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15 Reasons Why Bengal Means Business

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*This is a sponsored feature by Bengal Global Business Summit 2018.

A thriving literary and cultural scene put Bengal on the map before and after India’s independence. Now the fourth-largest economy in India, West Bengal in the 21st century has punched above its weight to emerge as an economic powerhouse.

A successful mix of modern infrastructure, progressive business policies and emphasis on developing core sectors has thrust West Bengal near the top of India’s global investment ladder and thereby proving to the world that it means business.

To further the state’s economic agenda, thousands of delegates from around India and the world will descend upon Kolkata for the fourth annual Bengal Global Business Summit on January 16-17, 2018.

Previous editions have garnered investment proposals of more than USD 100 bln. The facts and figures below illustrate West Bengal’s remarkable economic and development trajectory over the last decade:

1/ Prioritizing growth

A steady determination to shed outdated policies drove West Bengal’s growth rate of 15.64% (gross value added) in 2016-17 and helped boost the gross state domestic product (GSDP) to USD 158 bln for the same period.

2/ Governance and labour

Due partly to an enforced ban on strikes, business productivity has increased dramatically and time lost to labour unrest has declined. Some 7.6 million employees have been enrolled in social security programs to ensure benefits.

3/ Industry-ready infrastructure

With 15,000 km of optical fibre network and tele-density of more than 92%, the state’s telecom strength is on the rise. A fourfold increase in investment in physical infrastructure saw almost USD 1 bln spent in 2016-17.

4/ Road and air transport

West Bengal’s 3.15 lakh km road network is India’s third-largest. A further USD 250 mln has been invested in road development.

Two international airports in Kolkata and Bagdogra make for excellent air connectivity.

5/ Railways

The state’s pivotal location is supported by roughly 4,000 km of railway tracks. It has the second largest metro rail network in the country, which is expanding.

6/ Marine connectivity

West Bengal, particularly the container and bulk handling ports of Kolkata and Haldia, is a maritime gateway for international trade routes reaching more than 1.9 billion people in Asia and Australasia.

Navigable waterways include two major ports and three upcoming ports (two of them deep sea ports).

7/ Industrial corridors

The 2,000-km Amritsar-Kolkata industrial corridor will be operational by 2019 and span 20 cities in seven states. The proposed Bangladesh, Myanmar, India and China Economic Corridor will be the first direct expressway between India and China, making West Bengal a fulcrum of international trade.

8/ Industrial parks

There are more than 200 industrial parks planned or in existence in West Bengal, spread across 20,000 acres, including dedicated hubs for chemicals, textiles and food processing.

9/ Urban infrastructure

Six townships - with themes including sports, health and education, senior living, culture and analytics - are planned across 331 acres.

10/ Electricity supply

West Bengal ranks highest in terms of state power availability - 100% of villages are electrified thanks to a 13,825 MW generating station and 12,723 km transmission network capacity.

11/ Natural resources

About 20% of India’s minerals can be traced to West Bengal, the third-largest producer. Sulphur, silica and quartz are some of the deposits found, while total coal reserves are estimated at 31 billion tonnes.

Deocha-Pachami is the largest coal block being developed under the public-private partnership model.

12/ Agricultural output

West Bengal is India’s greatest producer of vegetables and second-largest tea producer. Overall, it’s the third-largest agricultural producer in the country.

13/ Support for MSMEs

West Bengal is home to the second-largest number of micro, small and medium enterprises, numbering 3.7 million businesses that employ 8.6 million people. The government has established a INR 200 cr venture capital fund to bolster MSMEs in the state.

14/ IT infrastructure

The state government has dedicated more than 5 mln sq. ft. to plug and play IT parks. In addition to 11 existing IT parks, seven more will be unveiled over the next five years, including Microsoft’s Centre of Excellence and e-governance clusters.

15/ Sector-specific incentives for ease of doing business

Large-scale industries can take advantage of VAT refunds of up to 80-90%, as well as central sales tax reimbursement, among other exemptions. Separate benefits extend to textiles, IT and startup industries.

The international business community has taken note of the economic prowess of Bengal showcased by the pedigree of brands that have already set up shop. ITC, The Tata Group, Genpact, IBM, Accenture, Coca-Cola and Indian Oil, have all chosen to ride the growth.

As West Bengal is remaking its future through adept planning and leveraging limitless human capital, it won’t be long before it claims its rightful place as India’s growth engine.

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