Successful entrepreneurs from Kerala, who have made their mark globally, today called for a number of changes, including amendments to the Kerala Land Reform Act, Building Rules and Factories Act to help the state emerge as the most-friendly investment sanctuary in the country.
While narrating their success stories in a panel discussion on “Doing Business in Kerala” at the two-day global investors meet, ASCEND 2020 Kerala, here, the business magnates unanimously suggested an effective fast-track system for infrastructure such as electricity and water connections and environment clearance. They also demanded Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) increasing its loan ceiling to Rs100 crores.
V.K. Mathews, Founder and Executive Chairman, IBS Group, said timely approval and compliance are important as far as an entrepreneur is concerned. The business community has to be insulated from the ordeal of shuttling from one government office to the other.
Mathews said in Kerala access to officials and Ministers is easy compared to other States. “The social and political stability in Kerala is better compared to other states. Issues are bound to happen but we have to overcome them with the help of access to the immense potential here.”
“The job scene is changing drastically. The best way to create new jobs is through building new businesses. A digital revolution is needed in Kerala as we have immense potential in the sector. Developing Kerala as a startup capital is very important, and we can bring technology as a facilitator while the government can assume the role of regulator,” he added.
Dr V.K. Ramachandran, Vice Chairman, State Planning Board, Government of Kerala, said the government is committed to investment that is highly productive, generating high income and employment besides being sustainable.
“These four criteria are among the hallmarks of the investment policy. This investment push of the government is a significant new achievement. Recognising the potential of Kerala, there is a galaxy of industrialists, who have built vibrant enterprises in the state and beyond its borders.”
M.A. Yusuff Ali, Founder, Lulu Group International, asserted that the state must market its potentials rather than exaggerate local issues like short spread of Nipah virus, which gravely affected its exports of vegetables and fruits.
Commenting on job creation, Ali said: “It’s not the sole responsibility of the government to create jobs. Everyone is accountable for it. Since we are thickly populated, large industries can’t come here. However, we can easily tap our strengths in information technology and tourism. Moreover, we need academic reforms that may pave the way for setting up large institutions in the state.”
Sabu. M. Jacob, Chairman, and Managing Director, Kitex Garments Ltd, said, “We export garments for kids of the age group from zero to 24 months to the US, where we have a strong presence. It shows how good the investment climate is in the State.”
Meanwhile, Dr B. Ravi Pillai, Founder and Managing Director, RP Group of Companies, urged a concerted effort by the government, officials and people to root out the impediments to the state’s growth.
J.K. Menon, Chairman, ABN Corporation, opined that programmes and seminars like Ascend 2020 Kerala must reach the public to create general awareness about the favourable milieu for investment here.
Recalling his success story, K.E. Moidu, Managing Director, Peekay Steel, said the support he received from bureaucrats and political parties was tremendous. “We have had no industry or labour-related problems. I am proud to say that we have not lost any single day due to labour problems.”
According to V. Abdul Razak, Managing Director, VKC Footwear, although his firm employed 16,000 employees he still had no labour issues.
K. Paul Thomas, Founder f ESAF Group, and Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Kerala State Council, said: “The integrity of the people in the state is commendable. Post the flood, we had apprehensions about loan defaults. We rescheduled the loans and only 10,000 of them are still left to be closed.”
Noting that issues are a common phenomenon, Shri Thomas said that in Kerala, we can access the top officials easily to raise an issue. “Job creation will happen through micro enterprises. We have given loans to 9 lakh entrepreneurs, and 30 per cent among them have given jobs to people. From my experience, I can say that in Kerala employment generation is double compared to 16 other states where we have presence. Around 60 per cent of our employees are women.”
Jose Dominic, CEO, ‘Brand Guardian’ of CGH Earth Hotels, also spoke. MSA Kumar, President, The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Kerala Chapter, was the moderator.
On the sidelines of the programme, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan launched the website of the Kerala Government initiative Overseas Keralites Investment and Holding Ltd. (OKIH), www.okih.org.
Dr K. Ellangovan, Principal Secretary, (Industries and NORKA), and also the Director of OKIH; O.V. Musthafa, Vice Chairman, OKIH; and Dr Baju George, Managing Director, OKIH, were also present.