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Vol. XXVIII No. 2, May 1-15, 2018

Our losses, Sri City’s gains


The latest conquest of Sri City is the Krea University. Even while I admire Chandrababu Naidu and Ravindra Sannareddy for winning such prestigious projects, I should point to the Tamil Nadu government losing several projects. I cite a few:

Chennai Metro attracted Alstom to set up facilities in India to manufacture rail coaches for the metro rail systems. After all, several years back SIPCOT developed Gummidipoondi on the southern side of the border with Andhra Pradesh as an industrial centre. But Sri City proved more attractive.

A couple of years ago Indira Nooyi, a daughter of this soil, was keen to set up a mango pulp plant for PepsiCo. The investment indicated was Rs 1200 crore. PepsiCo’s fruit drinks needed the pulp. Sri City proved more mango-thirsty.

International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. have, for years, been having its plant at St. Thomas Mount in the heart of the city. IFF planned its expansion. A couple of months back IFF performed the Bhoomi puja for their new facility at Sri City.

B. Thiagarajan, head of Blue Star, has been talking of setting up a new facility in the South. Thiagarajan was active in the CII in offering invaluable suggestions on cold storages for food preservation. Last month, he announced a Rs 500 crore investment for a production facility in Sri City.

Another recent addition to Sri City is the two-wheeler market leader Hero Motocorp. The company plans to launch its eighth factory with an investment of Rs 1600 crore with a capacity of 1.8 million units. It is expected to become operational before December 2019.

Tamil Nadu needs to look closely at setting up an aggressive marketing team at the helm.

The reluctance of the top political leadership to interact closely with business leaders and other investors has been a major handicap. The contrast is provided by Narendra Modi as chief minister of Gujarat, Sheila Dixit in Delhi, Chandrababu Naidu in AP and Chandrashekara Rao in Telangana.

Tamil Nadu’s top bureaucracy, star-studded with brilliant administrators, has also been constrained by powerful politicians curbing its initiatives. Sadly, the popular stature of the charismatic leaders and their limited interests failed to nurture and develop second and third line political leadership. Just look at the contrast of Kamaraj who groomed R. Venkataraman, C. Subramaniam, M. Bhaktavatsalam and others as leaders of great capabilities!

However, under the current dispensation welcome changes are noticed with ministers and civil servants taking new initiatives. This effort should be expanded.

Tamil Nadu has talent in abundance like Dr. V. Krishnamurthy who built BHEL, Maruti and SAIL, Dr. C. Rangarajan, N. Vaghul, S.V.S. Raghavan, S. Venkitaramanan, T.N. Seshan, Dr. M. Anandakrishnan, K.P. Geethakrishnan, K. Venkatesan and a galaxy of other civil servants, Dr. V. Sumantran, Lakshmi Narayanan, R. Thyagarajan, B. Santhanam, R. Dinesh… It should be possible to draw on their rich expertise to take the State forward.

Of course, this will call for the willingness of the political leadership to free themselves from the routine political meetings and vizhas and set apart liberal time on development issues.

For five decades Tamil Nadu’s charismatic leaders had won massive following through populist measures. Today the need is to win votes on performance.

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