There may be people who find the Himalayan terrain to be difficult but they must have seen the progress in other hilly states not Himachal. The terrain should not deter Himachal from making all-round progress. True. But when we are looking at foreign investment, tourism is the only sector that has remained on the list.
Though Himachal has a lot to offer. I agree… states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat have a good network abroad who are consistently paying back their states. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Himachal. But Yahoo groups like Clubinfonet has surely opened the doors. But the key question is that how to get that rolling. One disadvantage of online discussions is that it remains as a fancy idea and mere discussions. It though does help in awareness and changing perspectives. One disadvantage is the fact that
there aren’t too many Himachalis abroad. The meagre who are, are scattered, which prohibits them from forming a network.
Talking about apples, I strongly feel that they have come to a saturation point. The problem with us is the bhed chaal. If one thing clicks, others follow choking the market. Last year I met the DC of Mandi. His initiative in floriculture needs to be encouraged in other parts of the state as well. To put down the figures, cut plants in a greenhouse in comparison to apples give returns four times a year and with an average investment of say Rs.12,000 give a return of more than a lakh. This 12,000 is an initial investment when you buy the plants and install the greenhouse. The next time you have your own seeds and saplings. When I say lakh that means one time crop. But in floriculture the return is four times a year. Now this is something that needs to be encouraged. As far as apples are concerned, one factor for the drop in market rates is the obvious market choke and secondly of regular failures (cut plants is safe as they are grown in greenhouses) of the crop and the American apple influx in the market, which are of better hybrid and quality.
But here the key issue is how to market the flowers as well. Transportation is one factor. The local market is equal to nill except for bouquet stalls. Like apples the market is Delhi or export. But once the contacts and a network is formed that too does not have a problem as cut plants do have a shelf life of 15 days. Most of the flowers are exported, again from Delhi.
Medicinal plants are other areas where Himachal can do well. Ayurvedic companies like Dabur etc. are on lookout for land on lease for growing medicinal plants. But that is a deterrent as obviously with small land holding farmers are reluctant to put it on lease.
Secondly the Himachal government though may be doing well on its front but has failed to market and hard sell the state to NRIs and foreigners for investment. I carried a story way back in June about the Vaknaghat project that Himachal sought NRI help to develop town. The project was cleared I suppose last month. Foreign and NRI investment can be attracted for building educational institutes, entertainment parks, multiplexes besides the hospitality sector and homes. But the project has received lukewarm support from NRIs.
Himachal will have to change strategies to hard sell it like Chandrababu Naidu or Modi did for their respective states. India celebrates Pravasi Bharatiya Divas now. On the lines of the day, Modi has specially invited the Gujarati community abroad for a Kite festival. The idea behind is to attract investment. I think Himachal too does need to toe on that line. With a rich cultural heritage, People of Himachali Origin (PHO) can be invited to various organized festivals on the sidelines of various festivals like as Kullu Dussehra and Summer Festival Shimla. A special program could be arranged to honor the PHOs.
Investment and ideas can also be sought in the power sector and adventure sports. But these are old fortes and we need to look forward and find new areas where investment can be sought.
Even quality education has to be provided. But the key issue is not education. As far as education is concerned Himachal is one state which on an average has a school in a 5 km radius and the state has a high literacy rate. But what is lacking is self-belief. We are sitting here and can have fancy ideas, why cannot we execute them. Indian Express, Tribune in Chandigarh are full of Himachali guys/gals. The IT sector in Chandigarh attracts people from Himachal. BPO, the keyword in these days, has made companies going out for talent hunt in the state for recruitment in Gurgaon.
But the real question is why do we have to come out of the state. Because of the lack of opportunities in the state. Why cannot these companies come to Himachal?
What do these BPO companies need. Infrastructure and basically telephonic infrastructure. I thought that Himachal had one of the best telecom infrastructure. Thanks to Sukh Ram. But why are these companies not coming to Himachal? They choose to hire people from Himachal… why cannot they bring their companies to Himachal? Because obviously the Himachal government isn’t taking pains to invite them. The road does not end by setting up a mere Technology Park. It has to go beyond it. We will have to hardsell Himachal. For that matter first of all the Himachal Government will need to tie up with business bodies like FICCI and CII and organize seminars and hard sell Himachal at other national and international forums. Coming January on 9 to 11 at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, where a jumboore of NRIs would be present in New Delhi, Himachal can take up the opportunity to showcase itself as one of the future IT destinations.
How can we help and how can we hard sell Himachal at this group level and how can we reach to the Himachal government with the idea. But what the idea is, shall we share it…