| Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with Benny Santoso at Writers’ Buildings. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Calcutta, July 28: Bengal has bagged its first foreign direct investment in the automobile industry.
Benny Santoso, the executive director of the Indonesia-based Salim Group, today announced the decision to set up a motorcycle manufacturing plant in Uluberia, Howrah, after signing a memorandum of understanding with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings.
“Our company manufactures over 1.5 million motorcycles in Indonesia and we have over 35 years’ experience in this industry. In this fast-growing market for motorcycles in India, we will create employment opportunities for around 1,000 to 3,000 people in phases,” Santoso said.
The group is joining hands with NRI businessman Prasoon Mukherjee’s Universal Success to set up the plant at the Uluberia Industrial Growth Centre.
The state government is transferring 65.18 acres to the group at a cost of around $1.5 million.
Although Santoso did not announce any investment figure, sources said it would not be less than Rs 500 crore.
According to the agreement with the government, the group will submit a detailed project report in the next 30 to 45 days and specify the investment amount and the time needed for the project to start production.
“Initially, they wanted to set up an assembling unit here but later they decided to set up a manufacturing facility. We do not have any motorcycle manufacturing plant in the state and this is going to be the first of its kind,” the chief minister said.
According to the chief minister, the Indonesian group is interested in expanding its presence in the state beyond the automobile unit and the township in west Howrah, where construction will start after the monsoon.
The group is also interested in joining hands with the government to develop a special economic zone, health city, biotechnology park and golf course.
“Industries and commerce minister Nirupam Sen and I will meet him (Santoso) on Saturday to discuss these projects,” Bhattacharjee said.
Santoso stressed that the potential of the fast-growing Indian market and Bhattacharjee’s interest in the group were the reasons behind investing in Bengal.
The Salim Group’s facility is expected to trigger auto-component manufacturing facilities in the state.
“We have been trying for some time to project the state as a possible destination for automobile companies. But no Indian company has responded to the request,” said Bhattacharjee.
“The Salim Group will need support from two to three auto-component manufacturing companies and they are in talks with some companies. They are also exploring the possibility of tying up with Indian auto-component manufacturers.”
The chief minister is also urging the Tata Group to look at Bengal for an automobile or an auto-component manufacturing set-up.
That may or may not hit the road, but Bhattacharjee made it clear today that the land problem for the Tata Coke Oven plant in Haldia had been sorted out.