Despite Narendra Modi-US visa stand-off, US cars, Coke and chocolate among those with Sanand address

Written by Avinash Nair | Ahmedabad | Updated: Jul 19 2014, 01:55am hrs
ModiNow with Prime Minister Modi set to visit the US in September, the US presence in the state is only set to increase.
The US government's strained relations with former chief minister Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government on the visa denial issue since 2005 notwithstanding, the state became home to several US businesses, many of them concentrated in the emerging Motown, Sanand, 35 kms from Ahmedabad.

The latest in the list of American majors is Mars International India Ltd, the makers of chocolate brands like Mars, Snickers, Twix and Bounty, which has recently zeroed in on Sanand. The company which is a wholly owned arm of US-based global leading chocolate maker Mars Inc - is planning to set up a Rs 515 crore unit at Gujarat's emerging Motown, located about 40 kilometers from Ahmedabad.

Now with Prime Minister Modi set to visit the US in September, the US presence in the state is only set to increase.

"Mars has applied to the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) to acquired 1.5 lakh square meters (about 16.14 lakh square feet) of land in Sanand recently. They plan to for manufacture confectioneries in Gujarat," a state government official told The Indian Express while talking about how US-based companies were interested in setting up at Sanand where 70 percent of the investments that have come in the last five years have been from auto and auto ancillary units.

By putting up an unit in India, Mars is looking to make inroads in to the Rs 5000 crore chocolate industry in India. Cadbury leads the market with 70 percent share, followed by Swiss-dairy-maker Nestle (already setting up a Rs 87 crore unit in Sanand) and Amul.

Similarly, a few weeks ago, US multinational soft-drink giant Coca Cola has been alloted 1.85 lakh square meters of land at Sanand to set up a Rs 500 crore bottling plant to manufacture Coke, Sprite, Fanta and Thums Up, sources in the GIDC said. Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd is a company owned bottling partner of the Coca-Cola Company in India will operate the plant that will produce 450 kilo litres of effluent discharge per day.

"Coca-Cola is the latest company for whom land has been allocated at Sanand. Now as Sanand is a no-effluent zone, the company has been asked to set up treatment plants to manage their daily effluent discharge," a senior government official said about the company for whom India is seventh largest market globally.

Another US-based FMCG player who has pitched tent at Sanand a couple of years ago is the 200-year-old company from New York, Colgate Palmolive, which has set up a Rs 200 crore plant.

Among the automobile companies, a Fortune-500 company from the United States --- Visteon Corporation (VC) --- is the latest to enter Sanand. The company which is one of the main auto ancillary companies of US-based Ford Motors has acquired 4.76 lakh square feet of space at Sanand. A global leader in global automotive parts supply, the company will be investing over Rs 90 crore here, official added. Ford Motors is already setting up a Rs 5000 crore car manufacturing unit besides the Tata Nano plant at Sanand.

Apart from US-based automobile giants like General Motors and Ford Motors, Gujarat has been a preferred investment destination for American companies. Ron Somers, president, US India Business Council, had gone on record in the past saying that both Gujarat and Karnataka were the ideal places for investments in India.

US consul general, Mumbai, Peter Haas who has been on countless visits to Gujarat, had inaugurated Gujarat's first American Business Corner in Surat city in 2013. This corner will help small companies in US to find commerical partnership between Surat and the US.

The country's biggest solar park at Charanka in Patan district of Gujarat, has four US companies --- Azure Power, AES, SunEdison and Universal Solar System, as participants. Three US government agencies -- the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the United States Export-Import Bank and the US Trade and Development Agency - have provided financial support to the solar project.

US companies like SunEdision is also helping the Gujarat government implement the solar rooftop project and had executed the pilot 1 MW canal top solar project near Sanand.

Gujarat's date with US goes back to when former chief minister Narendra Modi's government had hired a top American PR and strategic communication firm - APCO Worldwide - in 2009 as the official relationship partner for its Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors' Summit 2011.

Other US majors like Monsanto, Dow Chemical International Pvt Ltd, Shell and others have major presence in their respective sectors in Gujarat.