A drop in the ocean

R Balaji | Updated on June 09, 2014

For India Files : Nameboards of companies at Sriperumbudur Industrial Zone.
Photo : Bijoy Ghosh
To go with Raja Simhan's story   -  Bijoy Ghosh


Nokia accounted for only a very small part of Sriperumbudur’s economic output

In May 1991, not many would have predicted that Sriperumbudur would shortly emerge as one of India’s largest industrial hubs. After all, that was the time former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, in this very area.

However, the Chennai suburb, located about 45 km west of Chennai on the highway to Bangalore, has shaken off that infamy and is today at the heart of Tamil Nadu’s industrial development initiative.

South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai set the ball rolling, setting up a factory here in 1996 and spurring investment in the area.

Over the years, the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu has created a series of industrial estates centred around Sriperumbudur, encompassing Irungattukottai, Oragadam, Vallam Vadagal and Pillaipakkam. The region’s proximity to Chennai, an international airport and three seaports are major incentives for industry.

As one government official put it, the entire belt is 10,000 acres of industrial area hosting global automobile, electronics, household appliance and engineering companies, with more coming. In all, this represents an employment generation potential of over 450,000 jobs.

Today, it is a hub for auto manufacturers and apart from Hyundai, boasts of names such as Renault-Nissan, Ashok Leyland, Daimler India, Royal Enfield, Apollo Tyres, and India Yamaha Motor. But it isn’t just auto companies; Korean electronics giant Samsung and French glassmaker Saint-Gobain also have plants here.

Nokia’s plant in Sriperumbudur was an important part of this industrial hub. The plant was in the heart of the special economic zone, covering a little over 200 acres and employing over 30,000 workers at its peak.

But while they sympathise with its misfortune, executives from other manufacturers are quick to point out that despite its size, the Nokia Telecom SEZ was but a drop in the Sriperumbudur ocean, and that the company contributed only a small part of the entire region’s economic output. For them, it’s business as usual, and there are better times ahead.

Mega projects ahead

The long-term vision for Tamil Nadu spells out a ₹5,000-crore infrastructure development plan for Sriperumbudur over the next six years. This will be implemented by the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu through public-private partnerships.

The objective will be to enhance connectivity to other industrial corridors, a planned airport in the vicinity as well establishment of warehouse, truck and bus terminals and utilities.

Hidehiro Ishiura, Director General, Japan External Trade Organisation, says the largest concentration of Japanese firms is in Tamil Nadu, with over 400 business units.

Fixing Sriperumbudur’s simple needs, Ishiura says, should be the government’s biggest priority. This includes completion of the Outer Ring Road and a road linking it to the Ennore Port.

In the years ahead, a Chennai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor, planned along the lines of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, is slated to come up. The Japanese Industrial Cooperation Agency is implementing this project. Sriperumbudur is a key part of this proposed development.

Clearly, while Nokia’s misfortunes have dismayed its people, Sriperumbudur is marching on.

Published on June 09, 2014

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