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Bengal's first two-wheeler project takes off

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Set up by Xenitis group; production to start from March 1

STATE'S FIRST: The West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the Xenitis Group Chairman, Mr Santanu Ghose, inspect the assembly line of the first two-wheeler plant in the State, Global Automobiles near Chunchura at Hooghly district on Thursday. A. Roy Chowdhury
STATE'S FIRST: The West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the Xenitis Group Chairman, Mr Santanu Ghose, inspect the assembly line of the first two-wheeler plant in the State, Global Automobiles near Chunchura at Hooghly district on Thursday. A. Roy Chowdhury

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KolkataFeb. 15Inaugurating West Bengal's first two-wheeler assembly line unit on Thursday at Sugandha, some 60 km away from the city and not far from Tata Motors' Singur site, the Chief Minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, said the Rs 300-crore joint venture project would yield some 2,000 new jobs straightaway in the first phase. An additional 5,000 jobs will be created indirectly in distribution and allied commercial activities, he said.

The venture is titled Global Automobiles Pvt Ltd. Set up by the Xenitis Group, in a tie-up with Guangzhou Motors Company of China (said to be the country's fourth automobile company), the project will start commercial production from March 1, 2007. It will begin with three variants in the 100-125-150 cc range.

Mr Bhattacharjee said initially some 30,000 bikes (both scooters and motor cycles) will be produced every month. The Guangzhou Group has tie-ups with global auto majors like Honda and Toyota of Japan.

The Xenitis group has successfully diversified into two-wheelers from personal computers, and now has some three more business proposals before the State government.

`Industrialisation the solution'

Lauding the young Bengali entrepreneur who has now set the ball rolling insofar as manufacturing activity in Bengal is concerned, the chief minister said the two-wheeler unit, set up in a 25-acre plot of land, has the capacity to churn out 3.6 lakh two-wheelers annually.

Urging more Chinese companies to come forward and invest in Bengal, Mr Bhattacharjee said this venture was more in keeping with the Government's Look East policy. Stating that both industry and agriculture would receive equal attention, the chief minister said if the fresh crop of graduates from colleges and technical institutions in the State have to be provided jobs, industrialization was the only solution.

Rural youth

On the contrary, this industrial resurgence of Bengal would actually benefit agriculture as rural youth are more interested in industry than farming activities, and will be able to create greater purchasing power in rural Bengal.

According to Mr Santanu Ghosh, CMD of Global Automobiles, the motorcycles will be mainly marketed in the rural and semi-urban markets. On the price front, discussions are still on and nothing has yet been finalized, though it is learnt that the 150 cc bikes, which resemble the powerful Honda bikes, would be competitively priced.

Mr Ghosh said Guangzhou Motors were market leaders in their areas of operation and "we are sure that with their capabilities they would make a success of the Bengal two-wheeler project". Echoing the view, Mr Liao Zi Hong, Managing Director of Guangzhous, assured all support for the project, which according to him symbolised growing India-China business ties.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 16, 2007)
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