View from India: Destination: Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu, a state in south India, is preparing for a new innings. Chief Minister MK Stalin has recently announced that the state is getting ready to become a $1tn economy by 2030.

The Stalin-led DMK government aims to make Tamil Nadu (TN) a preferred destination for investments in South Asia. A fully digitised single window 2.0 portal with over 100 services has been created to attract investors. The portal, as per media reports, will be equipped with features like parallel processing of clearances and will also give scope for virtual meetings with departments. An artificial-intelligence-based chatbot facility and deemed approval for select clearances are expected to be its other highlights.

Some updates: The state aims to attract investments to the tune of Rs 17,141 crore through a suite of new partnerships and collaborations. Thirty-five new Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) have been signed which are expected to generate employment for 55,000 individuals. General Electric Company and the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation have signed a MoU which includes a proposal to open a centre of excellence to pursue advanced manufacturing technologies; this is a move towards the production of aircraft and aeronautical components for aerospace and defence industries which is expected to contribute to the TN defence corridor. It also points to the fact that there are investment opportunities in aerospace and defence industries where the focus could be on the development of maintenance repair overhauling facilities and upgrading existing airports.

Cryogenic storage tanks will see large-scale manufacturing through a partnership with Cryolor Asia Pacific Private Limited. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) will open its Phase III project at SIPCOT IT Park, Siruseri.

Let’s take a futuristic spin: One wishes that these collaborations open up new corridors along the highways or fringes. They could have an inclusive growth pattern with integrated townships.

As TN readies itself for economic prosperity, existing professionals along with new entrants may have to develop new tech-based skill sets. TN may require government-industry-academia partnerships for teachers, students and professionals to exchange ideas and nurture talent. The state has a technically qualified talent pool as the number of engineering and tech colleges are among the country’s highest ones: this may be tapped for executing technologies. Furthermore, individuals could groom into entrepreneurs.

There could be a demand for cloud and cyber-security experts. Coming to the manufacturing sector, it is mainly represented by automobile, textile, pharma and electronics. The shop floors are likely to see an influx of robots and virtual assistants, which could create indirect jobs through repair-maintenance operations. There may be a rise in natural (vernacular) language professionals.

TN has an integrated IT infrastructure which includes a state data centre, Tamil Nadu state-wide area network, cloud-computing infrastructure and disaster-data-recovery centre. Given this premise, it’s no surprise that the state is home to companies such as HCL, IBM, Honeywell, TCS and Amazon, among others.

The state already has industrial clusters and corridors, along with Special Economic Zones. The IT Parks have proliferated to tier cities as well. A projected growth area is that of fintech parks: dedicated fintech parks can emerge as hubs of inclusive growth in areas such as banking, digital wallets and e-commerce enterprises. Animation, gaming and digital entertainment can also be tapped. Going ahead, data centres and engineering and research development centres may attract investments.

The Tamil Nadu Electric Vehicle Policy 2019 offers incentives for both vehicle makers and buyers. This has led to the automotive corridor and the state is gearing up to be an EV hub. Ather Energy manufactures its e-scooters in the industrial city of Hosur, and Ampere Vehicles is preparing to rollout its electric two-wheelers from its Ranipet plant. Investors and the state government have signed MoUs to make EVs and batteries.

EV production can leave behind a trail of waste or scrap, which can become a big challenge unless it’s systematised and tackled at source. Startups and entrepreneurs can scout for upcoming opportunities in this segment.

In terms of agriculture, the state has built a talent pool in the sector and allied segments through its agricultural colleges and research centres. Food-processing units is just one of the spinoffs. Yet TN can be economically progressive if agriculture gets the necessary support; this can be understood as irrigation upgrades and adequate water supply, while river rejuvenation could be considered as a long-term perspective. Like water, the electricity problem needs to be fixed: TN has focused on renewable energy and renewable power hubs are in tier I and II cities. Startups and manufacturing units can probably be encouraged to harness alternate forms of energy through incentivised channels. 

The increasing scarcity of water urged the government to implement a Tertiary Treatment Reverse Osmosis plant last year. The plant is envisaged to address water requirements of the industrial clusters. This is one of the country’s largest and technologically most advanced water reuse plants as well as its first reuse facility to use Ozonation for disinfection. This can inspire water startups to innovate on new technological-scientific tools for water resilience. It would be nice if water conservation startups spring up to offer point-of-use water-treatment systems.

The entrepreneurial spirit has gained some traction through a digital accelerator programme, which is the outcome of an alliance between the American Tamil Entrepreneurs Association and Guidance Tamil Nadu. Innovative start-ups as well as R&D pursuits are being promoted through the programme.

To put things in perspective, Tamil Nadu is an industrial-manufacturing hub. The manufacturing base concentrates on mobile manufacturing, consumer electronics, electronic components, industrial electronics, strategic electronics, and computer and peripheral equipment. In 2020, the state rolled out an electronic hardware manufacturing policy to encourage the sector. 

Now the state economy intends to move to the next level. Let’s hope the seeds of various collaborations bear fruit.

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