Limitless Opportunities, Open Minded Government - Shri Siddaramaiah, Chief Minister, Karnataka
As Chief Minister and Finance Minister, Siddaramaiah has given a new direction and energy to the development of Karnataka and its economy. By conscious allocation of portfolios and proactive administration the state has made conspicuous advancements in the last three years. In the wake of two major industrial and investment meets—the Make in India Conference and Aero India 2017—he shares his vision and thoughts in an interview with Aeromag. Excerpts:
Being at the helm of one of the fastest growing states in India, what do you propose to offer to the investors, businessmen and industrial stalwarts who would be gathering in Bengaluru for Aero India 2017 and Make in India event?
There are two key features which have made Karnataka highly attractive to investors – firstly our inherent strengths, and secondly the strengths we have acquired over the years. However, no state can afford to relax on past laurels. Towards this end, my Government is leaving no stone unturned to build on our strengths. Our aspiration is to make Karnataka unbeatable through strong policy frameworks and a machinery which is functional till the last mile. Therefore, be it further up-skilling our workforce to world class levels through Government-Industry- Academia partnerships, or encouraging use of technology through our startup initiatives, or providing industrial & support infrastructure by making massive investments, all steps are aimed in this direction. You will see that in the last 4 years, we have focused on making it convenient and seamless to conduct business in the state. We want to create the best ecosystem for investments to thrive. Most importantly, my Government is perhaps the most democratic and approachable Government in India. All my cabinet colleagues and government officials are highly accessible and approachable. We are here to listen, take your feedback and if there are areas which require intervention in order to speed up investments, we are available 24X7. Opportunities in Karnataka are limitless and government is here to discuss with you, with open minds and hearts.
As for the upcoming Aero India Expo 2017, what initiatives would Karnataka be showcasing among the world leading technology clusters for Aerospace and Defence industries that the state has developed under the aegis of its pioneering Aerospace Policy?
Firstly, it is important to note that the Aerospace & Defence industry is unlike other industries. It takes several years, in fact, decades to develop. Karnataka’s A&D legacy began in 1940 with the establishment of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and subsequently, with the establishment of DRDO and its various research labs. But for most part of the previous century, our country was stifled by license raj, making it difficult for private sector to participate especially in this regulated sector, even after liberalization in 1991. The real growth of the A&D sector began in the 2000s when this sector began to get special attention with a view to becoming self-reliant. In other words, “Make in India”. Keeping the nature of this industry in mind, our Aerospace & Defence policy is a 10 year policy with firm milestones to be achieved at regular intervals. These include further promoting Bengaluru including the Aerospace & Defence park, the new helicopter hub under the aegis of HAL which is coming up in Tumkur, our Aerospace technology centre which will come up in Bommasandra besides showcasing some of our great success stories such as Dynamatic and Aequs.
With policy incentives, infrastructure and natural resources favouring investments in the IT, ITeS, biotechnology, engineering, electronics, automotive, textiles, agri and food processing sectors, how do you envisage a more inclusive, equitable strategy for development and growth across the urban-rural divide in the state?
Equitable growth has been the cornerstone of our Industrial Policy 2014-19 which has given special emphasis to industrial and socio economic development of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region and the backward-most regions of the state. However, urbanization is inevitable, and across the world we are witnessing movement of people from rural to urban areas in search of employment. Karnataka is no different. Today, you will find graduates from all over the state moving to cities like Bengaluru and taking up employment in sectors which are not their core area of education. My government’s endeavor is to upskill our job-aspiring youth in certain core areas of expertise and try and push industry to those semi urban and rural locations in such a way that jobs are localized and skill sets are aligned. This is a huge task but we are constantly making efforts in this direction.
Being the IT hub of India, Karnataka is home to over 400 international R&D centres, and has around 400 of the Fortune Global 500 companies outsourcing their IT services from Bengaluru. What is the next threshold of growth here?
We continue to see interest from investors in the areas of high end and futuristic technologies intending to set up R&D centres in our state due to the abundance of our technically advanced workforce. A large number of the 400+ R&D centres have been established just in the last 3 years. While this is an encouraging trend, we are also aware that new age start-ups will shape the future of the world we will live in. We see this as our next area for job creation and economic growth. Karnataka is a leading state as far as the start-up ecosystem is concerned. More than 37% of all Indian start-ups are located here. Last year, we released the country’s first start-up policy with a start-up booster kit to encourage startups in the state. This kit has several incentives and policy measures including a fund of funds to provide capital to startups. Besides, we have four incubation centres which are working closely with the Government to nurture and promote startup ecosystem. These initiatives have been very well received by all stakeholders.
You have been in the forefront promoting young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for revolutionary start-up ventures, covering the entire gamut of market economy and social outreach. What more fillip or stimulus do you propose?
Lot of work is happening in the startup space in Karnataka. Some of the initiatives we have announced over last one year have to be followed up and implemented well because implementation will be key to the success of the policy announced. Our next agenda is to promote startups in rural areas with a view to localizing job creation, as I have already mentioned earlier.
As you lead the state with a host of progressive, pro-investment policies, what is your assessment of the scope for more growth and development in the agriculture sector?
The agri sector is wide and vast requiring concerted efforts from all stakeholders for the next wave of development. Due to the drought situation in the state over last few years, our farming sector has been adversely affected. Also the sector historically suffers from low productivity and large scale migration of the agri workforce to towns and cities. It is important that governments step in to help find innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the sector. I think that the next generation of farmers will have to be technically and technologically equipped in order to increase productivity, efficiency and yield. With this in mind, we are keen to nurture and promote this segment of the industry by creating an ecosystem where innovative concepts can bloom.
Facilitating the take-off of infrastructure projects and growth centres across the state, you have succeeded in boosting the industrial growth. What new initiatives do you have in mind to help small scale industries and regions outside the ambit of big industrial growth?
I firmly believe that the MSME segment is what creates and sustains industrial growth. No large company can survive in today’s competitive world without a strong supplier base and an efficient supply chain. Taking a leaf out of the success of thriving MSME clusters and estates in the state, my government has been keen to promote creation of more such estates. You cannot attract a Honda or Volvo or a Toyota or an Airbus without an MSME ecosystem in the vicinity. Therefore, by design, all our new industrial areas have earmarked space for MSMEs.
Karnataka Tourism will be once again on centre stage during the upcoming international events being hosted in Bengaluru. What’s the larger picture for promoting tourism destinations in the state?
Tourism spots have to be promoted based on the kind of target audience whom you wish to tap. Fortunately, we are a blessed state as far as tourism is concerned, with the choice of destinations that we can offer. Our tourism department has recently come out with a new strategy and marketing plan to reach out to the target audience and I think you will see a lot of interest in all the destinations we have to offer. From a state perspective we are constantly improving the quality of service