One almost feels apologetic about US business’ skipping Kolkata because of city’s negative perceptions (more here). Aileen Crowe Nandi, the Kolkata US consulate’s principal commercial officer, seems to feel sorry that no more than 3 companies out of 200 in their largest business delegation are consenting to visit Kolkata.
There is an attempt to link their non-interest with the perception of negative image about Kolkata, and incidents like IT union and anti-US procession day before yesterday are cited as examples. Nandi’s comment that the consulate is keeping a close watch almost means that their nod is necessary for any agitation program in order to qualify for US investment.
Happily, the reality on ground is different. Though admittedly Bengal did lack congenial atmosphere to do business a few years back, today it is pro-business like any other Indian state. The signal that now emanates from Bengal is unmistakable and very pronounced. Those who are catching it on their radars are acting pretty fast. IBM’s increasing its Kolkata employee strength is an example of that.
So are the instances of Indonesia’s Salim group’s huge investment plans in Bengal and Japan’s feeling peeved at not being able to bag the Kukrahati-Raichak bridge project.
Incidentally, Japan’s largest single investment in India is in Haldia in the form of Mitsubishi Corporation’s chemical plant there which it is in the process of scaling up further. There is also the talk of JBIC (Japan Bank of International Cooperation) investing in 19-kilometer east-west metro in Kolkata. One also feels had it not been at the instance of civil aviation minister Praful Patel, US’ Boeing Company would have possibly considered Bengal for its MRO hub instead of Nagpur in Maharashtra.
Seen from this perspective, and considering that US businesses are known to invest in some of the most dangerous places in the world (like any hard-nosed businessman will do to seek high returns), Aileen Crowe Nandi’s remarks at yesterday’s Calcutta Chamber of Commerce meeting can mean one of the 2 things or perhaps both:
One, she intends it to be more political than economical in nature, aimed at ‘certain quarters’. Two, her homework lacks updating. If indeed it’s the latter, it’s unfortunate. It belies justification of creating her post in Kolkata, if she fails in what is essentially a part of her job. Which is to convince and attract investments from her country in Bengal and other places in the eastern region.