Kerala beyond COVID: Business leaders seek special fund for industries

Kerala beyond COVID: Business leaders seek special fund for industries

A slew of proposals including a social impact fund, an agri-highway and the call for a laissez-faire-like policy came up for discussion on the second day of the webinar - Kerala: Beyond COVID - organised by Malayala Manorama on Thursday.

Confederation of Indian Industry chairman Thomas John Muthoot, who raised the proposal to set up a social impact fund to help the industries badly affected by the lockdown, spoke at length about the need to implement some liquidity measures to tide over the current crisis.

“The nano, micro, small and medium industries have suffered badly and they all need money. You can call it by any name, say a social impact fund, but a fund has to be raised to help these sectors. It has to be managed by a professional fund house. The aid has to be given to the needy enterprises after assessing the loss they incurred due to the lockdown. The firms should repay it once the situation is back to the normal, may be after five or six years,” he said. He said the enterprises that receive the fund should retain the staff they had before the crisis began.

Muthoot also said Kerala has to redefine its tourism sector post COVID. “We have to highlight softer aspects of Kerala. The state has to utilise the narratives of its resilience during the crises such as floods, Nipah outbreak and COVID to rebrand the tourism sector,” he said.

He also suggested that the state should attract the second and third generation Keralites settled abroad to have a feel of their ancestors' land.

Tourism sector

Kerala beyond COVID: Business leaders seek special fund for industries

Almost all the panellists had some suggestions for the tourism sector, a major revenue generator of the state.

Alexander Varghese, chief operating officer, UST Global, counted tourism as a major portfolio that needs to be strengthened while Dr Sherriff Sahadulla, CEO-CMO, KIMS, Healthcare Group, said the state should tap the potential of medical tourism in the coming days.

Echoing Sahadulla's views V K Mathews, executive chairman, IBS Software, said the state has to emerge as a destination of wellness tourism.

Dr Sahadulla recommended that the state should focus on device manufacturing for healthcare sector. “Demand for medical devices is going up globally,” he said.

Varghese said the state should emulate the Netherlands model of agriculture highway and explore the possibilities of advanced technologies in the sector. “It is not just about production. We should focus on the entire supply chain,” he said.

He also stressed the need to strengthen electronics components manufacturing. There is a large scope for online education contents too, he said.

Stressing the need to promote start-ups in hardware sector, Varghese said Kerala has to become a hub of engineering design.

Mathews said all business firms, including the newly started ones, have to ensure that they do something with advanced technology.

Tweaking Mathew's coinage a bit, Dr Sahadulla said post COVID, every business is going to be a healthcare business. “A whole new healthcare economy is emerging,” he said.

Rule relaxation

Pamela Mathew, managing director, OEN India, largely spoke from her experiences in the electronics manufacturing industry. Her key suggestion was that industries in the manufacturing sector have to realign themselves to a vertical integration strategy wherein a company owns or controls its suppliers, distributors, or retail locations to control its value or supply chain.

Pamela also wanted the government to relax certain rules in favour of the industries, especially regarding use of land around a manufacturing unit.

She also wanted the government to allow companies to take tough decisions. Citing that a lay-off situation was prevailing, she said it should be the choice of the company how to engage its people.

Mathews also wanted the government to engage private sector in issuing permissions and clearances. “Let the government regulate, but implementation should be entrusted with a professional management,” he said. His three key recommendations for the state to bounce back were “clean Kerala, safe Kerala and new delivery models”.

G Vijayaraghavan, former planning board member and founder CEO of Technopark, moderated the webinar.

Vijayaraghavan said the government should amend the land reform rules to allow a person to cultivate vegetables or crops of her choice in any amount of land.

The third and final session of the webinar will begin at 10 am on Friday.

(Malayala Manorama is organising a three-day webinar series on the topic – Kerala: Beyond Covid – in association with Kosamattam Finance Limited.

To participate, give a missed call to: +91-85890-05678.)

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