ASCEND Kerala 2020 Attracts Rs. 1 lakh crore Investment
Kochi: Kerala sees fresh investment of Rs. 1 lakh crore going by the entrepreneur feedback at ASCEND 2020 Kerala Global Investors Meet. This was revealed by Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Chief Minister, at the conclusion of the event held in Kochi with the aim of giving a boost to ‘ease of doing business’ in Kerala.
Of the amount, Rs. 98,708 crore comes in as direct promise during the two-day event, while there are “a couple of entrepreneurs whom we happened to miss’’ at the event but have expressed their willingness to invest, the Chief Minister said.
Overall, the event received 164 investment proposals. Across the sessions at ASCEND 2020 promises worth Rs. 32,008 crore were made and towards the end, the Kerala Infrastructure Management Ltd. vowed Rs. 8110-crore investments, while the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority promised investments to the tune of Rs. 66,900 crore.
The State Government plans to meet the prospective investors individually. A team led by Dr. K Ellangovan IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Industries, has been entrusted with this task. The government will seriously consider complaints against top officials who are indifferent or negative in their response to industrial investments, Vijayan said, adding a meeting will be convened soon to sort out the matter by facilitating interaction between top bureaucrats and representatives of the investment community.
There would not be any intermediaries between prospective entrepreneurs looking for investment in Kerala and the authorities. “One can apply directly at several levels starting from the village office to the CMO,” the Chief Minister added.
Noting that the State Government will accord priority to completing the projects proposed at ASCEND 2020, Pinarayi Vijayan said the government will pay special attention to the investment proposals from MSMEs made at ASCEND, while care will be, however, taken to desist from implementing projects that have a negative ecological impact.
Tusharkanti Behera, Odisha Minister of State (I/C) for IT, Sports & Youth Services, who was the Chief Guest at the valedictory session, said his State was looking forward to stronger cooperation with Kerala in sectors such as information technology. The other speakers included E P Jayarajan, State Industries Minister; Ramachandran Kadannappally, Ports Minister; Tom Jose IAS, State Chief Secretary; industrialists Yusuffali M A and Ravi Pillai; Dr. K Ellangovan IAS, and K Biju IAS, Director, Industries Department.
Organised by the State’s Department of Industries, ASCEND 2020 featured nine sessions, including six panel discussions. Inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister, it saw 100-odd projects, ratified by KPMG as viable, being presented across sectors such as petrochemicals, agro and food-processing, defence, life sciences, aerotropolis, tourism and hospitality, ports and harbour, fisheries, infrastructure, mobility development, logistics and electronic hardware.
Global Meet to Review Ideas for 'Rebuild Kerala'
Kerala will host an international conference in May to discuss the ideas put forward by the public and various stakeholders as part of the large-scale people’s consultation campaign under the Rebuilding Kerala Development Programme (RKDP).
“Experts will analyse the inputs from the business community, the diaspora, experts and technical agencies at the meet,” said Dr. Venu V IAS, Principal Secretary, Revenue, Government of Kerala, and CEO of Rebuild Kerala Initiative (RKI). “The consultation programme Nammal Namukkayi (We for Ourselves) was launched in 2019 to engage with beneficiary stakeholders for better planning. Discussions in the programme are broadly planned around themes such as land, forest and water management; local community and resilience; and transport.”
The consultation programme also seeks inputs to enhance resilience in Kerala and minimise business disruptions due to natural disasters. “After the examination by global experts, a special legislative session will review the recommendations and suggest reforms,” he added.
KIIFB Fund to Woo Investors
VS Senthil IAS, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, said Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) would sponsor a fund to bring in more investors into the infrastructure sector. “The focus of this fund would be on port and port logistics, airport and airport logistics, water transport systems, urban infrastructure, health infrastructure, waste management, e-Mobility infrastructure, industrial/IT parks, metro rail expansion and land development,” he added.
“There will be a team to analyse each prospective project. Thus, the investors will be protected,” said Senthil, who is also the CEO of Kerala Infastructure Fund (KIF) Management Ltd., which is an asset management company promoted by KIIFB to primarily act as the investment manager for the Infrastructure Fund Vehicles (IFV) sponsored by it. The fund size can be between Rs. 1 crore and Rs. 1500 crore, while the tenure for execution is 11 years.
Notable among the MoUs signed by KIF are Maritime cluster in Cochin Port area with KINFRA, Bio-60 Life Sciences Park with KSIDC, Vyttila Mobility Hub in Kochi, expansion of Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram and Bliss City with KMRL.
