SHIMLA: Raise a toast to Himachali enterprise. Kangra-Palam Bailey, Palam Queen, Bailey Queen, Thumbsar Breeze, High Speed Special… which one would you prefer? The Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology, Palampur, has taken a giant leap in making an effort to diversify tea products, of which the above-mentioned names are a testimony. The tea-based wine and soft drinks developed by the institute would go a long way in heralding a new beginning for not just tea growers but the whole industry in Himachal.
That innovation is the foundation of any enterprise is a time-tested adage, but sadly, Himachalis have in the past shown little interest in grasping its meaning. As a result, local knowledge accumulated over centuries has either vanished or hardly been utilised to benefit in a money economy.
Of late, the state has earned the distinction of being the fruit bowl of the country. But we can’t survive on fruits alone; for that we also require hard cash, not just for few orchidists but for the whole state. Selling apples at Azadpur Mandi in Delhi alone certainly won’t serve that purpose. We all know that there is a difference between selling leather and selling shoes; the difference lies in the margin of profits. So why is it that companies from Mumbai have to come and sell apple cider, carbonated apple juice and seabuckthorn juice to Himachalis. These products are made from raw material indigenous to Himachal and therefore should ideally have been made by Himachalis.
Kullu shawls have been a partial success having been able to develop a hyper-local wool-based economy, but there is more room for innovation. We have been able to get recognition for Kangra tea and Kullu shawls as products exclusive to the state and may even get patents in the near future. What we need is to go further and identify more such products and services that are exclusive to Himachal. Rather than harping on heavy industry run by big industrial houses from outside the state, it would be better to patronise local agro-based industry by encouraging individuals to come up with new products and services. And for that research institutes and universities need to put in some extra work to fuel innovation. We are sure there are enough motivated youths in the state to take the hint.