At first glance, R.V. Deshpande looks a happy and contented man and seems every inch the man on a mission. The Minister of Industries for Large, Medium and Tourism, who is supervising and instructing every minute detail of the “Invest Karnataka 2016” summit was magnanimous to take some time off his busy schedule for an exclusive interview to The Sunday Guardian, in which he exhorted investors to “invent in Karnataka, innovate in Karnataka, and invest in Karnataka.”
Deshpande said that the “Investment Karnataka” summit was started in 2000 while he was the Industry minister under the chief ministership of S.M. Krishna, the then Chief Minister.
Since then, every state has started the investment meet. “It is a good sign that other states have realised that investments can bring prosperity, be in it in agriculture, industry, tourism. This brings wealth to the state,” Deshpande said.
He felt that investments, be they in any form, can go a long way in bringing much needed capita which is so important for any state to carry out its essential functions.
“Now, other states have realised that investments will bring prosperity, create jobs, generate revenue to meet their social responsibility and also to take up developmental work. So attracting investments is very critical for the development of any state,” the minister added.
He said that investment creates wealth. For example, in Bengaluru in 1995-96, exports were hardly worth Rs 400- 500 crore. “When I was to go to the United States and UK, I was to tell them in my presentations and road shows that Bengaluru is to the south of India. But today because of industry, everyone knows the city because exports from the IT sector. Moreover, over 1.3 million professionals are working in the IT sector alone due to the encouragement we have given them,” he said.
Apart from the IT sector, more jobs have been created in security and various other fields.
Elaborating on the “Invest Karnataka”, the minister added that investment meets are done to focus on the strengths of the state. “These are our strengths, our policies are attractive, lucrative and investor friendly. The ease of doing business here is an added advantage,” Deshpande said.
“The concept of clearance of projects is one of the main strengths; hence 14 thematic seminars will give an opportunity for the state to showcase its strength,” he added.
“Instead of this, what is happening is that we are going on signing MoUs. There is nothing wrong in this — we have also signed some — but if I look back, I find that ministers have signed MoUs, but the ground, very little has come out of them. So we have to look at the investors’ meet in the light of trying to clear as many projects as possible,” Deshpande said.
Investments are a continuing process, he said. “It does not mean that in two days of the investment summit, everything will be cleared. There are so many issues regarding investments; we have to show our strength and also show how safe our investments are,“ he said.
He emphasised that the focus was on an aerospace SEZ in Belgaum where many industries have come up. “In addition, investors wanted another 500 acres of land which we are ready to give. Just imagine — they are supplying components for Boeing and Airbus from Belgaum. In Bengaluru near the International airport, an aerospace defence for industries SEZ and aerospace park is also present. Around 15 to 20 industrIes are distributing their products,” Deshpande said.
Asked about Karnataka’s strength in manufacturing, Deshpande said it was in the defence and aerospace manufacturing sectors, adding that “the Make in India started in Karnataka a long time ago. Be it aviation, automobiles, cement, steel, engineering, 4G, everything is there.”
“Another strength is our ITBT where we are the leaders in the world and not just In Karnataka. We are recognised as the Silicon Valley. Tourism is also taking a good shape and we have built a lot of policy initiatives to boost tourism. We have spend almost 200 crores in last two years for road connectivity.” he added.
He said that for the security of the tourists, there are the “Tourist Mitras”. “We have posted the Tourist Mitras. They are a tourist-friendly police force deployed at various destinations in the state. They are very much like the Home Guards personnel who have been trained by KSTDC and the Home department. They work in coordination with the local police. This is done to ensure the security of women tourists which is a cause of concern,” the minister added.
Deshpande outlined there are various initiatives for the the corporates to adopt tourist destinations. “We have formed the infrastructure corporation to take up PP projects. Already, 6-7 corporates have adopted tourist destinations and the process is on. In agriculture, we have an excellent policy. We produce everything that can be produced in earth. Be it cereal crops, cash crops or horticulture. We are the number one in the country as far as milk production is concerned.”
Deshpande said that the garment industry is also taking a good shape. “Large garment players are also in Karnataka. We are not concentrating in Bengaluru only. The problem here is that the growth has been at such a speed that infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth. Some issues have arisen. The government under the leadership of our Chief Minister Siddaramaiahji has been taking a lot of initiatives to resolve the infrastructure and traffic issues in Bengaluru,” Deshpande said.
“We are doing this with the help of corporations and the support of the industry. We are trying for disbursal of industries to Tier Two cities. This includes shifting the IT from Bengaluru to Mysuru, Ramnagara, Chikballapur, Tumkur, Kolar, Dharwad, Hubli, Belgaum, Gulburga, Yadgir and also the coast,” Deshpande said.
This is being done as all these areas have excellent infrastructure as far as road and air connectivity are concerned. And most of these places, if not all, have air connectivity too. And many industries have come up in those place too. Coca Cola, garments and pharma industries are going to Yadgir.
Deshpande said Karnataka has its own strength which most states don’t have. “One is we have rich human capital, and a large number of educational institutions. The human capital is so rich today that more than 400 multinationals have their R&D centres here. All the major captains of industry, all the major business houses in the country have their presence here only because the state is industry-friendly and investor friendly and rich human capital or human resource.”
The ease of doing business is also good in Karnataka, Deshpande said. “We have done a lot and we still have to do more. I admit we are trying to strengthen our Udyog Mitra concept. The additional facilitating factors are a very good law and order situation. We have a stable and strong government and excellent industry-friendly labour. The strike rates have been the least in the country,” he said.
Also, Bengaluru is a cosmopolitan city which adds to the requirement of the foreign companies, Deshpande said. “We have large presence of multinational companies including German, Japanese, American and Chinese companies,” he said.
Karnataka is the start-up capital of the country, he said. “We rank 13th or 14th in the world in terms of start-ups and Karnataka is the only state which has a start-up policy for the industry. And this start-up policy will be driven by the industry. Start-ups have to be encouraged and they are not restricted to only ITBT. But you find them in every sphere — pharma, tourism and defence. Karantaka is going in the right direction. We hope this investors’ meet will be very successful and on the strength of Karnataka, we will be able to attract large investments in the coming years,” Deshpande said. Investment is a continuing process. Karnataka has been a very progressive industrialised state not from today or yesterday, but from times immemorial.
Lastly, I would say that our mantra is “invent in Karnataka, innovate in Karnataka, invest in Karnataka. The future of India will be made in Karnataka.”