Maharashtra is the powerhouse of India’s economy. Home to the financial capital, the state attracts the highest foreign investment and is best placed to become the next global financial, commercial and cultural hub for future design, innovation and creativity-led entrepreneurship opportunities. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent interactions with Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Germany, he aptly remarked “we are meant for each other,” indicating that India would always present itself as a powerful, prepared and capable partner to Germany. Building on synergies between the two countries will fast track India’s progress towards becoming a far more industrialised economy. At this juncture, the comparison of Maharashtra with Germany is strategically interesting and extremely thought provoking. The economic status of Maharashtra in India can be directly related to the economic status held by Germany in the EU. Both regions have well-developed ecosystems in auto, electronics and food processing, among others, and are acknowledged as leaders in technology and innovation.
There are a number of learnings in policy interventions that Maharashtra can emulate, to boost its growth prospects. For instance, Germany’s Mittelstand (medium-sized enterprises) form a distinctive majority of the country’s economy. Germany has been supporting this sector via accelerators, VC grants, favourable policies and funding. Similarly, Maharashtra can benefit by leveraging its vast potential in this sector to foster the culture of entrepreneurship. I believe a multi-pronged focus on the following themes holds the key to propel the state to an unprecedented growth trajectory.
The one constant in the dynamic German growth story is innovation—ingrained in its business culture and aptly supported by an ecosystem of educational institutions and public research organisations. Likewise, Maharashtra has all the ingredients to foster a similar design, innovation and R&D-oriented culture, with established education hubs, presence of industrial clusters and availability of infrastructure and funding. Development of the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway, Samruddhi Corridor, as model concentration of innovation will act as a catalyst for economic growth of 12 districts it passes through, and augment the development of the other 12 that fall in its influence zone. Among these, Mumbai itself, along with Pune, holds immense potential of becoming the ‘super innovation hub’ of India. Mumbai has the attributes for the development of a fintech ecosystem—tech players, market access, talent, capital, incubators and innovation centres. Through focused policy interventions under the aegis of a fintech council, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region can become India’s fintech hub, creating huge spinoffs for the economy.
Maharashtra is among better placed states in overall infrastructure—even so, there are some key steps that can be taken to achieve global standards. Recent efforts by the government such as development of Aurangabad Industrial City, the greenfield smart industrial city, is a progressive step to create a sustainable infrastructure for industrial advancement in the region. Transformation of existing commercial hubs in line with commercial clusters of Germany will pave way for accelerated growth of these established centres. For instance, the Bandra Kurla Complex has the potential to set new benchmarks encompassing smart mobility, digital economy, smart energy and utilities infrastructure solutions to emerge as the ‘smartest business hub’ of India. Maritime infrastructure in Maharashtra is a growth story waiting to be written. The state houses the largest container handling port, JNPT, along with 48 non-major ports. However, only 14 of these non-major ports handle cargo. With a strong industrial base coupled with abundance of human capital, Maharashtra has the potential to develop the maritime sector. Enhanced connectivity to integrate transport networks with port interlinks and promotion of coastal and inland shipping can transform Maharashtra into a significant import and export hub.
Culture & tourism
Maharashtra’s unique cultural strength lies in its deep connection with its roots and traditions. The people have preserved their rich heritage of splendid literature, art and craft, folk music, dance and religious customs. Leveraging on this, tourism can be an important engine of holistic growth. The state boasts of an abundance of heritage sites, Buddhist caves and other attractions of national importance like Deekshabhoomi. Through a planned hub and spoke model, with sites as nodes and cities with sizeable tourist influx as hubs, economic activity can be ignited in surrounding regions. Integration of Shirdi with the Samruddhi Corridor will enable faster connectivity and development of the proposed greenfield airport will enable sustainable and smart development, unlocking the true potential of this pilgrimage destination. Endowed with heritage sites and scenic beauty of Sahyadris, Maharashtra also has a 720-km coastline with the potential to herald a new phase of coastal tourism. The Italian Riviera concept has remained underexplored in India. Pristine beaches, forts and coastal cities such as Alibaug and Ratnagiri present the complete set of ingredients to develop an Indian Riviera in Maharashtra, complete with resorts, waterfront restaurants and promenades, marinas and boat clubs along with cruise terminals, to revitalise the coastal economy through this affordable tourism ecosystem.
India is set to become the youngest nation by 2020 with estimated working-age population of 962 million. Maharashtra accounts for 9.3% of the population and will be a major beneficiary due to availability of human capital in a period of soaring demand in industries such as construction, retail, BFSI, IT & ITeS, manufacturing, among others. With the vision of equipping 45 million people with employable skills by 2022, Maharashtra is on the path of convergence of human capital and employment opportunities. Equal focus on skill development initiaitves for job-creators will augur well for creation of a sustainable ecosystem of talent pool and job opportunities. Maharashtra’s development, centred on innovation, infrastructure, culture, tourism and sustainability, present unique prospects to craft an unparalleled success story in India, similar to Germany’s leading position in the EU.