Rohit J. Patel, the suave and polished president of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is dot on time for his interview. Seated in his impressive office here, Rohit spoke to The Sunday Guardian on a variety of issues and elaborated on the reasons why Gujarat has become one of the most progressive states in the country.
“I must say that during the beginning of the BJP rule and the subsequent rule under Narendra Modi Gujarat progressed a lot it was a comprehensive effort. From Day One, he started visiting key countries with business delegations to boost trade ties. I must add here that Gujarat has progressed a lot under the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has taken a different type of approach and his innovation has helped market Gujarat as a hub for industry in India,” Rohit said.
“I feel that Vibrant Gujarat was one of the most challenging and dynamic moves. This was a major marketing initiative to attract investments into the state. When Modi became the Prime Minister, he took some major decisions. He stressed on ease of doing business. Subsequently, in September 2014, he came up with the ‘Make in India’ mantra. It implies that ‘ease of doing business’ is a must to make ‘Make in India’ a reality. If we continue with the same bureaucracy and approach, I am afraid we would not be able to make much progress,” he said.
Rohit also said that the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry also tried to find out the grassroots approach in an attempt to understand the problems faced by the people in various parts of the state.
“I split my team into three units. I and my secretary toured South Gujarat, while another team headed for north Gujarat and the western part of Gujarat. We tried to understand the regional problems. I don’t think sitting in Ahmedabad, we can understand the problems faced by people of different parts of Gujarat,” he said.
Rohit Patel had words of praise for Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel. “The Chief Minister is very receptive and possesses great decisive power. She has also said that as far as ease of doing business is concerned, Gujarat is number one. But then I told her that we are not happy with being the best in the country. Let’s compare ourselves with the developed European countries or Singapore,” Rohit said.
Gujarat has progressed a lot under the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has taken a different type of approach.
Last month, the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry came up with a good and innovative idea. “Last month, we did a Mahasamelan in which 5,000 businessmen met under one roof at Mahatma Mandir. It was an initiative by the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We had narrowed down certain problems and also laid out the solutions with the intention to speed up the ‘Make in India’ initiative; so we kept interactive sessions. Subject-wise issues were raised and discussed in various halls. The reception was very good from the CM’s office, but I am sorry to say that the bureaucracy is not ready to change,” he said.
Rohit further explained that the bureaucracy has to change their mindset. “I am sorry to say that over the past 60 years, the majority of entrepreneurs have had to spend over 70% of their time and energy resolving nonproductive issues. Grappling with problems, the entrepreneur has to spend much time in these useless activities,” he said. “We are experiencing the waste of democracy, rather than enjoying the fruits of it. We need to move much faster. This is a great chance as there is recession across the world right now and India being positioned very well, should capitalise on the opportunity,” he added.
Asked what the main focus of the Gujarat Chamber was, Rohit said, “Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) is the backbone of our economy. It is the largest employment generator. But when we look at the figures in terms of percentile contribution of MSMEs to our GDP, it is largely very poor. We need to change this fast. If we study the advanced countries, MSMEs have a large role to play. In a country like Germany, the contribution to the GDP from MSMEs is more than 70%. MSMEs have to be given due importance due to various factors.”
He further added, “When we talk about ‘Make in India’, we are asking people to come and join our revolution. It takes time for a foreign company to come here and it involves a long process. Reviving sick MSMEs is going to help the ‘Make in India’ campaign because our country has already invested for creating that infrastructure and is readily available. We had an exhibition where we invited some PSUs to have a vendor development programme for MSMEs.”
“When we say Gujarat is developed, we want to compare Gujarat with developed countries. Our state is a chemical hub for the nation and I must say there is a hue and cry for environment protection in this state. I don’t understand when we make chemicals, how can there be no pollution. We must look for proper treatment. Look at America. In New Jersey, there used to be acid rain as it was a chemical hub in the 1970s. Now, they have successfully overcome from it. We also want to make our state pollution-less, and we have made more efforts than any other state in India,” Rohit said.
Finally, Rohit has a strong message for those who want to invest in Gujarat. “The message we would like to convey to those who want to invest in the state is that Gujarat is very receptive. It is the most stable state for investments. But we have to expedite certain things to improve the situation. When we invite people, we have to be receptive. KPMG made a presentation to us through the Gujarat government and it will be implemented soon. Things are not going at the pace they should and we intend to make things better in the near future,” he said.