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Kerala, the new investment hotspot

December 30, 2004 16:03 IST
Kerala is slowly catching the attention of investors with big names evincing interest in the state and the government sparing no efforts to woo them.

Industry sources say the efforts of the global investor meet in 2003 and the 'business-to-business' meet in early 2004 have begun to pay dividends. At least five top industrial houses, including LG, have plans to set up their units in Kochi.

While the LG group was keen to set up an electronic equipment production unit in Kochi, the Mittal group is planning to set up a pineapple processing plant in Kochi besides setting up a mobile phone equipment production unit at nearby Nedumbassery.

Mitsubishi is eyeing the seafood and food processing sectors, industry sources said.

The German car major BMW was also keen to set up its unit in Kochi. However, the final decision in this regard is yet to be taken.

The Dubai Internet city has selected Kochi for setting up its first 'smart city' project in South India. The Rs 1500 crore (Rs 1.5 billion) project, expected to provide jobs to nearly one lakh people, would be set up adjacent to the Info Park at nearby Kakkanad.  The 'smart city' would house a large number of IT units, hotels etc.

The 'feel good factor' was there in the information technology and tourism sectors as well. In the Kochi IT park, which is yet to be inaugurated, 21 companies have booked space, IT park CEO, Girish Babu said.

IT major Wipro will start its operations from the park by January first week, he said.

While Wipro Infotech, which is involved in coordinating projects in Australia and Middle East, is starting work here from January 3, Wipro Technologies is building up a campus in the park and has acquired about 25 acres of land.

The SAFE and SE-ME-WE3 cable landing points make Kochi the only location in the country having the Pacific and Atlantic routes for optical fibres connectivity options.

The IT park's close proximity to VSNL's primary gateway, which handles 80 per cent of the country's internet traffic, is a major advantage for the park, IT sources say.

The year also saw the central nod for the Rs 2000 crore (Rs 20 billion) International Container Transhipment Terminal project of the Kochi port.

Dubai Port International has successfully bid for the ICTT project to on a BOT (Build Operate and transfer) basis, succeeding in buying out the International port operations of CSX Corporation worth $1.15 billion, the ICTT project would be positioned as a crucial link in the global network of trading of terminals of DPI, port sources said.

Another prestigious project in Kochi is the Rs 2000 crore (Rs 20 billion)  LNG import terminal at nearby Puthu Vype, work on which is likely to commence by July.

Necessary clearances, including environmental clearance, have already been received for the project. The B2B meet held early this year in Kochi helped initiate a global marketing and branding exercise for the manufactured products of the state.

The small and medium industries, including those in the traditional sectors of coir, spices, handloom, handicrafts, ayurveda and processed food, which play a significant role in the state's economy  participated in the meet.

Confederation of Indian Industry sources said Kerala's performance in three sectors -- food processing, rubber, coir and tourism -- were satisfactory during July-September, 2004 and the good performance would continue.

The country's first tourism special economic zone will soon be set up in Kerala. The tourism industry contributed Rs 5938 crore (Rs 59.38 billion) to the state in 2003 with foreign exchange earnings touching Rs 983 crore (Rs 9.83 crore).

Sources say the industry is looking up as reflected in higher tourist arrivals. Major attractions include the ancient systems of medicine that has been gaining wide acceptance all over the world. This is said to be one of the strongest growth areas for the state.

There has been a remarkable turnaround in the attitude of trade unions. Militant trade unionists are a thing of the past, according to P H Kurien, industries secretary and managing director of Kerala State Industries Development Corporation.

They have welcomed the setting up of special economic zones. Ten years ago, they would have resisted any such move, as trade union activities are not permitted in SEZs, Kurien said.                        

Usha Ram Manohar
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