This is not an idea generated out of the air. This comes from the former director of Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), Dr G Thyagarajan, a distinguished scientist, who headed three national laboratories of CSIR with great distinction. He talks of how the motive of the GIM should go beyond the investment attracted and should focus on bringing best in class technology and skills. A key member of the Bhopal crisis management team and a science diplomat of Commonwealth Secretariat, London, Thyagarajan stressed on the need for the leather industry to innovate. Excerpts from an interview:
Industrial Economist(IE) : What are the factors that drive investment into the state?
Dr GT: Tamil Nadu has several favourable geographical factors: plain terrain, calm sea and good connectivity. These are topped up with excellent education, high calibre bureaucracy, robust police force and good governance. The combination of these factors is sure to attract investments. The motive of this Global Investors’ Meet should be to welcome the best in-class companies to bring state-of-the art technology and skills.
IE : Which are the areas in which we have been left behind?
Dr GT: The state unfortunately missed the bus in high energy technology like wave energy and ocean thermal energy. Inviting investments in these regions will help excel further in the non-conventional energy space. Also of importance is the need to focus on automation and robotics. We must invite Germany to share best practices to upgrade this sector.
IE: Land availability has become a serious issue. Your views?
Dr GT: We can shift water-intensive industries first near the coast, then next to the sea and further into the sea. Under the law of the sea, sovereign nations have the right of the sea upto 200 nautical miles from the coast. With 1000 km of coastline and the additional 200 nautical miles into the sea, Tamil Nadu has sovereign rights over more than 300,000 sq km into the sea. Water-intensive industries like sea food processing, fruits processing, cold beverages manufacturing, leather, etc. can be moved into the sea.
IE : How has the leather industry performed?
Dr GT: Leather, is one of the oldest industries of Tamil Nadu. CLRI, Adyar has transferred technological know-how to the industry to keep it abreast of developments. Today the industry has successfully implemented zero liquid discharge. For over four decades the leather sector has been a strong partner with the state in development. Leather-making is a dirty job and the industry faces manpower challenges.
India is the second largest shoe manufacturer and Tamil Nadu accounts for a major part of the sweepstake. Despite its credible achievements, the sector has always received left-handed compliment. This is due to intense water and power consumption by the industry and the increasing concern over environment. It is time that its wet operations are moved towards the sea. With the evolution of new materials, the industry should even analyse elimination of animal hide in creating leather products.
IE : What’s the road ahead?
Dr GT: The world is moving at a frenetic pace. We should not be left behind. The Global Investors’ Meet is a novel opportunity for looking at investments. We must use it as a platform to attract the best of minds.