NR Narayana Murthy, one of the founders of IT giant Infosys, fondly talks about his days as a student of IIT, Kanpur. He was there in the venerable temple of education in the late 1960s. Now, the question being asked in the business world is: Will Shri Narayana Murthy consider investing in the city of his alma mater even as the Yogi Adityanath Government in Uttar Pradesh is going all out to woo investors from India and abroad to invest in India’s biggest State in terms of population? Well, the Uttar Pradesh Government would surely knock on the doors of Narayana Murthy, the father-in-law of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. It goes without saying that if Murthy takes some affirmative steps towards Kanpur in terms of investment then it would go a long way towards the development of the State.
The UP Government is keen to make Kanpur another NCR like Noida or Gurgaon. It has the potential to become like these cities as it has a vibrant history of business and industry. Now, it has a formidable infrastructure that can match any big metro. As recently as a couple of decades ago, Kanpur was a very vibrant industrial town with mills and workers all around. Considered the Manchester of the East, Kanpur had several cotton mills working on a 24×7 basis. However, all such mills started crumbling in the early 1970s. They started shutting one by one due to a plethora of factors. Thus, Kanpur became the city of unemployed workers.
According to Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta, who has researched on the decline of Kanpur as a premier industrial town of India, the story of Kanpur’s textile mills is one of bureaucratic and political insensitivity in the pre-liberalisation era and one of plunder in the liberalisation age. “It is also the most important example of transition of a city that was called ‘Manchester of the East’ at one time to a decadent dumping yard corrupted by communal and anti-labour politics,” says Mahaprashasta.
As the saying goes that bad times give way to better times, Kanpur is all set to see a flurry of activities. It should become a favourite destination for the big-ticket corporate houses of the world. It has good transport infrastructure like roads and metro, schools, colleges, hospitals and airport too. Further, the rock-like determination of the State Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath to transform the city of Kanpur, situated on the banks of Ganga, deserves credit. Like any other part of Uttar Pradesh, the law and order situation is very investor-friendly in Kanpur too. Nobody can think of creating a ruckus. There is zero tolerance for anti-social elements under the watchful eyes of the State Government.
Pitching Uttar Pradesh as a safe investment destination, State officials are assuring industrialists of a law and order situation that is devoid of fear of land mafia. “You must have seen that before 2017, there used to be riots every other day in Kanpur. Now the law and situation in the State has improved. We formed an anti-land mafia Task Force and vacated over 64,000-hectares of land from their clutches,” said an official on the assurance of anonymity. The fact of the matter is that today no goon can collect tax from any businessman or contractor or harass them in Uttar Pradesh.
Shri Yogi Adityanath has already met representatives of more than two dozen US companies exploring investment opportunities in the State and assured them of his Government’s commitment to providing an investor-friendly environment. Led by Boeing, the delegation that included major US firms such as Facebook, Adobe, Coca-Cola, Mastercard, Monsanto, Uber, Honeywell, P&G, Oracle and GE Health and Cargill has shown keen interest in investing in the State. Now the onus is on the State officials to apprise investors of steps taken by their Government to facilitate investors in the State and the measures taken in this regard.
Investors are attracted to any city, State and country if there are opportunities to make money. They will assess the attractiveness of a city’s opportunities by estimating their likely return or profit. They will be drawn to cities that offer them the best combination of scale, risk and return. One should not forget that cities are complex economies, so many factors impact this return. As a result, investors consider a wide range of characteristics while assessing the attractiveness of a city. This includes, growth rate of businesses and jobs, resilience of the economy to shocks, quality and affordability of infrastructure, skill-level of the workforce, and quality of education and research, city environment and liveability, governance, population size, and the number of jobs and businesses, type of land/assets available, taxation and incentives and construction costs.
Shri Yogi Adityanath has already met representatives of more than two dozen US companies exploring investment opportunities in the State and assured them of his Government’s commitment to providing an investor-friendly environment. Led by Boeing, the delegation that included major US firms such as Facebook, Adobe, Coca-Cola, Mastercard, Monsanto, Uber, Honeywell, P&G, Oracle and GE Health and Cargill has shown keen interest in investing in the State
Giving his assessment on how he sees the sudden rise of Kanpur, noted Delhi-based Chartered Accountant Rajan Dhawan says investors are particularly drawn to cities with highly-skilled workers, such as Kanpur, Chennai and Noida, as these cities have productive, well-paid jobs in innovative, knowledge-based industries. A well-educated workforce is more resilient to economic changes due to its ability to adapt and has greater spending power than a low-skilled workforce.
Returning to Narayana Murthy again, as Uttar Pradesh is all set to attract investors during the Global Investors Meet to be held in Lucknow on February 10-12, 2023. One should not be surprised if other alumni of IIT Kanpur, who have now become big-time industrialists, would also invest in the city of their youth and alma-mater. The big-ticket CEOs like Arvind Krishna, IBM; Bhaskar Pramanik, CEO of Microsoft India; Mukesh Bansal, Founder of Myntra; Som Mittal, former President of NASSCOM; Sangeet Paul Choudary, CEO & founder of Platformation Labs, Lalit Jalan, CEO of Reliance Infrastructure and Prashant Pathak, Chairman of Investment Committee of Business Development Bank of Canada, CEO of Ekagrata Inc, too, were students of IIT, Kanpur. Who knows that all these CEOs and others toying with the idea of investing in Kanpur too?