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Maharashtra: The Best and Worst of India

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Despite scams and industrial scandals, Maharashtra strides India’s economic horizon as a colossus. Chandran Iyer reports
CHANDRAN IYER | Issue Dated: April 14, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Stock market scams | BSE | Maharashtra economy |

Maharashtra, once a preferred destination for freedom fighters, is also India’s financial hub. The state, an economic and industrial powerhouse, has witnessed gigantic stock-market scams, industrial scandals and political upheavals. But despite the jolts, it has continued to grow at a blistering economic pace. It is the wealthiest state in India, contributing nearly 15 percent to the country's industrial output.

India’s largest stock exchange, the Bombay Stock Exchange located on Mumbai’s Dalal Street, has witnessed a spate of economic tremors triggered by mega-scamsters but somehow or the other, they have not dampened the sentiments of investors who still feel that this market remains the biggest short-cut to become Mr. Richie Rich.

In 1995-96, the Enron scam rocked the country for all the wrong reasons. The way in which the Dabhol power plant in Maharashtra was awarded to the global energy giant raised questions about kickbacks to politicians to clear infrastructural projects and to the media for planting slanted stories without keeping national considerations in mind. Maharashtra today is the second largest exporter of software products with annual exports of 18,000 crore (US$ 3.3 billion) and accounts for more than 30 percent of the country's software exports, with over 1,200 units based in the state. The head offices of all major financial institutions of India, viz., banks, insurance companies and mutual funds, are situated in Mumbai. The head office of the biggest financial institute of the Indian economy, the Reserve Bank of India, is also located in Maharashtra’s capital city.

Says Director General of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) Anant Sardeshukh, "Maharashtra all along has been a leading industrial state in the country and today it contributes 15 percent GDP of the nation. This state is also attracting  a great deal of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). However, it has to take a cue from Gujarat and remove bureaucratic hurdles in industrialisation. If that is done, it will considerably boost up the state’s economy,” he says adding that Maharashtra has a lower attrition rate than Gujarat.

The state is also an ideal  business destination for  foreign companies looking to invest in India. Recently the British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Mumbai with the biggest ever business delegation from UK to enhance economic tie ups with India, especially Maharashtra.

Points out Arun Bharadwaj, CEO and Executive Director of Global Imaging Technologies and Vice-Chairman of British Business Group, Pune, "Maharashtra has been  one of the largest business attractions for UK companies  for a long time. This is because there are business opportunities specially in automobile, IT, manufacturing and quite recently, the education sector."

A number of ancillary units for the automobile sector are being setup even after the TATA-JLR deal. There are several IT companies from UK based out of Maharashtra. Naturally, for those looking to invest in the state, the capital city offers the best opportunities. What is attractive for investors is Mumbai's clout as the financial capital of India. The IT sector has also marked its presence along with many service providers to UK companies. The reason; the presence of a large number of sound professional and technical colleges in and around the state are ideal picking ground for young graduates. This provides opportunities to the student community which is readily available to join the work force or train according to the industry-specific requirements.

Another sterling feather in Maharashtra’s cap is Mumbai’s Bollywood industry, which is also the world’s largest film industry. Indian cinema has a history of nearly 100 years and is an integral part of Indian society and culture. Now even Hollywood is courting Indian film producers: Disney, Viacom, News Corporation and Sony Pictures have all done deals with Bollywood companies in the past few years.

Says Raju Phulkar, a Marathi film writer, producer and director, "Bollywood is a bigger money spinner than any other film industry in India. It is the land of magical dreams where every wannabe actor wants to make a mark. Most end up shattered, some manage to get a foot-hold while only a very few manage to make a name for themselves in the tinsel world."

Phulkar, who also runs a film academy teaching students the basics of editing, script writing and acting, says, "Bollywood is a mesmerising world and it contributes a big chunk to Maharashtra’s economy."

Though Bangalore may be the IT capital of India, it was Maharashtra which put the United States to its place when it refused to grant Super Computing technology to India. Stung by the US snub, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi asked a Maharashtrian IT expert Vijay Bhatkar whether India had the capability to make super computers as the US had refused to transfer technology to India. Bhatkar, a simple but a brilliant IT man heading the Centre for Advance Computing (CDAC ) based in Pune, agreed to take up the challenge.

Along with his team, Bhatkar managed to create an indigenous supercomputer of Cray capability, then in gigaflops range which was named PARAM. In fact, C-DAC was launched in 1988 as India’s answer to US denial. When the PARAM super computer was launched, Wall Street Journal took caustic notice of it with front page headline “Angry India does IT”.

Explains Krishna Warrier, Former Editor of Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy  (CMIE), "Forward-thinking economic policies since the 1970s have made it one of India's most urbanised states and a leading industrial centre. It's capital, Mumbai, is the financial capital of the country, and also the headquarters of the Hindi film industry. Tier 2 cities like Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad and Nagpur also contribute to the state’s economic advance, with Pune considered one of the country's premier education and IT hubs. A combination of the state's central location and its manufacturing prowess have ensured that the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, located in Navi Mumbai, is perhaps the country's busiest port.” So despite the handicaps, Mumbai will continue to dominate India’s economic landscape and that is good news indeed.  

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017