Touted as Punjab's most ambitious leap, so far, towards industrialisation, the Progressive Punjab Investors Summit beginning on Monday at SAS Nagar under the "think big, achieve big" mantra of the Akali-BJP government promises to transform the border state by wooing big-ticket investors.
The stakes and the expectations are high. The conclave is not just the culmination of the months-long "marketing Punjab" initiative of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who has gone to the doors of industrialists. It's the beginning of the challenges for him to show and deliver the results to match the size of the red carpet being unrolled for big industry.
Having succeeded in catching the attention of India's corporate czars, the conclave is set to open on an encouraging note, as many top-gun business magnates such as Mukesh Ambani and LN Mittal will meet and unveil their "look Punjab" approach. In a smart move, the mandarins of the state government have secured the consent of more than 30 industrial houses for their investing `25,000 crore in agriculture, renewable energy, and light engineering etc.
More than 400 investors, including chief executive officers (CEOs) of top business houses such as Reliance, Tatas, Hindujas, and ITC will be at the conference. Besides, foreign investors, especially from Taiwan, will also join. In the run-up to attracting these moguls to SAS Nagar, the deputy CM maintained the tempo by visiting Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi to promote Punjab on the strength of its infrastructure: swanky roads, air connectivity and now power.
Behind engaging top industrialists, the government's aim is to ensure its long-term financial stability; widen the tax base, and optimise the value-added tax (VAT) collection. "The government should put its house in order to not only sustain the momentum built by the deputy CM but also take it to the next level while implementing the industrial policies with the zeal with which these have been prepared," said a principal-secretary-rank officer.
"This meet is the last train for the Punjab government. If they miss it, the damage will be irreparable," said GST Group managing director Ranjodh Singh.
The great game
The investors' confidence was lost during the terrorism days. This phase went quite deep in the 1990s, and even as the economy was opened in 1991, investors moved out of Punjab. Punjab failed to catch the information technology bus, while south hopped on. The brief period (in 2006) of some noises about investment during the regime of Captain Amarinder Singh ended with the Congress' losing power. Till 2012, Punjab never tried to tap the growth potential available with top houses.
In 2007, the SAD-BJP (Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party) dethroned the Congress on the strength of populist subsidised schemes of atta-dal, free power, and shagun. In 2012, the Parkash Singh Badal-led coalition regime retained power on the plank of performance and development. The onus of employment generation has been on the government sector, while investment, negligible or otherwise, was centric to state-level players. Infrastructure development remained at the core of the government's agenda, after which began the "marketing Punjab" game early this year with the deputy CM's inviting industrialists to the state.
In Sukhbir's views, health and biosciences; IT and enabled services; manufacturing (hardware and electronics, textile and light engineering), and agro- and food processing are key areas. "Amritsar and SAS Nagar are all set to emerge as IT hubs, to create more than 1-lakh jobs for Punjabis in three years. All the deals to be signed during the summit will be implemented in six months," Sukhbir has said.
"We have been able to market SAS Nagar as the de-facto business capital of northwest India" said chief secretary Rakesh Singh, adding: "The pro-active approach with which the deputy CM has engaged industrialists has turned out to be game changer. This is just the beginning."
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal will inaugurate the event. All big industrial houses are keen on getting a foothold in the region through presence in the tricity (SAS Nagar mainly). The stage is set, and the message is clear: Punjab beckons.
Mukesh Ambani (Reliance); LN Mittal (Arcelor-Mittal); AM Naik (Larson and Toubro); YC Deveshwar (ITC); Malvinder Singh (Fortis Healthcare); Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (Biocon); SP Oswal (Vardhman); Sunil Kant Munjal (Hero MotoCorp); Ravi Kant (Tata Motors); Arun Sawhney (Ranbaxy); and Manmohan Shetty (Adlabs).
Rs 25,000 cr from deals to be signed on Monday (30 companies have consented to participate in agro-processing, renewable energy, light engineering sectors).
Rs 1,000 cr for building logistics ports at Kartarpur, Quila Raipur, and Khara (Amritsar).
Rs 1,000 cr in agro-processing
Rs 980 cr in food park at Kapurthala
Rs 300 cr by ITC in budget hotels in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, and Bathinda.
All eyes on Punjab Bureau of Investment Promotion (PBIP), formed to deal with all investment proposals in a time bound manner
Dubbed as first-of-its-kind step in the country
The bureau's chief executive officer (CEO), 1990-batch IAS officer Anirudh Tewari, handpicked for the job, to receive, process and approve all investment proposals.
Agro- and food processing
Textiles and skill development.
Bioscience and health services
Opportunities for foreign investors.