Vibrant Gujarat more show than substance

Written by Rishi Raj | Jyotsna Bhatnagar | Gandhinagar | Updated: Jan 12 2013, 06:53am hrs
The bulk of India Incs A-listers were on the dais at the inaugural session of the sixth Vibrant Gujarat Summit, which began on Friday. However, barring Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani and Essar Group chairman Shashi Ruia, none committed any investments in the state.

Moreover, unlike in 2009, when at the same event captains of Indian industry had tipped Narendra Modi as a potential PM, this time around they confined their praise for the Gujarat chief minister at the state level.

While thanking the assemble industrialists and businessmen, Modi, who spoke last and in English at the three-and-a-half-hour inaugural session, said that in every aspect of reforms his state had shown the way to the central government.

In terms of praise, ADAG chairman Anil Ambani took the cake by stating that Gujarat had produced four stalwarts: Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Dhirubhai Ambani and the Gujarat chief minister. Anil Ambani was the first speaker after CII president Adi Godrejs inaugural speech as a partner for the event and in his opening remarks paid respects to elder brother Mukesh Ambani. He compared Modi to Mahabharats Arjun in terms of clarity of vision and action and hailed him as a king among kings and lord among men, and even requested the audience to give the chief minister a standing ovation, but did not show the same enthusiasm when it came to investing in the state.

All he said was: The Reliance Group has been a large investor in the state and continues to pursue the same.

The younger Ambani was followed by the vice-chairman and managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra, Anand Mahindra, who wondered what made Gujarat such an attractive state for business and said it was perhaps its soil and good food and also because the people of the state were not afraid of failure in business. Hailing Modis model, he said that just as today the China model is being talked about, soon a day would come when the Gujarat model would become the buzzword.

Mukesh Ambani, while stating that the summit has been growing from strength to strength and he has never missed it, said that Reliance Industries has so far invested Rs 1 lakh crore in the state and would invest the same in the next three years. He also talked about investing Rs 500 crore in expanding the facilities of the Pandit Deen Dayal Petroleum University in the state but this investment would be shared with the state government.

On his part, Ruia said that the Essar Group has so far invested Rs 88,000 crore in the state and would invest another Rs 15,000 crore in ports and water supply in the state, but did not give a time frame.

Among notable absentees were Cyrus Mistry, who in end-December took over as the Tata Group chairman, Bharti Airtel chairman and managing director Sunil Mittal and AV Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla. Though Hero MotoCorp managing director Pawan Munjal was present on the dais, he was not called upon to address the audience.

Maruti Suzuki chairman RC Bhargava and Tata Group chairman emeritus Ratan Tata, who spoke towards the end, did compliment Modi for his work but only reiterated the investments made by their companies so far. Maruti is setting up a new plant in the state that Bhargava said would be its second home after Haryana, and Tata said that the group has Rs 34,000 crore of investments in the state.

Chanda Kochhar and Aditya Puri, the managing directors of the countrys top two private banks ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank were present and in their addresses complimented the state as being a bankers delight for the high credit to deposit ratio.

The lack of memoranda of understanding being signed this time at the event and quantifying the worth of investments seems to be a strategy by the state government against the backdrop of growing criticism that much of what gets committed never gets to see the light of day. The focus this time is on forging alliances and partnerships in innovation and knowledge sharing and boosting small and medium enterprises.