During times of shifting economies and changing paradigms, Shiv Kumar, CEO of Maple Software and Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), AP State interacts with Yo!Vizag about the recent CII Partnership Summit, and the industry in general.
His bond with Vizag
Born, brought up and educated in Vizag, Shiv Kumar completed his B.Tech from Mangalore University and a MS degree from University of Central Florida, Orlando. He spent a few years in the US before returning to his native city in 1995. Here, he set up Maple Software in 1998, for one simple yet profound reason, “I belong here, so if I’m to return to India, it has to be Vizag”. Involved with diverse businesses that range from exporting granite to offering healthcare IT products for US clinics and hospitals, Maple software also does automation and mobile application development. With a wide range of clients such as Healthcare establishments, International pharmacies, Defence, Maple offers a range of document management systems, healthcare and other products. Maple Software has offices in Vizag, Hyderabad and Orlando, Florida.
The CII (AP Chapter) connect
His association with CII began about 20 years ago, when he noticed multiple issues in his industry and started looking for a platform where they could be represented to the Government authorities effectively. ”I was looking for a platform that was either state or national level.” CII came across as the ideal choice as it could help resolve issues and also help Shiv Kumar with networking. Back then, meetings of CII were held at Coromandel Fertilizers. Soon, in 2003-2004, Ramesh Datla from Elico asked Shiv Kumar to take charge of the Vizag chapter. One thing led to another, and he became the Vice Chairman and subsequently the Chairman of CII, Vizag Zone and increased the membership in these two years.
A demand for CII-Zonal office was mooted and accepted, and many more industries were brought in as Members in subsequent years by the respective Zonal Vice Chairs. “CII doesn’t focus on representing one industry segment alone. In fact, all industry segments like hospitals, manufacturing, IT etc. that expand the horizon in terms of opportunities, are all focused upon.” And so while CII began initially with manufacturing industries, it slowly took into its fold the service sector as well.
The CII Advantage
CII brings various benefits to the industry. It primarily offers policy advocacy. “We are consulted before budgets are put across. We go to industries, find out the existing issues and chart out how policies can be influenced based on the members inputs.” Most industries have common problems. For example the IT sector faces issues like low quality bandwidth, talent pool and skill development. Secondly, CII also assists in networking with its 6 offices across the world, over 66 within India and digitally as well through the online portal of MyCII. “Through all these, we can connect and network with government and other industries.” Thirdly politicians also look at connecting to people through CII to find a huge platform for implementing and executing their various policies.
Global investments and change in perceptions
Before we talk on domestic industry, it is important to note that in the last couple of years there is a economic downturn all over the world. Some countries have adopted a protectionist attitude. Investments have been slow in the past few years. Investments from the US and other countries too have slowed down. Once Indians could go to any part of the world easily on work visas, but such is not the case now. “So while overseas investments have slowed down, close to 60% investments in the recent Partnership Summit have come in from the public sector companies such as ONGC, HPCL, steel plant to name a few which is a significant gain to the state of AP.”
Moving ahead post State bifurcation
Before the bifurcation of the State, CII had 450 members across the state, making it the second largest membership base after Tamil Nadu. After the bifurcation the numbers in AP stood at 300. Amongst the three zones of AP- Vizag, Vijayawada, and Tirupati; the membership is largest in Vizag, which means that many overseas delegations visit Vizag and a lot of conventions and Summits also take place here. “Before bifurcation, development was Hyderabad-centric and in fact, many businesses considered Hyderabad as the primary investment destination in Andhra Pradesh. However, post-bifurcation, there have been multiple pockets of development and cities like Amaravati, Vizag, Tirupati, Rajhamundry, Anantapur and Nellore are being showcased by the Government and developed parallelly and equitably.”
Talking of the development in urban areas vs rural ones, Shiv Kumar also adds, “Let the urban economy develop, as AP needs urban development. With Broadband connectivity and with the advent of digital economy on account of demonetization, the State can give connectivity to rural areas whereby farmers can sell their produce online, and increase their earnings. With Broadband connectivity, the farmers can also gain knowledge on cropping patterns, weather forecasts etc.”
Supporting the Summit
2017 marked the 27th edition of the CII flagship event, the Partnership Summit. Ensuring that the state goes into the next level of industrial growth, like last year, this event too saw good success and brought a lot of visibility to Vizag. “I’d like to mention about last years’ CII summit. It was the first to happen after the bifurcation, and despite Vizag’s lack of infrastructure, the Chief Minister insisted the summit be held here.” Shiv Kumar still recalls the event in 2016 when there was a shortage of rooms, and the hotels upgraded themselves to host the over 2000 delegates. The convention centre came up as a temporary setup in just one month’s time, an unbelievable feat. 2016 became the first time that a tier II city hosted a CII summit, and made a grand success out of it.
The road ahead
2017 summit saw the proposal for a convention centre with star facilities, and the Chief Minister has given his nod. However constructing such a facility would take atleast two years, but it will hopefully come up soon. And it may come up either in the current location or at Rushikonda, based on the investors. The vision of the Chief Minister is to bring more business from outside and CII supports that vision through facilitating those meetings. “We however also recommend focus on scaling current businesses, which have the potential.” Adding that Vizag is a growing city, Shiv Kumar refers to Sri City in Nellore, adding that Visakahaptnam too is well connected and has the infrastructure for industries to develop. Fintech is one such example in this case. Local economy has driven the local demand up, and AP is in the league to become the first state with experimental digital technologies through Fintech Valley which was launched in Vizag, couple of months ago. Future plans include doing road shows in the cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Pune and bring IT Business to the state and the city. A strong talent pool, proven leadership and a government that offers good infrastructure and skill development is conducive for such development. With future plans of getting more industries into its fold, Shiv Kumar signs off by saying, “So far AP is no. 1 state in ease of doing business, my focus is on existing industry, and to make AP a preferred state that offers ease of continuing business as well”.