Kerala to Form Farmers’ Clusters in Agro-based Industries: Minister
The Kerala Government is forming a cluster involving farmers and entrepreneurs of agro-based industries, according to E P Jayarajan, State Industries Minister. Also afoot is a move to set up an academy to study the viability of such business ventures and their international market, he said at the ASCEND 2020 Kerala Global Investors Meet.
Addressing a panel discussion titled ‘Projects on Agro and Food Processing’, the Minister said agro-based firms would be the future of industry in Kerala. “In fact, we are considering the establishment of coffee plantations that are devoid of carbon footprint,” he added after a snapshot presentation that walked through top project profiles in the field of agro and food processing.
Jayarajan said a steady slip in the prices of rubber and coffee, along with general tendency among farmers to keep away from paddy cultivation, had led to a recent slump in Kerala’s agro industry sector. The KINFRA Park at Kanhangad is set to allot a two-acre plot for firms manufacturing coconut products. There is a separate rice park for paddy-based products, the Minister added.
Santhosh Koshy Thomas, MD, KINFRA emphasized the need for Kerala to have storage facilities for agro products. Shivdas B Menon, former president, TiE Kerala and Abraham J Tharakan, Chairman, Amalgam Food Group, also spoke.
Kerala Needs Early Completion of 13 Non-major Ports: Minister
Kerala requires earliest completion of its notified 13 non-operational ports considering their potential to boost the economy of the State that has a coastline of 590 km, according to Ramachandran Kadannappally, Minister for Ports.
Listing out the names of the ports at different stages of development, the Minister called upon investors to join the government’s efforts to boost the State’s maritime trade that has a history of centuries.
Highlighting the bid to rejuvenate the Kodungallur port (Thrissur district) that had a seaport functioning from the first century, Kadannappally Ramachandran also spoke of the perceived benefits of the Azhikkal port in Kannur. Both the endeavours could invigorate coastal and hinterland trade, he noted.
V Thulasidas, MD, Kannur International Airport, in a panel discussion that followed the Minister’s speech, said the Azhikkal port’s proximity (30 km) to the Kannur airport (in Mattannur) ideally made the two projects share a symbiotic relationship. The two establishments can promote transport of cargo by air as well as sea, he noted at the session moderated by Vasudevan S, Partner, KPMG in India.
Further, the Kannur airport can strengthen Kerala’s tourism north of the State, considering its connectivity with places such as Bekal (Kasargod), Wayanad and Coorg (in Karnataka, across the border) that are inviting high footfalls in recent years, Thulasidas pointed out. “Kannur airport can prove to be vital to Kerala tourism in the next five years,” he added.
V J Mathew, Chairman of the Kerala Maritime Board, emphasized the need for the betterment of Kerala’s coastal roadways so that ports could play a big role in the State’s economic development.
ASCEND Displays Array of Innovative Startup Products
With the aim of spreading the benefits of education using virtual and augmented reality to the autistic, a Kerala startup has devised a technique that betters the grasping capacity of children with developmental disorders who find it difficult to socially interact and communicate.
Named ‘Auticare’, an assistive technology learning platform for special education, was displayed at ASCEND 2020 Kerala Global Investors Meet. The device is among the key attractions across the two dozen stalls that exhibited products of startups. For the health sector, a portable personal exerciser and an equipment that accurately assesses the performance of peripheral veins in real time drew the attention of the visitors.
Technopark-based Embright Infotech showcased Auticare that helps teach autistic children real-life skills through an interactive 3D virtual environment. “The modules are doctor-guided and hence, safe. It is fun, too,” said Sathyanarayanan A R, Founder, Embright. “Parental involvement is also possible, as it’s a home-based therapy,” he said.
The portable personal exerciser was launched in India only two months ago by a US-based Malayali doctor. Called ‘Ankle Motion’, the device comes in handy for a sedentary person who wishes to simulate walking during bedrest or while in a seated position, said its inventor,
Dr. Antony Mathew.
Then there was Veineux AR 100 that spots veins differentiating them from the surrounding tissues when the device is held about 30 cms above the skin. “The vasculature shows up clearly on the skin’s surface, aiding in vein location to collect a blood sample or to administer an IV medication,” pointed out Rajesh Kumar S, MD, Medtra based in Kochi.
Among other stalls and their products displayed at ASCEND were Bagmo’s blood tracker that tracks blood bag from donor to patient so as to ensure an efficient supply of vital body fluids in banks and storage centres; Susrutha Innovations and Wellness that is into stem-cell therapy; Kerala Remedies that is engaged in standardised herbal and spice extracts; an emergency escape sliding chute system by Dynamit Innovations; the country’s first commercial solar ferry ‘Aditya’; portable quality monitors named ‘airU Indoor’ and hydroU (for water), among others; and ‘rapidor’ that reduces office expenses and increases team efficiency.
