Uttar Pradesh, the largest state by population in India, has been labelled as one among the BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) states for a long time. Infamous for the lack of infrastructure that kept industries away from the state for decades, there is a new pitch by the incumbent government that seeks to change the image of the state. In an interview with Outlook Business, Mayur Maheshwari, the CEO of UP State Industrial Development Authority, makes a strong pitch for development and suggests that the state is set to become the first choice of investors in the coming years. Excerpts:
Southern and western states have traditionally bagged investments, whether foreign or domestic, but northern states are now aggressively competing against each other to grab a pie. Can Uttar Pradesh emerge as a winner?
Taking a cue from cooperative federalism, which is aligned with the vision of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to make Uttar Pradesh a major contributor to the Centre’s goal of a $5 trillion economy, we have now moved to a stage where our state happens to be the leader in providing investment opportunities to companies by providing them a robust ecosystem of expressways, airways and best-in-class facilities for connectivity.
We are providing several incentives, including fast-track clearances, plug-and-play infrastructure and also last-mile facilitation. The result has been quite encouraging, with the state managing to attract Rs 12,000 crore worth of investments in the last two years. Also, a total of around $2 billion has been invested in 42 districts of the state.
For example, mega investments have come up in areas like Bundelkhand and Purvanchal. That has arrested migration and added a lot of value to the locals.
If you look at the data before 2017, Uttar Pradesh was considered a BIMARU state. But, it has inherent advantages, like the size and demography. What do you think has been the biggest turning point for the state?
The biggest turning point has been the change in the mindset of the government. Once an investor comes to us now, we think that it is our job to provide what they want. The government’s role has moved from a regulatory mindset to a facilitator’s mindset. For example, PepsiCo’s investment in Kosi Kalan in Mathura was put in motion very fast. Similarly, Varun Beverages is coming up with factories in Chitrakoot. We gave it the required land in 10 days. This is how you give a red-carpet welcome to investors, backed by the chief minister’s vision of making Uttar Pradesh the number one state in the country. He has already given us a target of a trillion-dollar economy. So, we are all geared up and moving in that direction. The second thing is the use of technology. Earlier, all the departments used to work in silos. But now things are happening in parallel, so that sequential clearances and land allotments move simultaneously. These are major changes that an investor looks for while putting in their money.
What are key elements to meet the target of a $1 trillion economy?
If you provide adequate, appropriate and investor-friendly infrastructure, industries will come. Uttar Pradesh’s success is a reflection of the improvements that were made in the infrastructure, be it in terms of providing common facilities by making available land at affordable prices or providing electricity at reasonable rates.
You have plans for holding an international investor summits. What gives you the confidence to move towards a global summit?
The factors of production are already taken care of—land, labour, capital and technology. The second part is of the human interface, where we handhold an investor. We have investments coming from 12 countries, and also from other states. We have signed around 780 MoUs with each of these investors, and we have nominated a nodal officer for each one of them. We hold frequent interactions and one-to-one discussions with them. We also have a a CEO connect program, which we undertake with all kinds of investors, be they small, big or medium.
You drew the blueprint and the roadmap to the $1 trillion economy mark. Could you run us through it?
In the roadmap to the trillion-dollar economy mark, we have identified sectors. We have more than 20 sector-specific policies which cater to all types of incoming investments.
Which are the five priority sectors?
Our focused sectors are IT, textiles, healthcare and food and beverages along with agri-infrastructure. We have also tried to rope in farmers into the value chain of the industrial ecosystem and involved agritech start-ups. All of them have a superset of the technology bandwidth, either through drones or through tie-ups with IITs or with various other institutions.
Land acquisition has remained one of the biggest problems in multiple other states and seen governments fall. How is it so successful in Uttar Pradesh?
The major objective of any exercise is to take stakeholders along. All landowners have been very important stakeholders in our journey. Whatever we do, we do by building the process. We take the consent of farmers before acquiring their lands and provide proper remunerative prices to them as per the law. Moreover, each one of them knows that if this land is used for industrial development, jobs will come in.
China has perfected cluster manufacturing. Do you think it will succeed in your state?
The fundamental reason for success is the bottom-up approach. What we provide is infrastructure, ecosystem and the forward and backward linkages. From micro to macro, we work on how clusters should work in terms of their technology and linkages. We also provide them access to the international markets and ensure that they get raw material at the most reasonable prices.
A large number of industries in Uttar Pradesh are very polluting. What is your approach to sustainability?
Our state works on “the polluter pays” principle. Our objective is that what you discharge is what you should recycle. Industries are required to treat effluence they discharge at the source itself. For monitoring this, we have a pollution control board. The Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam and other departments help provide common effluent treatment plants and zero liquid discharge facilities.