With the average citizen becoming development conscious, Gujarat will grow at a higher rate in the next 10 years. — Bakul Dholakia, Director, Adani Institute of Infrastructure Management

Bakul Dholakia was pleasantly surprised when he was awarded the Padma Shri in 2007 as he had crossed swords with both NDA and UPA Governments. A prominent figure in Gujarat’s educational and management space, Dholakia terms the award as “some solace.” A professor in Economics at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), he served as the premier institute’s Dean (from 1998 to 2001) and was major motivator behind its expansion plans.

Among the other feathers in his cap are being a member of the Reserve Bank of India Western Area Board, a member of the Competition Commission of India, and holding positions on the boards of a number of public and private sector companies. At present, he is Director with Adani Institute of Infrastructure Management and Adani Institute of Medical Sciences.

In a tête-à-tête with Business Line, Dholakia spoke about the last 10 years when Gujarat witnessed exponential growth in educational and industrial sectors, and compares its growth rate with that of South-East Asia.

Excerpts from the interview:

During the past decade or so, a lot of educational institutions have come up in Gujarat. Has this helped in improving the quality of education?

A number of new universities have come up in the Gandhinagar-Ahmedabad belt. Fifteen years ago, Nirma Institute was started, but it became a university only in the last 10 years. In the past decade, we have seen the emergence of a lot of private universities such as Nirma University, Ahmedabad University, CEPT (Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology) University and Gujarat National Law School University.

Therefore, opportunities for good quality higher education are there. The State can now compete with the most big cities in India.

The State has been registering exponential growth for the past one decade…

Gujarat is one of the rare examples of a State that has grown in double digits in terms of GDP in real terms over a 10-year period. To achieve a growth rate of more than 10 per cent for a 10-year period is no mean achievement. And that is why Gujarat’s growth rate is compared with that of South-East Asia.

Gujarat represents an example of balanced growth, and the State’s growth model is not something that is propelled by only one sector.

The economy is divided into three broad categories — agriculture, industry and services — and the State has consistently registered higher than national average growth rate in all three. There may have been problems in a particular year, though.

On the poverty ratio in the State…

India, as a nation, has a poverty ratio of 27-28 per cent, whereas in Gujarat it is only 12-13 per cent. The State’s poverty ratio is amongst the lowest in the country. The decline in poverty ratio would be about 9-10 percentage points in the last 7-8 years, while that for the nation was only 4-5 percentage points. Gujarat has made that particular dent.

But there are many shortcomings when it comes to health…

The State has not been able to perform as well as it should have, but it has shown massive improvements in the last five years. For instance, Gujarat has shown massive improvements in malnutrition (an indicator of health) in the last five years. The situation was so pathetic 10 years ago that even with such large improvements, we still do not rank among the top overall.

The State’s maternal mortality rate has declined too…

Yes, Gujarat has reported an increase in sex ratio at birth. The only reason for the improvement of female to male sex ratio at childbirth is the arresting of female foeticide. The benefits of these will be seen after 10 years or so.

The Information Technology sector is still not knocking on your doors…

IT was primarily concentrated in the southern belt. It was when the southern belt began to saturate that IT companies forayed into other parts of the country. One sector where Gujarat has not developed is IT and this is partly because unemployment was never a problem in the State. Second, all large IT companies recruit employees from Gujarat’s educational institutions, and they go and settle there. Therefore, this is one field may be the entrepreneurs of Gujarat did not think about as a sector they would like to invest in. But now they would like to.

Auto manufacturers are moving into the State. Now, Gujarat is also becoming an automobile hub…

Manufacturing-oriented industries are finding it much easier to operate out of Gujarat, as there is no militant labour here. You have assured power, assured water, easy availability of land, no fluctuations in the policy environment… What more does the industry want?

How do you see the next decade for Gujarat?

Growth in Gujarat has now become the common man’s dream, with the average citizen becoming development conscious. When the average citizen becomes development conscious, he will demand accountability from State administration and will not tolerate slippages. Gujarat is bound to grow at a higher rate in the next 10 years.


(This article was published on May 24, 2013)
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