Thursday, 23 September 2010

Landlocked Indian States to have ports in Gujarat?

Coming close on the heels of the successful Gujarat Pipavav Port IPO recently, media reports now suggest that the Gujarat Government will rebrand itself as a “Global Business Hub’ in the ‘Vibrant Gujarat Global Investment Summit' (VGGIS) to be held in January 2011. A path-breaking proposal at that summit will be the invitation to landlocked Indian States to set up ports in Gujarat: amongst the states being targeted include Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. This is the first time in India that such an initiative will be proposed.

Gujarat has a coastline of more than one and a half thousand miles and its administration has long been applauded for bold steps taken in the maritime sector. The State has been in the forefront with forward looking policies in the port privatisation and shipbuilding, besides others. Pipavav, Dahej and Mundra are successful privately operated ports, and APM Terminals at Pipavav and DP World at Mundra are well known international brands. The successful listing of Pipavav’s IPO early this month will no doubt help Gujarat in attracting interest in these new plans: the counter opened at a premium of more than twenty percent to its issue price at the Bombay Stock Exchange, ending the day with a combined trading volume of more than 167 million shares between the BSE and the National Stock Exchange. The IPO was subscribed almost twenty times.

“We will facilitate the landlocked States to take advantage of our coastline,” Maheshwar Sahu, Principal Secretary of the Gujarat Industries and Mines Department, says in the Hindu’s Business Line newspaper. Mr Sahu is in charge of the VGGIS summit and is understood to be in touch with more than a dozen States across India to seek partnerships for the future.

The VGGIS Summit is held every two years. In the last one in 2009, Gujarat was marketed as ‘The Growth Engine of India'. Two years later, the ambitious administration wants to rebrand the state as a global business hub. It intends to rope in investors, opinion makers and other think tanks to push this initiative. Japan and Canada are official partners for the 2011 event that the Government calls the 'next Davos in action'. Chief Minister Narendra Modi is said to have been behind the move to invite port proposals from landlocked Indian states as well. The Government is also pushing what it calls its record of good governance with interested parties. It intends to take a road show across India before the event to showcase Gujarat’s attractiveness as an investment destination.

Besides shipping and ports, next year’s VGGIS will zero in on sectors such as oil and gas, infrastructure, financial services and shipbuilding. The state also has plans to attract talent from the premier Indian Institutes of Technology before the inauguration of the summit on Jan 10 next year. “Our objective is to have a platform on which about 80 to 100 IITians, having an interest in Gujarat, assemble for brainstorming on the important technology interventions required in the State for leapfrogging in economic development”, Mr Sahu says.

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