‘Silver Line’ has Big Investment Opportunities
The proposed 532-km Thiruvananthapuram-Kasargod Semi High-Speed Rail (SHSR) corridor project will throw up big investment opportunities for the private sector besides creating a fast and clean travel option across Kerala, V Ajith Kumar, MD, Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd. (KRDCL) said at ASCEND 2020 conclave. Showcasing the Rs. 66,405-crore project at the event, he said it will provide ample opportunities for private investment in areas ranging from civil and electrical contracts to tourism and hospitality business.
There are investment opportunities in transit-orient developments; engineering-procurement-construction contracts worth Rs. 38,000 crore for civil, electrical and system works; supply and operation of rail coaches, high-speed freight trains and tourist trains; renewal power generation of around 300 MW, power storage systems etc. The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), to be formed as part of the project, will set apart a substantial stake for the private sector for a wide array of related business and services. “These include commercial land development and real estate, leasing and operation of rolling stock, owning and operation of RORO system and last-minute connectivity by e-vehicles. Also, big investment is possible in the tourism and hospitality segment when the project is completed and trains start running,” Ajith Kumar said.
Top Players in Tourism Sector pitch for PPP Model
According to Kadakampally Surendran, State Tourism Minister, there is a long list of new project ideas that promise good returns to investors
Lauding the pivotal role played by the State Government in the success of Kerala’s tourism, industry leaders speaking at a panel discussion at ASCEND 2020 investment conclave called for further cementing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to attract investment in globally-appealing products and services.
Setting the context for the discussion on ‘Projects on Tourism and Hospitality’, Kadakampally Surendran, State Tourism Minister, said while tourism in Kerala is poised to scale new heights, the sector offers tremendous investment opportunities to the private sector. “Tourism in Kerala is essentially a private sector-driven activity. The government is only a facilitator. Our approach is to welcome and support private investors,” he said.
Minister Surendran said there is quite a long list of new project ideas that promise good returns to investors. These include MICE tourism, Malabar Cruise, cultural and heritage projects focusing on different regions and eco and adventure tourism. The Champions Boat League (CBL), successfully launched in 2019, is a key area that holds tremendous investment potential, he noted.
“Tourism contributes 10 to 12 per cent of the State’s income. It is vital for job generation and brings benefits to the local community. Our approach is to facilitate sustainable development of tourism without causing damage to the environment. The government is open to all good investment proposals,” he said.
Giving a snapshot of Kerala tourism’s current status, Rani George IAS, Secretary, Tourism said in 2018, Kerala was visited by 1.09 million foreign tourists and 15.6 million domestic visitors. This was despite the huge damage inflicted by the devastating floods on prime destinations, from which the sector bounced back through strategic planning and support of stakeholders.
The first three quarters of 2019 saw an impressive growth of 15.73 per cent. While it is necessary to have more upscale properties for the growth of segments like MICE tourism, a unique feature of Kerala’s tourism development has been its due emphasis on sustainable and community-centred activities, driven by the Responsible Tourism Mission, she added.
Moderating the discussion, veteran tourism entrepreneur Jose Dominic noted that tourism in Kerala had come a long way in the last four decades. “The inclusive socio-political culture of Kerala has been a vital factor in the growth of tourism in the State,” he said.
P Bala Kiran IAS, Director, Tourism said of late, the thrust has been on launching new products that will be appealing to visitors who look forward to a complete experience. This had started yielding good results as reflected in the recent figures, he added.
Noting that Kerala needs to make a big leap in inviting big-ticket investments, Adeeb Ahmed, MD, Twenty14 Holdings, suggested that the State should create an SPV (special purpose vehicle) for building world-class infrastructure under PPP model. “Such an entity can identify and create infrastructure and then auction them out to international investors. We need to adopt a global, inclusive approach to enhance investor confidence,” he said.
Abraham George, CMD, Intersight Tours and Travels, said Kerala should pay urgent attention to improve mobility, especially the road system, and seriously address the issue of waste management. These are two critical areas that call for immediate attention to maintain the growth in tourism, he added.
Shruti Shibulal, CEO, Tamara Leisure Experiences, said the hospitality industry has good prospects across the State. One promising area is pilgrimage and cultural tourism, which now lack good, modern facilities, she noted.
Around 30 tourism and hospitality projects, cutting across the State, were showcased at the conclave.