Marching ahead

Published : Nov 17, 2006 00:00 IST

THE MANUFACTURING UNIT of Colgate-Palmolive at the Waluj industrial area in Aurangabad. -

THE MANUFACTURING UNIT of Colgate-Palmolive at the Waluj industrial area in Aurangabad. -

Aurangabad is witnessing strong economic growth and in the process transforming itself into a commercial hub.

THE web site of the Chamber of Marathwada Industries and Agriculture, which represents small-, medium- and large-scale industries in the Marathwada region, makes an interesting observation in its "History" section. Recounting the past glories of the region, the site refers to commerce in the era of Malik Amber, the prime minister of Ahmednagar in the 17th century, when paper-making, utensil-making and textile and dyeing industries flourished. Though the region was renowned for these crafts, they existed in an unorganised manner for Marathwada was considered a backward area. The impression, unfortunately, persists to this day with Marathwada conjuring up images of drought. However, the reality is that the growth of Aurangabad has transformed the region into a commercial hub.

Industry in the region has been given a leg-up by the Chamber of Marathwada Industries and Agriculture and the Marathwada Association of Small Scale Industries and Agriculture. Interestingly, both the organisations are keen on including agriculture as a major commercial activity.

Ashish Garde, Secretary of the Chamber of Marathwada Industries and Agriculture, says: "The agro output of Marathwada is tremendous. We have many agro-processing industries and so the link between agriculture and industry is a very natural one here." Apart from direct agricultural produce such as cotton and sugar and a huge mango export business, the other viable agro-industries are seeds and fertilizers. Jalna, in the northern part of the region, is such a big centre for seeds and fertilizers that national rates of these commodities are determined there.

Examples of strong economic growth are seen in a variety of areas: automobile, engineering, information technology, pharmaceuticals, consumer durables, agriculture, biotechnology and beer breweries.

According to Garde, Aurangabad is a "beer hub" catering to 50 per cent of India's demand. And of course, there is the spin-off commercial activity from Aurangabad as a tourist destination. Garde says the region is being promoted as a conference destination. In the pipeline is a project for the construction of a massive convention centre in partnership with the State government.

Important corporate players in Aurangabad are Bajaj Auto Limited, Garware, Varroc Engineering Endurance Systems, Skoda Auto, Wockhardt, Shreya Life Science, Orchid, Lupin, Atra, Videocon, Nirlep, Siemens, Colgate Palmolive and Endress+Hauser and Good Year.

The region is prospering largely because of the rapid growth in the automobile and pharmaceutical sectors. The largest industrial estate in the region is located in Waluj near Aurangabad. Bajaj Auto's vast Waluj complex was started in the late 1980s. This set off a trend, with other auto majors such as Skoda India, which has acquired a large site at Shendra and which has been given a Special Economic Zone status, following suit. Skoda assembles its Octavia cars at an adjacent facility.

Aurangabad now has four approved SEZs. Bajaj Auto is developing one for the auto industry and Wockhardt for biotechnology. Videocon is developing a multi-product SEZ and a fourth one for aluminium-related production is awaiting clearance. In the next five years, the State government plans to pump Rs.3,307 crores into the Marathwada region. A further Rs.1,065 crores has been set aside for a 1,567-km road redevelopment project.

The much-touted Aurangabad Automobile Industrial Cluster, though slow to get off the ground, is still a clear indicator of the State's intent to promote industry in the region. A special purpose cell has been set up to speed up the Rs.31-crore auto cluster project. It will have a laboratory for product raw material testing and inspection at a cost of Rs.9 crores.

A research and development centre for product innovation with a tool room and CAD/CAM facilities will also be created at a cost of Rs.14.26 crores. The cluster will have a marketing and export promotion cell, a waste-management plant, warehouses for aluminium and steel and logistic and packaging units. Although it took a while for the State government to recognise the potential of the region, it is making up for the time lost by developing the area. Even lifestyle components are being taken into consideration with the setting up of a new City and Industrial development Corporation of Maharashtra development area and a posh central business district in Aurangabad.

The industrial growth in the region was sporadic but strong. In 1962, Nirlep, a household name in kitchenware, started its operations here.

"This was before there was any MIDC [Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation] here," recalls Garde, who is also the Regional Manager for Nirlep. Later, Videocon's operations further highlighted the region's industrial potential. While agreeing that much has been done for the region, V.N. Dhoot, chairman of the Videocon group, says, "There is still scope for development of the region. We are developing two Special Economic Zones in this region. Aurangabad and Marathwada still need further infrastructure for the long-term development of the region. Work on an international airport at Aurangabad should be speeded up."

Dhoot's assessment is echoed by Garde who says that companies that are already present in Aurangabad are thriving but focussed efforts are lacking to attract fresh investment.

The following factors made Aurangabad an attractive investment destination:

Availability of ample land for new companies, even in five-star industrial areas and with SEZ status;

Many good educational institutions and lifestyle amenities;

Good air and rail connections are present; upgradation of Aurangabad airport; and the Aurangabad-Pune and the Aurangabad-Nasik highway, which needs to be upgraded to facilitate four-lane traffic.

A Software Technology Park and all related amenities. (Already 16 IT companies have been established in Aurangabad. They are doing good business.

The presence of an Inland Container Depot, which has seen a sharp increase in exports from Aurangabad.

Garde says: "Almost all the centres of this region depend on Aurangabad for supply of information, transportation and goods. In a true sense, for this region Aurangabad is the window to the world and for the world. Aurangabad is the gateway to this region. More than 12 lakh people keep this city buzzing. It is also famous for its peace-loving, tolerant society - a basic need for any business to prosper."

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