The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brand Buddha for Bengal

Calcutta, Nov. 22: Wanted: brand Buddha to sell Bengal. The one-point marketing strategy of a state desperate for a turnaround — chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, of course, feels “we have turned around” — was prescribed by economic analyst Jairam Ramesh at the business seminar of the Consular Corps golf tournament here today.

“I know in Communist ideology, individuals don’t count. But, in today’s world, images are built on individuals alone and Bengal should leverage its chief minister’s credibility and transparency to sell itself to the world. What Chandrababu Naidu and S.M. Krishna have done for Hyderabad and Bangalore, Bhattacharjee can also do for Calcutta,” said Ramesh at the session hosted by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC).

The senior member of the Congress stressed that Bengal needs a focused and professional image turnaround exercise to convince investors, for which the chief minister must be the “product champion of the state”.

Ramesh went on to add that a better projection of the success stories is necessary to “combat 25 years of mistrust and suspicion when Bengal stood still”.

Advocating a structured marketing campaign, he also sounded a word of caution — almost echoing Union minister Arun Shourie at Infocom 2003 last Sunday — “ Be modest on promise and aggressive on delivery.”

The chief minister, who joined the conclave later in the day, chose to be aggressive on promise. To an audience comprising consular diplomats and industry captains, Bhattacharjee rattled off the familiar fanfare of IT boom and retail boast, foodgrain facts and tourism pitch.

“We are ideally poised for an industrial resurgence and expect cumulative investments to go beyond $550 million this year,” he announced . What Calcutta needed, said Bhattacharjee, was more international flights, starting with a direct Tokyo connection — after all, “we have the cheapest venue for playing golf” — and a link with Frankfurt via Bangkok.

Earlier, describing the state’s investment climate as “a perfect amalgam of intellectual capital and working skills”, WBIDC chairman Somnath Chatterjee ascribed the negative perception of Bengal to “machinations of a smear campaign by vested-interest groups”.

Taking up Chatterjee’s claims of seven per cent economic growth in Bengal, Ramesh countered: “This is data furnished by the West Bengal government, but it doesn’t show…The picture might be changing in some areas, but why is it that nobody is convinced yet'”

Part of the answer lay in US consul-general George . Sibley’s observation that “infrastructure and work culture-wise, a lot still needs to be done to attract overseas investment”. After all, in working towards an image makeover, “the best advertisement for the state could be successful investors”.

The five-year projection for Bengal, however, is all positive, felt Erhard Zander, German consul-general in the city, who chaired the seminar.

“In business, one must take calculated risks to succeed, and going by the buoyant outlook, Calcutta should be a transformed city in five years,” observed Zander, promising that the Consular Corps and WBIDC would take stock of the dialogue-to-conversion rate next year, at the same forum.

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