Date: March 11

Organisers: Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR); British High Commission (BHC); and the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC).

Venue: Radisson Blu, Kochi

Kochi: Regulatory terrorism is the prime reason for restricting businesses from flourishing in India, claimed K Saraswathi, Secretary General, Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She was speaking at the inaugural session of the Breaking Business Barriers: South India Conclave held on March 11, Friday, in Kochi. The conclave was organised by the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), with the support of the British High Commission, and in partnership with the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC). Other participants of the session included B Jyotikumar, Executive Director, KSIDC, Dr D Dhanuraj, Chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research, and Professor KC Abraham, Academic Director, CPPR.

To counter this barrier pointed out by Saraswathi, Jyotikumar believed awareness is key. “Rise in awareness on ease of doing business is taking place among stakeholderswhich will help us achieve it,” he added.

Their comments followed a presentation made by Aravind Anand Shankar of CPPR, who was speaking about CPPR’s research efforts over the past one year on the subject of ease of doing business. The outcome of this research, are sector-specific reports which highlight the key issues in doing business in three southern Indian states: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, and possible solutions suggested by CPPR. The key aspect that sets CPPR’s research apart, from other such reports, is its qualitative data focus on the subject, according to its Chairman D Dhanuraj.

The inaugural was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Land and Labour’. The panellists: DS Viswanath, Commissioner of the Karnataka Labour Department; Abraham Zachariah, Executive Vice-President, Projects, ITC; and N Ahmedali, former President, BCIC, and MD, HR Cornucopia engaged in a lively discussion following CPPR’s presentation made by PrasantJena, Project Director, on the topic, which comprised issues and recommendations.

The need for digitising land records emerged as a point of consensus amongst the panellists. “Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Goa doing better in this regard,” said Jena. “Digitisation and transparency is the need of the hour,” said Zachariah. Highlighting achievements made by Karnataka in this regard and pointing out the reasons behind the problems laid out, Viswanath added: “At present what exists is Inspector raj Vs capital raj: what we want is welfare raj and investment-friendly raj.” Agreeing with Viswanath about Karnataka’s progress, Ahmedali added that the “industry climate in the state is better, due to its business-friendly labour policies.”

This panel discussion was followed by anotheron Licenses and Permits. The panellists were J Jayaseelan, Chairman, PR, Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association; Chozha NaachiarRajasekhar, President, Tamil Chamber of Commerce; James Joseph, founder,; KN Krishnakumar, Joint Director, Department of Industry and Commerce, Kerala Government. The panel was moderated by V Ravidhandar, Cofounder, Feedback Ventures.

The panel discussion followed a presentation by Madhu S of CPPR which highlighted CPPR’s suggestions particularly those on improving the ‘single-window’ system of clearance. “There is a silent revolution towards start ups and incubators taking place in Kerala,” said Krishnakumar. And it needs “predictability and speed in processes, and one point of contact in the department who would take responsibility, to flourish,” according to Joseph. With respect to improving the business climate particularly in the drugs and pharmaceutical sector, Jayaseelansaid that a body like the “US’ FDA needs to be instituted that looks over all regulations with respect to food and drugs (pharmaceuticals) in India.” For Rajasekhar:” implementation of infrastructure projects is key to improve business, and regulation should be introducedonly once a supportive infrastructure framework is in place.”

“We need a customer-centric and not a department-centric view,” said Ravichandar, to sum up the discussion.

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