Minister pitches for US investment in Karnataka

New York, Dec 5 (IANS) Karnataka Minister R.V. Deshpande made a pitch to investors and industrialists here on Friday for investing in manufacturing in the state known as the leader in the IT sector, extolling its business-friendly record and its cosmopolitan environment.

Addressing a meeting of the US-India Business Council (USIBC), Deshpande, who holds the state’s large and medium industries and tourism portfolios, said: “We are committed to growing the opportunities in high value industries as well as start ups, as this is the fuel that will help our state create quality jobs.”

The state had the skilled workforce, a lead in various sectors and clustered industrialisation needed for manufacturing, he said.

The state had a culture of entrepreneurship and was the leader in start ups with over 5,000 of them coming up in the state that was the first to develop a policy for them, he said.

Although the state was almost synonymous with the information technology sector, Deshpande turned the focus on investing in manufacturing and referred to the aerospace, defence, machine tools, food technology and pharmaceutical sectors in the state.

“We have an issue with infrastructure,” Deshpande said in a candid departure from the usual practice of disregarding problems.

Infrastructure development has not kept pace with the growth in prosperity and population, and it was a problem that even New York faced, he said.

“The government is keen to develop the infrastructure and tackle the problem,” he said and pitched that as an area for investing.

“It is for you to (help) build the infrastructure,” he said and mentioned the prospects of public-private partnerships in the sector. He listed the many infrastructure projects in Bengaluru that have been developed or are under development like the Ring Road, flyovers and the Metro to alleviate traffic problems.

On the overall policy framework, Deshpande assured investors that the government of India is continually coming up with reforms. “Nobody can reverse the process of liberalisation,” he said.

Karnataka is the latest state to send a delegation to the US financial capital to draw investments to the state. Reinvigorated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” and other initiatives, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have sent trade and investment delegations here this year.

Deshpande, who headed a delegation of government officials, legislators and state businessmen, said he welcomed the competition among states for investments. “Karnataka believes in competition and transparency,” he said.

In a lighter vein, he added that he asks investors coming to India to first visit Delhi, then Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai, and finally Bengaluru so they can better appreciate its qualities.

Sanjay Bhatnagar, the CEO of WaterHeath International and a member of US-India CEO Forum, spoke of diversification, saying the state was expanding beyond IT into manufacturing and was developing industries beyond Bengaluru across the west of the state. For investments to come to a state, it was important to develop the quality of life and the environment, he said.

India’s Consul General Dnyaneshwar Mulay said that for the first time there was a sense of purpose and a synergy between industry, government and the missions abroad. Amid the economic slowdown in China and elsewhere and the turmoil in the Middle East, India was a bright spot with its high growth rate, he said. States played an important role in attracting investments to India, he added.

Karnataka’s Additional Chief Secretary Ratna Prabha said that the state’s focus was now on manufacturing in areas like defence, aerospace and machine tools. The state is connected to two corridor projects, the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor and the Bengaluru-Mumbai Economic Corridor, which will help grow development nodes, she said.

“We admire Karnataka’s high standards for education and the Council looks forward to supporting areas where USIBC members can engage in future investments,” USIBC president Mukesh Aghi said in a statement.

“We encourage Karnataka to continue the pro-growth agenda that will encourage entrepreneurship and allow the story of US-Karnataka relations to flourish.”

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