BEACON ON THE BAY OF BENGAL – My photos and The STORM, singapore story on Odisha

I am reproducing the Odisha Story with my photographs as it appears on Storm’s Blog – http://www.storm.sg/blog/-/blogs/beacon-on-the-bay-of-bengal

I had earlier written an article with the scanned pages of the mag’s printed version – https://swamanthan.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/magazine-storm-singapore-sreenis-curates-the-photostory-on-odisha/

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While the major Indian cities have continued along predictable business pathways, there has been a rise of opportunities in less obvious areas. The state of Odisha, on the Bay of Bengal on India’s east coast has seen a spike in business arising from its wealth of natural resources. The state has large volumes of coal, iron ore, bauxite and chromite. It also has close to 500km of coastline, much of it white and sandy.

Photo: R. Sreenivasan

For the longest time, the state was languishing as a backwater, getting by on its historic claim to fame as the place Emperor Ashoka embraced non-violence and sparked his interest in spreading Buddhist philosophy. That was in 261BC.  More recently, in the mid-1990s, Odisha roused itself and was quick off the blocks to make the most of the Indian economic reforms. It privatised the electricity business, and welcomed foreign investment in the rising steel and minerals businesses, and other infrastructure projects. The positive effects of this shift have seen the state move into a cash positive situation. Aided by stable local government with a strong view on economic development, Odisha is pushing to entice foreign investment, which must surely be aided by the weakening Rupee. B.K. Patnaik, the former Chief Secretary of Odisha, talks to STORM about the opportunities that exist for those seeking new ventures.

Photo: Devasis Sarangi  – Modern sculptures bring fresh perspective to Odisha’s historic ways.

STORM: What are the investment opportunities in Odisha? B.K. PATNAIK: Odisha has been growing faster than the national average in the past 10 years, with Rs6 trillion in capital-intensive investments. Now we are looking at how to make better use of this industrialisation that has come to the state. We are looking at downstream industries — clusters around aluminium and stainless steel plants —like building materials, automotive components. Tata has a plant, and Toyota will be making 70 million tons of steel. Just outside the capital, Bhubaneswar, we are developing InfoValley, an industrial estate dedicated to IT software processing and electronic hardware manufacturing. InfoValley is a greenfield project, and we have a computer applications tower with space earmarked for businesses that wish to start up immediately with a view for expansion.

Photo: R. Sreenivasan  – The state has a long history connected with Buddhism and Bhubaneswar is often called the temple city of India.

The other area we are putting our trust in is tourism. We would like to showcase our virgin, natural beaches. We are developing a property just outside Puri for high-end tourism. It will also have a golf course and villas, which will be offered to investors. Between Puri and Konark we are developing an aquarium and amusement park. There are a few other sites for beach tourism. We are also strong on eco tourism: Chilika Lake, the biggest brackish water lake in Asia, has tremendous bio-diversity, including dolphins, and attracts more than a million birds from Siberia; the mangrove forest at Bhitarkanika is a crocodile sanctuary; while Similipal National Park, about five hours’ drive from Bhubaneswar, is a national tiger reserve.

Photo: R. Sreenivasan – The state has a long history connected with Buddhism and Bhubaneswar is often called the temple city of India.

We are also going to promote tourism around Buddhism. Odisha has a long history connected with Buddhism. The Kalinga War turned Emperor Ashoka into a Buddhist, and he was responsible for spreading the religion out of India. Bhubaneswar is often referred to as a temple city of India, with a population that is predominantly Hindu.

Photo: Devasis Sarangi – Bhubaneswar’s new airport will help link the state to foreign interests.

STORM: How well networked in Odisha in terms of transportation? PATNAIK: Bhubaneswar is connected with all the metros of India. It has an international airport, and with all the industrialisation and tourism, we expect a lot of passenger traffic growth. All the flights out of Bhubaneswar are full as it is. So, too, the trains. There are direct links to Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Coimbature.

At the moment the bulk of the 1.5 million tourists tend to be domestic. It has not attracted international tourists because it lacked the necessary international connectivity. Still, most of the hotels are enjoying good occupancy, and we are looking to attract global hospitality brands. The infrastructure is ready, and land rates in Odisha are cheap. Our initial offer is for three- and four-star developments, with 99-year leases.

Photo: R. Sreenivasan – Odisha looks to a colourful future.

STORM: Is what’s happening in Odisha indicative of what’s happening n India? PATNAIK: Yes and no. When India was growing at 8% we were growing at 8.5 or 9%. Odisha’s special advantages are in its mineral resources and political stability. Although these mineral deposits were identified centuries ago, it’s only since 2003, when the market conditions were favourable, that the government took proactive steps to attract investment. Odisha was considered one of the poorest states of the country before. We are now narrowing that gap and would like to be one of the leading states of the country in the next 10 years. We want to be a beacon for Eastern India.

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