Assam comes on India Inc radar

Kolkata: The North-East was never high on the corporate radar because of its insurgency-related issues and lack of infrastructure.

But things are changing now. Assam seems to be the next big-ticket investment destination for corporates if one scans the member list of the state’s newly-formed investment advisory board.

The state is wooing investments worth Rs 100,000 crore over the next five years and around Rs 35,000 crore alone could be channeled into riverways with 20 ports planned from Dhubri to Dibrugarh.

Development is slated to take place in six key areas — infrastructure, agri and agri-value-added services, housing, healthcare, education.

The entire development is proposed to be non/low carbon and all the major infrastructure players could be roped in.

Tatas alone, said sources, could bring in large investments in the state. It is learnt that Tata Housing has recently signed two MoUs with the Assam state government for setting up commercial and residential projects that will include an eco-city in which investments could go up to Rs 5,000 crore. DNA caught up with various government officials and corporate houses for a closer view of things.

Ranjit Barthakur, who pioneered the Assam Investment Advisory Board, said, “The Tatas are likely to invest another Rs 300-400 crore in their education and hospitality projects…The first Tata Institute of Social Sciences campus outside Mumbai is coming up in Guwahati.”

Guwahati’s first five-star hotel, Vivanta by Taj group is also on the anvil. In fact, Tata Group head, during first Assam Investment Advisory Board meet earlier this month, said: “We are here by choice…we have been attracted to the tremendous change seen in Assam…”

A number of frontline hospitality brands are also eyeing this north-eastern state.

Vindi Banga, president, global foods, home and personal care, Unilever, told DNA: “HUL will help out on a project to improve the quality, productivity and sustainability of the tea plantations in Assam, which are a state asset…HUL’s personal products factory today produces about 40,000 tonnes, employs 700 people directly and creates indirect employment for about 3,000 people. Most of our raw material for this factory is procured locally, from around 50 suppliers, most of whom are first generation suppliers for us.”

According to a State Bank of India official, “The financial giant is looking to increase its lending exposure, once big-ticket investors are in place here.” The bank has expanded rapidly over the last two years in the North-East, with around 520 branches, of which 263 are in Assam alone.

Aditya Khaitan, managing director, McLeod Russel, said, “We produce 72 million kg of tea from 50 tea estates in Assam and have started making other investments like jatropha planting. At some point, we could think of oil refining as well.”

Source: DNA