Calcutta, July 4: Bengal may have lost out on the opportunity to become the global hub for the Nano, but another Tata Motors plant in the state is poised to fill up the void.
Telcon — a joint venture between Japans Hitachi and Tata Motors — plans to turn the Bengal facility into a global sourcing point for both finished products and components.
The unit at Kharagpur, about 145km from Singur, makes earth-moving equipment such as excavators and dumpers.
The Telcon plant came as part of a packaged deal when in 2006 Ratan Tata with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee by his side announced that Bengal would be the site of the Nano.
The Singur plant hogged all the attention, thereafter, for all the wrong reasons, and the project was finally shunted out of Bengal in October 2008.
In the meanwhile, the Kharagpur plant got built silently, away from the high drama around Singur. It was inaugurated in December 2009 by Ravi Kant, chairman of Telcon and vice-chairman of Tata Motors, P.M. Telang, managing director of Tata Motors, and M. Kikawa, president and CEO of Hitachi Construction Machinery Co Ltd.
When Tata Motors decided to give up majority ownership in Telcon to Hitachi by selling a 20 per cent stake to the Japanese major in March, the Kharagpur plant received a new impetus.
It has been our plan to export from Kharagpur. It has now got momentum, Telcon managing director Ranaveer Sinha said.
Hitachi is likely to use the plant as the base for export to Africa, West Asia and the Southeast Asian countries. Besides finished products, some of the transmission and fabrication items will also be sold from here. Low-cost manufacturing compared with Japan and the nearness to a port make Kharagpur an ideal choice.
These factors will make it easier for Sinha to convince the Telcon board, too, as Hitachi now owns 60 per cent in the venture. Sinha said by next year, the plant would manufacture new products such as wheel-loaders.
We will also build a research and development unit where around 70-80 scientists will work by 2012, he said.