The endeavour to hunt for business in the twin cities of Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish mainland followed by a repeat of the exercise in the emirate of Dubai which fructified in some interesting investment breakthroughs and collaboration deals, seems to have given the Mamata Banerjee government the necessary shot in the arm it was looking for in the run-up to the seventh edition of the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) scheduled to take place in Calcutta on November 21-22.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee touched down in the city late last week after her 12-day official tour of Europe and the Middle East and posted on her X handle: “Back to Kolkata with serious offers for investments and partnerships from Spain and Dubai. Follow-up overseas delegations will come shortly and during BGBS in November for carrying forward what we started.” Banerjee was accompanied by a host of senior state government bureaucrats, industrialists across various sectors, representatives from the city’s football hub and officials of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, organizers of the city book fair. Bengal’s very own Dada, Sourav Ganguly, joined Banerjee at various sports sessions and business meets in the Spanish capital.
“The visit was aimed at showcasing West Bengal to the business community in Spain & UAE and forging partnerships with these countries for mutual benefit and growth. Spain has tremendous business opportunities which Indian businesses and states have not tapped yet. There are more than 280 Spanish Companies operating in India mainly in sectors like Transport, Construction, Food processing, Logistics etc. Spain has significant expertise, and advanced technology in Defense sectors,” a note from the state government read.
Listing the strengths which the state brings to the trade table, the note adds: “Bengal is now an economic powerhouse and one of the fastest-growing economies in India as it grew at 8.41% in 2022-23. Bengal’s GDP will be more than 200 Billion Euros in 2023-24. Various critical infrastructure projects such as the four Industrial and Economic Development Corridors, Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, Asian Trilateral highway, Bangladesh-ChinaIndia-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM), Tajpur Port are coming up in the state.”
Stressing the state’s advantage of being uniquely located on the important trade route to South East Asia and ASEAN countries, the delegation impressed upon potential investors of the state also serving as the gateway to North-East India and landlocked neighbouring countries of Nepal and Bhutan. New business policies which are now put in place, the unprecedented growth of the state’s MSME sector with over 8.9 million units housed in the state, its high consumer base, quality and uninterrupted power supply and strong international and last-mile connectivity were the other USPs reportedly pushed through by the visiting delegation under Banerjee’s leadership.
“It was primarily due to all these factors that West Bengal business meetings organized by the Indian Chamber of Commerce in Madrid and Barcelona Spain attracted over 150 Spanish Companies,” the note claimed.
At the business conference in Barcelona Sourced by the correspondent
Banerjee is believed to have struck gold right on day one of her tour where she interacted in Madrid with Jose Manual Pastor Flores, Director of Tempe, a company which is the manufacturing and international procurement arm of Inditex Group, which owns several reputed global clothing and footwear brands. The chief minister reportedly urged the company to consider outsourcing some of their manufacturing to Bengal. “Tempe group has also expressed interest in sourcing leather and non-leather products and getting their brand manufacturing being done in Bengal. They also discussed the possibility of setting up a dedicated park of around 100 Acres for their footwear production. The group also showed interest in procuring their textile and getting their apparel manufacturing done in Bengal,” the communication stated.
But it was perhaps the chief minister’s session with LaLiga President Javier Tebas which focused on strengthening soccer relations between the two regions by linking sports and cultural institutions, promoting women’s football, and bringing professionalism to the football eco-system of the state which made the icing on the Madrid cake. A Memorandum of Understanding between the two sides was exchanged in the presence of Ganguly who also has close ties with the Indian Super League football.
“LaLiga has agreed to serve as a partner and a platform for the development of talented young players as well as various sports training projects in the state in coordination with the local Football Federations and other local grassroots football organizations, the government statement read and added: “Laliga plans to develop a football training academy including infrastructure and coaching facilities within the State of West Bengal. As per the agreement coaches and players of West Bengal will be trained by the coaches of La Liga. They will share their experience and expertise to assist football clubs of West Bengal,” the state government claimed.
Among other significant partnerships forged in the Spanish led of the chief minister’s tour included talks with IE University, Madrid, an institution known for its business school and other education offerings in fields of data science and health, where collaborations in student exchange programmes, job training and capacity building and student scholarships were discussed. A meeting between Guillermo Escribano, Director General of the Spanish Language, Spain Government, and state Chief Secretary H.K Dwivedi reportedly explored the possibility of Spanish language learning by students and teachers training in the language.
Banerjee, alongside her delegation, also participated in two back-to-back business conferences in Madrid and Barcelona.
An MoU signed between the Publishers and Booksellers Guild and the Madrid Book Fair for the promotion and marketing of books, dissemination of information related to books and fostering bilateral cultural relations, also formed of the highlights of the Spanish leg of the visit.
In Dubai, Banerjee’s meeting with Ashraf Ali, Executive Director of the LuLu Group International which operates a global chain of hypermarkets and retail companies, turned out to form the crux of what the chief minister called “an incredibly fruitful day”.
Mamata meeting Ashraf Ali, Executive Director of LuLu Group International, in Dubai Sourced by the correspondent
Among the potential areas of interest and investment by the multinational group, the company reportedly expressed interest in setting up a world-class Mall in New Town, Calcutta and offered retailing and setting up of counters of Biswa Bengal products in their malls worldwide,
That aside, the establishment of back-linkages for procurement of fruits and vegetables for all their stores from Bengal and setting up food processing centres in the state were also among the commitments made by the group, the government said. A delegation from the LuLu Group is scheduled to visit Calcutta soon to scout for location and finale other details.
In a one-to-one meeting with Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the chief minister was learnt to have discussed specific collaborations to strengthen trade relations between UAE and Bengal through potential joint ventures in the fields of transport, mining, tourism, and green technology.
On September 22, Banerjee addressed a business conference at the Ritz Carlton, Jumeirah on the upcoming BGBS, 2023. Organized by the Consulate General of India in Dubai in partnership with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and trade advocacy group FICCI, the programme was attended by a host of industry captains from both Bengal and Dubai.
An official delegation also visited the Dubai Port and had a meeting with senior officials of DP World potential investment opportunities for ports and logistic development in Bengal along with the setting up of industrial parks and common processing facilities were discussed. The team also previously visited the factory of Travipos in Constanti, Spain which produces railway sleepers for Spain Railways as a member of RAILONE. One of the five international units of the PC Mittal Group, the company is setting up an Ethanol Plant in Siliguri and a modern concrete sleeper manufacturing plant in New Jalpaiguri, the government informed.
Banerjee, of course, held community meetings with the Indian diaspora at all the three cities she visited during the course of her tour and appealed for business, sports and cultural collaborations with Bengal.