KOLKATA, 1 December, 2008: The industrial growth rate of West Bengal is 1.1 per cent higher than the national average of 10.8 per cent (2006-07), and the State continues to move ahead on the path to development and economic progress, the Singur episode notwithstanding. According to leading industrialists, the sectors like steel and mining, chemicals and petro-chemicals, power, agro industries and food processing, Information Technology (IT), real estate and retail have been generating a lot of interest in West Bengal.
The State is a gateway not only to north-east India besides other States like Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, but also to countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. The growth and development is obvious in and around the capital city of Kolkata. Major real estate players like DLF, Unitech, Singapore-based Keppeland, Purvankara, Emaar Group, are all competing for a pie of the new satellite township coming up at Rajarhat, near the airport. Besides housing estates, several budget and star hotels and conference centres, cultural centres, shopping malls, multiplexes are being built across the city.
Smaller towns like Durgapur, Haldia, Asansol, and Siliguri across the State are developing. The steel sector, recently received a boost with the foundation stone laying of the proposed Rs. 35,000 crore-Jindal Steel Plant in Salboni, in West Midnapore District, approximately 240 kilometres from Kolkata. The other sectors that have witnessed a lot of activity are metals, mining and plastic. With a sustained agricultural growth of over 8 per cent, the State is also finding investors in the agro-industries and in food processing.
"There is great focus in potato, other vegetables and fruit cultivation and processing. The entry of wholesale giants like Metro-Cash-And-Carry signals well for this segment," says Dr. Rajeev Singh, Secretary General, Indian Chamber of Commerce. According to the city-based industrialist Sanjay Budhia, Chairman of the Patton Group, Kolkata finds investors because of facilities like low-cost housing compared to other metros, good sanitation and basic amenities, best clubs in the country, culture and a literate working class.
Sanjay says investors from Japan and Korean get bowled over when they see the great golf courses the Tolly club and the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC). In the hotel industy, Kolkata has witnessed entry of big players. The Apeejay Group is putting up a 300-room five star hotel spread over a 3.3 acre plot on the Eastern Bypass worth Rs 1.36 billion, as is the Emaar Group. The Bengal Shrishti Infrastructure Development is building a hotel in Rajarhat worth Rs. five billion. The Hilton group has also made enquiries.
According to Samit Ganguly, Director for Sales, Hyatt Regency, Kolkata, has a corporate-driven hotel market, which is growing despite seasonal downslides. West Bengal today is the third largest economy in the country. Its IT sector, which set off much later than other parts of the country, is growing fast with big names like Wipro, TCS and IBM finding a place in the IT hub at Sector V already. The State, according to industry leaders, is on the right track. It has garnered new projects worth two billion dollars in the last four years. The government has offered the right incentives and even during the recent global meltdown and recession, not many see much reason to worry.
However, all emphasize that there is need for an environment for industrial growth. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government in West Bengal has shown the political will towards taking the State forward industrially. However, the state's merit as an investment destination and for industrial development would ultimately be decided on the basis of its work culture and the public will to see projects through.