The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal dolls up to rope in investors

Calcutta, Dec. 12: If the show is as good as the final rehearsal, the cream of Indian business should carry to the rest of the country a sweet Bengal story.

“We did not know so many things are happening in West Bengal,” K. Narsim Shenoy, the vice-chairman of Volvo India, said.

Shenoy, who chairs the Confederation of Indian Industry’s council of MNCs, was speaking after a presentation by the Bengal industry and commerce secretary, Jawhar Sircar, on why investors should come to the state and on the flow of foreign investment.

Tomorrow, the responsibility of showcasing Bengal falls on chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at a rare session with 72 top businessmen and executives on the occasion of the CII’s national council meeting.

There he should be prepared to face questions about the legacy of slothful decision-making — slow and steady, he might be reminded, do not win any races.

At the meeting with the CII’s council of MNCs today, Sircar admitted that there had been delays in the past in taking decisions. Shenoy said the government should realise how delays impede growth. “All these issues will be discussed with the chief minister tomorrow,” he added.

Still, the overall message coming out of the session was positive.

“The government appears to be more focused on what it wants to do. There is a distinct change in the mindset. We will carry this message to Delhi and spread it among our members across the country,” Shenoy said.

Piyush Bahl, head (CII International), echoed the same view. He added that in the presentation the state’s achievements in agriculture arrested the participants’ attention.

“The state has immense potential in agriculture. So we have taken the decision to help the state in this field,” he said.The meeting was attended by representatives of Ernst & Young, Sony India, LG Electronics, Stewarts & Lloyds, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Kalyani Sharp, Stanchart Bank, Yamaha Motors and Hewlett Packard India.

In the presentation, the state highlighted that Bengal makes up a tenth of the national market with consumer spending in rural areas alone in 2001-02 totalling $ 2.6 billion in the organised sector.

Agriculture grew at 4.1 per cent over the last 20 years compared with 2.5 per cent in all other major states.

Gopal Krishna, chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, said: “The exercise was aimed at portraying a positive image of the state.”

Following the meeting, the CII has decided to host Agro-Tech (meet on agriculture and related industries) 2003 in Calcutta.

“We will bring in about 280 domestic and multinational companies during the meet. We hope that the state government will get a good platform to display its strengths in agriculture,” Bahl said.

Some of the companies which will participate in Agro-Tech are Hindustan Lever, Nestle, Coke, Pepsi and Dabur. Insurance companies offering cover for crops will be there, too.

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