Bengaluru: As he prepares to roll out the red carpet for titans of industry, Mr R.V. Deshpande, the architect of Invest Karnataka 2016, scheduled to kick off at Palace Grounds on February 3, is his usual modest self, giving all the credit to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
“This event was not planned by me, to be fair, Mr Siddaramaiah did it all,” he said in an interview with Deccan Chronicle.
Investors meets have come and gone but the big bucks have not been raining on the state. What does Mr Deshpande have to say on this? “Let me make it clear that this time, the GIM is restricted to investors. More than 115 projects of the infrastructure and industries department are on our website. This is an opportunity for investors to bid for them,” he explained
On the likely investment figure, he said it was too early to make a prediction but hoped it would be a decent one.
‘Karnataka holds the key to India’s future’
Bengaluru is awaiting the arrival of titans of the Indian industry for Invest Karnataka 2016, the three-day global investors meet, which will kick off at Palace Grounds on February 3. Industries minister, R.V. Deshpande who has worked tirelessly for over six months to make the event successful, spoke to Deccan Chronicle about the uniqueness of this GIM. Here are excerpts from his interview.
There was uncertainty about the Global Investors Meet because it was postponed twice. But, after you took over the industry department, many believed the event would not be postponed again and rightly so with the event set to begin on February 3 . How did you manage to pull it off?
This event was not planned by me. To be fair, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had planned it. It will become successful, I am confident. The credit should go to all departments, not only the industries department. In 2000 when the first GIM was held for the first time in the country, I was the industry minister. That paved way for the culture of holding GIMs in all states, It is a good sign because it brought in competition, transparency and changed the way industries departments work. After that, the country realised that investments can bring prosperity, investment and can revenue to the state exchequer and create wealth for people.
You are very modest in not admitting your role. What is it that you brought to the table?
I take everyone together. And I also work with them, get the work done by officials. This type of work can happen due to team work.
Compared to the last global investors meet, how different will this one be?
The first difference is this time, the GIM is restricted to investors only. We are doing it very professionally this time round. We have seven partner countries, Japan, UK, South Korea, Germany, France, Italy and Sweden. For the first time, more than 115 projects of the infrastructure and industries department are on the website. Many belong to Bengaluru but the majority are from other parts of the state. To name a few, proposals related to tourism, power and waste management are up for grabs. In some cases, DPR or pre-feasibility study reporters were uploaded on the website. This is an opportunity for investors to explore these projects and come forward to bid. Twenty six or twenty seven seminars and thematic presentations will take place. We have identified 14 sectors. Aviation, agri business, start up, infrastructure. manufacturing are among them. This time we are trying to clear as many projects. Not that I am against MoUs. But experience has taught us that the MoUs signed were not followed up seriously. For example, we have Pepsi here. If Pepsi comes forward to sign a MoU for one more plant, we do not mind. Because it is already here so, there is trust. If a person from the steel industry says he wants to invest Rs 25,000 crore and start a new steel plant, I may hesitate because, the steel industry is going through a bad phase.
How much of the promised investments of the last GIM came through?
From the days of the Maharaja of Mysore, Karnataka has been an industry-friendly state. I do not want to rake up a controversy at this juncture.
ArcelorMittal sought permission to move from the steel to solar sector. What decision has the government taken?
Due to SC restrictions to participate in the mines auction, it is difficult for them to start a new steel factory. They do not have an existing mine. Globally, the steel industry is in a slump. China is dumping steel at 15 to 20 per cent rate lower than India. So, it is difficult for them, I can understand. We are examining their proposal. In the past, the change of purpose was allowed in some cases. No decision has been taken yet.
Last week, you said this investors meet is important for the common man.
I said if infrastructure concerns were there for industry, it will affect the common man too. A bus driver faces this problem. Children of a porter has to go to school on time and he will face this issue. Things have started moving in right direction. We are laying roads. I know a lot of things have to be fixed.
There is scepticism because of the China effect. How do you perceive the prospects of GIM in the wake of this?
The future will decide. Karnataka has a bright future. Invent, Innovate, Invest in Karnataka because India’s future is going to be launched from here in Karnataka. Out of 100 US companies, 90 are in the city. They are here because of the friendly government, consistent policies, weather, rich human capital, skilled labour. Why should industry not go to tier-II cities? The land is cheap. They have rail, road and air connectivity.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has been maintaining that industries have to go to tier-II cities. Does it mean, no one can set up shop in Bengaluru.
No..No...Industries have to come here. For example, UB had a distillery on Vittal Mallya Road. I told them to go out. They agreed and moved out. In hindsight, it was a good decision. They have to take a decision voluntarily. No one will force industries out. The government has to think over giving incentives to those who move out.
In terms of investment, how much are you planning to tap during this meet?
I am not in a position to quantify now. There will be a High power committee meeting on February 1 and on the same evening, a single window agency meeting will be held. Papers and proposals are still coming. It will be a decent figure, I must say.
Before you took over, the World Bank announced the ninth rank for Karnataka in the Ease of Doing Business category. In the last one year, do you think the state has moved up the ladder?
The Ease of doing business culture started in Karnataka. Some states which introduced online facilities have got the best ranking. But have they got investment? Not really. They insist everything should be given to the public under the RTI Act including plan and industry design. Industry is opposing it. They can share information with the government.
One major hurdle you are facing is power and water scarcity. How will you overcome this?
Our dependence on hydel power is more. The drought was severe this time. This year, 2500 MW of thermal power will come to our grid by June. Non-conventional energy, solar, and wind mills are coming up and will add more power.
Water is a real problem. Our share of Cauvery water is limited. We have a depleting groundwater table.
This cannot be a major issue for industries. For IT or BT, they may not need water. Very few need water.