Business Opportunities at North East

NorthEast India ICC perspective

“There is little time to be lost. Considering the huge pool of natural resources and the quality of its human resources, North East of India has the potential of being an important investment destination and a centre for trade and business.”

His Excellency The Hon’ble President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee projecting availability of huge pool of natural resources and quality manpower, said recently in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh.

Northeast India comprises of seven separate but adjoining states, as well as standalone Sikkim, and is the most tribal region of India. Although the mountainous scenery is arresting, streams, rivers and falls nonchalantly melancholy, the tribal population being nature worshipper and humble the northeast region remains one of the least visited but fastest developing part of India and investments started following since Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) setup its North east Regional Office in Guwahati way back in 2000 after organizing 1st North East Business Summit in New Delhi graced by all chief ministers of NE states to attract investors. The then Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shree Atal Bihari Vajpayee had graced the 1st NEBS as Chief Guest and promoted North east India not only as tourist destination but also as an ideal investment destination with unlimited opportunities.

Northeast India shares 98% of its border with Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, and Myanmar, should be seen a trade and commerce opportunity than a political issue. Tourist numbers to the region have been dramatically increasing in recent years. Northeast India is the eastern-most region of India connected to East India via a narrow corridor squeezed between Nepal and Bangladesh. It comprises the contiguous Seven Sister States (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura), plus the Himalayan state of Sikkim. These states are grouped under the Ministry of Development of North eastern Region (DoNER) ministry of the Government of India. Except for the Goalpara region of Assam, the rest were late entrants to the British India, the Brahmaputra valley area of Assam became a part of British India in 1824, and the hill regions were incorporated even later. Sikkim joined the Indian union through a referendum in 1975 and was recognised as part of Northeast India in the 1990s. In terms of geographical size, Northeast India constitute about 8% of the total India’s size, and is roughly 3/4th the size of the state of Maharashtra. Northeast India’s population (all 8 states combined) is approximately 40 million (2011 census), which represents 3.1% of the total Indian population (1,210 million). Northeast India’s population size is roughly equal to the state of Odisha.

The Siliguri Corridor in West Bengal, with a width of 21 to 40 kilometres (13 to 25 mi), connects the North Eastern region with the main part of India. The region shares more than 4,500 kilometres (2,800 mi) of international border (about 90 per cent of its entire border area) with China (South Tibet) in the north, Myanmar in the east, Bangladesh in the southwest, and Bhutan to the northwest The states are officially recognised under the North Eastern Council (NEC), constituted in 1971 as the acting agency for the development of the eight states. The North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd (NEDFi) was incorporated on 9 August 1995 and the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) was set up in September 2001.

Very Briefly on Attractions of North Eastern States

1. Arunachal Pradesh
Until recently, travel to Arunachal Pradesh was highly restricted to foreigners due to its proximity to China. However, the Indian government relaxed permit requirements in 2008 and added five new tourist circuits, bringing the total number to 11. Perhaps the most superb tourist attraction in Arunachal Pradesh is Tawang Monastery.Perched at 10,000 feet above sea level, it overlooks the Tawang Valley near the border of Bhutan. The monastery is the largest Buddhist monasteries in India. It also has a fascinating collection of thangkas (Tibetan paintings). If Visitors can, visit it during the Torgya Festival. Those who like white water rafting should try the stretch along the Kameng which passes through the Kameng Gorge. Himalayan River Runners has a November trip.

2. Assam
Assam is a treasure trove of diverse history and natural beauty. Located in the north-eastern part of the country, it is also one of the least explored regions of the country. Best known for its tea, it is also home to the One-horned rhinoceros. Nameri National Park makes up for a perfect adventure destination offering adventure sports like river rafting and Golden Masheer fishing. The state boasts of its pristine beauty, vibrant cultures, historical significance and several other indigenous aspects which make Assam a perfect destination.

3. Nagaland
There are 16 major tribes in untamed Nagaland, which shares a border with Myanmar. Relatively new to tourism, the people are curious, warm, informal — and open to attracting visitors. Visitors’ll never feel alone when visiting villages in Nagaland. And there are there are tourist lodges, with cultural programs, in almost every location in the state to accommodate visitors. However, what’s really placed Nagaland on the tourist map is the fascinating tribal Hornbill Festival (first week of December), and Moatsu Festival (first week of May).

4. Manipur
Manipur, located on the far north east border below Nagaland, has been described as the Jewel of the East due to its picturesque hills and valleys. Its capital, Imphal, is surrounded by wooded hills and lakes. Manipur is also home Loktak Lake, the largest fresh water lake in the north-east region. Much of it falls within Keibuk Lamjao National Park. Manipur has recently begun taking steps to develop its tourist potential, which is essential as the state struggles to overcome poverty in rural areas and rebellions between ethnic groups. A Lemon Festival is held every January in Kachai and the Kang Chingba Festival is also a huge event. ‘Shanghai Festival’ is an annual festival of Manipur promoting tourism art culture indigenous food sports and everything that makes Manipur jewelled land.

