Can Kanpur transform into another modern big city like Gurgaon, Noida?
It has the potential to become like these cities as it has a very rich history of business, industry and now it has a formidable infrastructure that can match any big metro city
As recently as couple of decades ago, Kanpur was a very vibrant industrial town with mills and workers were all around. Considered as the Manchester of the east, Kanpur had several cotton mills working on 24x7 basis. However, all such mills started crumbling from early 70s slowly but surely. They were started shutting one by one for plethora of factors. Thus, Kanpur became the city of unemployed workers
NR Narayana Murthy, the conscious-keeper of Indian corporate world and one of the founders of IT giant Infosys, often talks about his days as a student of IIT Kanpur. He was there in venerable temple of education in the late 60s. Now, the question is being asked in business and corporate world: Will Narayan Murthy consider investing in the city of his alma –mater even as the Yogi Adityanath government in UP is going all out to woo investors from India and abroad to invest in India's biggest state in terms of population? Well, UP government would surely knock the doors of Narayan Murthy, the father in law of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. It goes without saying that if he takes some affirmative steps towards Kanpur in terms of investment, it would a long way for the state. It is already there in Noida.
Well, the UP government is keen to make Kanpur as another Noida or Gurgaon. It has the potential to become like these cities as it has a very rich history of business, industry and now it has a formidable infrastructure that can match any big metro city. As recently as couple of decades ago, Kanpur was a very vibrant industrial town with mills and workers were all around. Considered as the Manchester of the east, Kanpur had several cotton mills working on 24x7 basis. However, all such mills started crumbling from early 70s slowly but surely. They were started shutting one by one for plethora of factors. Thus, Kanpur became the city of unemployed workers.
"The story of Kanpur's textile mills is one of bureaucratic and political insensitivity in 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 Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta, who has done research on the decline of Kanpur as a premier industrial town of India.
As it is said that bad time gives way to better time and Kanpur is all set to see 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. Like any other part of Uttar Pradesh the law and order situation is very investors friendly in Kanpur too. Nobody can think of creating ruckus. There is zero tolerance for anti-social elements under the watchful eyes of state government. Pitching Uttar Pradesh as a safe investment destination, state officials are assuring industrialists of a strong law and order situation devoid of fear and free of land mafia."You must have seen that before 2017, there used to be riots every other day, now the law and situation in the state is very strong. We formed an anti-land mafia task force and vacated over 64,000-hectare land from their clutches," they say. Fact of the matter is that today no goon can collect tax from any businessman or contractor or harass them in Uttar Pradesh. Even political donations cannot be taken forcibly.
Yogi Adityanath has already met representatives of more than two dozen US companies exploring investment opportunities in the State and assured them 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 officials of UP to apprise investors steps taken by their government to facilitate investors in the State and the measures taken in this regard.
See, investors are attracted to any city/ state/ 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, and will be drawn to cities which offer them the best combination of scale, risk and return. One should not forget that cities are complex economies, so a huge number of factors impact this return. As a result, investors consider a wide range of city characteristics and behaviours when 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, scale of the city, population size, and the number of jobs and businesses, amount and type of land/assets available, taxation and incentives and construction costs.
Noted Delhi based Charted Accountant Rajan Dhawan says that investors are particularly drawn to cities with highly-skilled workers, such as Kanpur, Chennai and Noida, as these enable cities to attract 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 and therefore a greater appetite for investment, than a low-skilled workforce.
Returning to Narayan Murthy again as Uttar Pradesh is all set to attract investors during the Global Investors Meet to be held in Lucknow on 10-12 February 2023, one should not be surprised if other alumnus of IIT Kanpur now becoming 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?
(The author is Delhi-based senior journalist and writer. He is author of Gandhi's Delhi which has brought to the forth many hidden facts about Mahatma Gandhi)