scale entrepreneurs, without whom no comprehensive industrial policy can be complete.
The Valedictory session was attended by Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister for Commerce & Industry, Rajendra S. Pawar, Chairman, NIIT Group; Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII; Shreekant Somany, CMD Somany Ceramics. C.S. Rajan, State Chief Secretary, Veenu Gupta, Managing Director, RIICO. Nirmala Sitharaman said, “Reverberating with the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, the Resurgent Rajasthan summit has collaborated with stakeholders from various industries across value chains, jointly exploring opportunities for individual and collective growth by exploring new models of economic development and partnerships.” Smt. Sitharaman said there clearly was a revival of industries in Rajasthan and acknowledged the efforts of the State government in strengthening MSMEs. Going forward she hopes to see Rajasthan in the Top 3 in the Ease of Doing Business ranking.
Sitharaman lived up to her own words and announced the launch of a new National Institute of Design (NID) campus in Rajasthan. “This institute will help address the technology design needs that arise from increased industrialization and the growth of technology-intensive industries in the state.” She sought the cooperation of the Government of Rajasthan in setting up the institute, which will initially be a satellite centre for the NID campus in Ahmedabad. Later, this institute will provide undergraduate and post graduate courses.
In her concluding address, Vasundhara Raje said: “Our Government alone cannot do what we dream for Rajasthan. Our partners need to be on our side at every small step, at very large strides. The response and excitement here during the summit was palpable and it is indeed a beacon of hope and boost in confidence that we are on the correct path and we have friends in whom we can trust.” Talking about the way forward, Raje added: “The easy part is over now. The next steps shall involve us burning the midnight oil in implementing these investments and creating jobs for our people”, reiterating that Job Creation is one the three pillars of the Rajasthan Model of Development, the other two being Social Justice and Effective Governance.
The easy part is indeed over. The glitter and glamour of the Resurgent Rajasthan summit has come to a close. But now the real show will have to begin. The MoUs will have to be converted into concrete deals. Investments will have to be beginning flowing in. The dream of mega solar energy plants, skill development centres, water treatment units, smart cities, affordable housing and, above all, the prospect of lakhs of new jobs and thousands of micro and small ancillary units will have to transformed into a reality.