5. Meghalaya
Meghalaya used to be part of Assam. Known as the Abode of the Clouds, it’s one of the wettest places on earth. So, do choose the time when Visitors visit wisely! Capital Shillong was a popular hill station during colonial times, with leftover features being a championship golf course and polo ground, Victorian bungalows, and churches. Concrete buildings have sprouted since then, but the charm hasn’t been completely lost. The abundant natural attractions in Meghalaya include peaks, caves, waterfalls, lakes, and ancient living root bridges. In fact, Meghalaya has the largest number of known caves in India.

6. Mizoram
Mizoram juts out at the bottom of the north east region, finger-like in its form. Its landscape is stunning and varied, with dense bamboo jungles, plunging gorges, rivers, and lush paddy fields. Mizoram will hold a great deal of appeal for nature lovers. The state’s festivals provide a good dose of culture as well, with the Chapchar Kut being one of the most popular.

7. Tripura
Tiny Tripura, almost surrounded by Bangladesh, is the second smallest state in India. Heavily forested, it’s renowned for its vast array of bamboo products. Handloom weaving is also a significant industry there. The mixed European-Mughal style Ujjayanta Palace provides interest at Tripura’s capital, Agartala. However, as it’s occupied by the State Legislative Assembly, only the grounds can be explored. Tripura’s star attraction, however, is the lake place of Neermahal. It was constructed as a summer resort in 1930 by late Maharaja Birbikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur. There’s a boating facility on the lake. Tripura also has a number of Buddhist temples, giving it appeal as a Buddhist pilgrimage place.

8. Sikkim
The the Himalayan state of Sikkim was recognized as part of northeast India in the 1990s. Bordered by China, Nepal and Bhutan, Sikkim has long been regarded as one of the last Himalayan Shangri-las. There’s something very soothing to the soul about the mountainous beauty and ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture in Sikkim.

Assam Potential and Oppurtunities

Assam is one of the most vibrant states in the North Eastern region of India and is full of most of the important natural resources that attracts the attention of many investors to set up their production and manufacturing units in the state. Assam offers a range of lucrative business opportunities in the region. Both the central and state governments have allowed exclusive incentives Assam. These include enormous subsidies to support power, transportation, land and infrastructure development for setting up business in the state. The state has enormous reserves of natural resources. Assam is blessed with abundant river waters, huge hydrocarbon potential, large quantities of low ash coal resources, limestone and dolomite deposits as well as a few other unexplored minerals. The natural climate of Assam is encouraging for plantation crops offering ideal climatic conditions for growing tea and rubber. Assam also possess a vast potential for forest-based industries. Some of the forest resources available in the state including bamboo, medicinal herbs and wood, which are utilised for setting up of forest-based industries. For tourism, Assam offers vast potential. The state is packed with a number of tourist places.

Key Thrust Areas

  • IT-based Industries
  • Tea-based Industries
  • Food Processing Industry
  • Crude Oil and Natural Gas
  • Petrochemicals
  • Agro-based Industry
  • Forest-based Industry
  • Mineral Based Industry
  • Engineering Industry
  • Chemicals Industry
  • Handicrafts Sector
  • Textile-based Industry
  • Horticulture

Agriculture and agro based Industries:
Assam is an agriculture based economy. About 75 per cent of workforce is engaged in agriculture and allied activities. 40 per cent of the area in the state is under cultivation. Agriculture alone contributes to 40 per cent of the State Gross Domestic Product (SGDP). The climatic condition in Assam is suited for growth of a variety of food crops, such as paddy and corn. The state also grows plantation (cash) crops, such as tea and rubber. Some of the agriculture base industries developed in the state include; silk-reeling and jute-based products. The huge agro-based industry in Assam offers a favourable environment for the manufacturing of Medium Density Fiber (MDF) boards, which is an ideal substitute for plywood and timber.

Tea production:
Assam produces about 51 per cent of tea in India. Tea industry in Assam contributes to a remarkable share of the state economy. tea is grown both in the Brahmaputra and Barak plains. Some of the districts where tea gardens are mostly found in Assam are Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Nagaon and Sonitpur. Tea industry in Assam engages about 17% of the workers in the state. Assam is home to one of the world’s oldest and largest Tea Research Centres at Toklai in Jorhat. The world’s second largest Tea Auction Centre was established in 1970 at Guwahati, Assam for better marketing of the tea produced in Assam and other NER states.

Bamboo-based Industries:
Assam has the maximum concentration of bamboo in the entire North east region. The natural climatic condition makes it possible for the healthy growth of bamboo plantation in the state. Bamboo is put only to traditional use, such as handicrafts and papermaking. A bamboo mission has been announced by the Government of India for promoting bamboo-based industries in the NER.

Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Industries :
Assam is also a forerunner in the production of medicinal and aromatic plants. The state has a very favourable environment for the growth and development of allied industries as the sate is one of the richest repositories of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAP) in the world. There are more than 300 species of commercially important medicinal plants produced in the state. However the state needs a scientific c approach for the exploration, conservation and value addition in the field of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAP) industries. This offers a huge business opportunity for investors.

Sericulture Industry:
Sericulture in Assam offer vast business opportunities. The state is home to the production of four unique varieties of silk worms, such as Eri, Muga, Oak Tassar and Mulberry. Sericulture has a lot of potential in Assam and offers one of the highly profitable business sector as the state offers tremendous potential for the development of large scale industries based on silk. Assam state government has established a number of silk processing and spinning units in the state. The state also provides a host of other infrastructure services necessary for sericulture industry.

Energy : Oil &Gas Based industry:
Assam has a potential of over 1.3 billion tonnes of proven crude oil and 156 billion cu. mt. of natural gas reserves. The state offers superior quality natural gas at very attractive price. Assam accounts for approximately 15% of India’s crude output. The oil wells located at Digboi, Duliajan, Sivasagar produce Natural gas, which accounts for about 50% of India’s total onshore gas production. Assam was the first state in India where oil was struck at Digboi in the year 1889. The state is home to the oldest refinery in the country that started commercial production in the year 1901. The Assam Division of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL), has a refining capacity of about 3 lakh tonnes of petrol, kerosene, diesel and other petroleum products. The refinery at Noonmati in Guwahati, which is the second refinery in Assam produces liquified petroleum gas (LPG), petrol, kerosene, diesel, furnace oil, coke etc. Established in the year 1962, Bongaigaon Refinery and Petro-Chemicals Limited (BRPL) was the third refinery in the state. The fourth refinery in Assam established at Numaligarh of Golaghat has a refining capacity of 3 million tonnes of oil and other products.
Major Refineries in Assam with their Capacities

  • Refinery Capacity (in MMTPA)
  • Digboi Refinery 0.65
  • Guwahati Refinery 1.00
  • Numaligarh Refinery 3.00
  • Bongaigaon Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd 2.35

Almost all the petroleum producing areas of the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam contain ‘associated natural gas’. These natural gas producing beds are located at Naharkatia, Moran, Lakuwa and Rudrasagar. Duliajan, North Guwahati, Silchar have LPG bottling plants.

Another hydrocarbon plant, namely Assam Gas Cracker Plant is also coming up, which has the production capacity of 220,000 TPA of HDPE/LLDPE and 60,000 TPA of Polypropelene. The sate has witnessed about 32 significant hydrocarbon discoveries in the last 4 years or so through private sector/ joint venture companies. The state has a vast untapped potential for further beatification of petroleum and hydrocarbon resources in the region.

Mineral Resources:
Assam is rich in mineral resources, such as coal, limestone, iron ore and granite, Fireclay, Lithomarge, Fuller’s Earth, Sillimanite and Glass Sand. The state produces 320 Mn.T. Of Coal, 703 Mn.T. Of Limestone, 11 Mn.T of Iron Ore and 1 Bn. Cu. Mtrs of Granite. The coal found in Assam has a high sulphur content and high volatile matter content. The state has a vast reserve of reserves of about 500 million tonnes of Limestone. Assam is also produces China clay, which is a vital input for the ceramics industry. There are vast deposits of decorative stone, such as granite is available in various shades and colours. It is estimated to be more than a billion cubic meters are, which have a huge market potential both locally and internationally. There are vast business opportunities available in the state based on minerals, which includes Gasification and Liquefaction of Coal, De-Sulphurisation of Coal, Coal based Power Plant, Coal Bed Methane (CBM) Extraction, Exploration of Oil and Natural Gas and HDPE / LLDPE / Polypropylene based industries.

Cottage Industry:
Assam is famous for its wide range of cottage industries. Most of these are in the field of spinning and weaving. The key expertise lies in the production of Pat or pure silk. Assam produces about 10% of total natural silk of India. There are more than 7,00,000 looms in the state. Majority of these looms are primitive foot looms. This gives a very unique identity to the weaving and spinning industry in Assam. Bell-metal work is another traditional cottage industry of Assam. The various products made of bell-metal include traditional plates, cups, tumblers, pitchers, bowls, sarais, dwarf pitchers, pots, hookahs and musical instruments. Brass-work is also an important traditional handicraft of Assam.

The North-Eastern part of India, especially Assam is gifted with natural beauty and very unique biodiversity. Assam is regarded as a virtual paradise for numerous tourists and travelers coming from various parts of the globe. Assam offers a number of places of scenic beauty. Wildlife resorts, sanctuaries, Assam attracts the tourists of all kinds, who love to enjoy the best of adventure,culture and heritage, pilgrimage, and the nature in this untouched land of India. The dense tropical rain forests, vast tea gardens, numerous temples are some of the most visited tourist places in Assam. The tourism sector in Assam has vast potential for business that welcomes major investors.

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