By Devasis Sarangi
I, like many others, was thrilled when I saw Odisha named as the most favoured investment destination of India. Not only this year, but for the past four years as well (January 2008 and May 2012, Source: The Hindu Business Line http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/article3840611.ece ). This without accounting for high profile investments like POSCO, by far the largest FDI, which has pulled us to the limelight.
This prompted me to think and research as to how Odisha can transform from an emerging state to a developed state and I came up with a 10 point formula, as I call it, some basics that can help us the ride this wave.
Formula 1: Presentation is “THE KING”. It is not merely sufficient to do well, but to present it as doing well too! When we search on Google, especially the news section, we get more negative news of Odisha and its poverty than the development which has taken place.
We have no presentations available enlisting our vision in each sector and do not have any clearly defined roadmap for each district and panchayat based on the resources at hand and means of augmenting the resources, to achieve those laid out goals.
I, on a personal front, have tried to make a modest attempt at this but it needs to be done by a lot more people and in a much larger scale and definitely more professionally, with more data to justify and convince than I try to provide with my limited knowledge and reach.
We need to learn from Israel, about presentation. On a day when a massive earthquake and natural disaster destroyed the country, its headline news in a leading newspaper was an unexpected positive one - of a farmer who has transformed an arid desert to an oasis using the drip irrigation technology and the disaster was relegated to the inside pages - almost forgotten!
Odisha also needs to present a realistic view of the future to the business community. The future is unpredictable. Lots of things might not work the way we expect. The sceptic amongst us will predict a bleak future and the optimist in us thinks the future will have “sunshine, rainbows and butterflies”. The truth is obviously somewhere in-between and this is what needs to be presented to the investors - with data, supporting the facts stated.
Formula 2: Odisha needs to look at History as inspiration and Future as perspiration. We cannot afford to rest on our past laurels when Kalinga (as Odisha was called earlier) was known for its sea faring people and its trade with far away countries like Java, Sumatra, Bali.... Its ruler, then called the “King of the High Seas” and the Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang in his chronicles mentioned Pushpagiri (in Odra desa, now called Odisha) as one of the pinnacles of higher education like those of Nalanda and Taxila. We should only draw inspiration from history and the future need is perspiration and effort in making fundamental changes - the way Singapore had done in the 1980s and 90s, which has seen it emerge as one of the most developed city in the world, in a short span of time.
Formula 3: Odisha needs to have Courage. Several developing states do not have the courage to assert themselves, adopt their political system and set up their own economy. Others may never achieve the desired level of development on their own but tag along with developed states.
Developed states need us as buyers of their products, sources of their raw materials, assemblers and providers of low-cost labour and hence never allow us to come of age. However, we need to have the courage to go in for self sufficiency and sustainability, develop our MSME sector and help the farmer outperform inspite of the obstacles faced. Other developed countries, states and cities have done exactly that in the past few decades.
Formula 4: Scale matters in infrastructure and “FIRST IMPRESSION COUNTS”. We need to learn from our ancestors when it comes to scale which we seem to have forgotten of late. One reason why Konarak is a world heritage site (and the only one from Odisha) is the mere scale of this infrastructure - fantastic effort in human perseverance, in which 12,000 workers worked on for 12 years. The pinnacle of craftsmanship, architecture and details ever put together!
We will need to think on similar lines for our Airports, Ports, Expressways, Healthcare hubs, Recreation facilities, Sports facilities, Educational hubs, Manufacturing Hubs, Knowledge Hubs and other such facilities.
We need to understand that if we want to attract foreign investment effectively, we need a visibly awesome image, upon touchdown. Hence we need incredible focus to make sure the airport has a large enough runway to accommodate big planes, every part should be spotlessly clean and even detail out every single detail such as making sure our highways connecting the airport to the hotels is lined with flora and fauna to ensure our foreign guests have a great first impression, as that would set us apart.
Formula 5: Odisha needs to be proactive. Sage Valmiki illustrated the thousand qualities needed to become a great king in the epic - Ramayana. One of the qualities is being Agrabhasi. When two people meet for the first time, there is always a millisecond gap between the two while raising their hands in a gesture of greeting. The one that raises the hand first, is the Agrabhasi; this is the one who takes the initiative - says hello first! Initiative is the sign of a true King. It shows emotional security and self-confidence, it is the essence of being proactive. Be the first to be nice, be first to be good, be first to ask a question and be the first to make up. So if Odisha is proactive it can out do other emerging states like Gujarat.
Formula 6: Odisha should be ready to seek help. We from Odisha, hesitate to seek help and think seeking help is a sign of weakness. Only the emotionally self-confident seek help. One important difference between a world-class state and an average one is the capacity to receive and not the capacity to give. There is no shame in asking for help from a developed state or city be it India or abroad. Capacity to ask and receive help is an important part of being self aware.
Formula 7: Our act should not create private shame if subjected to public scrutiny. If you lose your sense of private shame, we can do anything; we can kill someone; we can rob the state; we can roam naked on the streets. The only thing that keeps us civilized or keeps us restrained is the sense of private shame. The worst is the moment when we are alone and we really feel bad. All of us go through this feeling : “Since no one is watching me, how does it matter? Let me just do it”! The justification here is if I am not seen doing it, it is equivalent to not having done it. Confronted with such a predicament, we need ask if someone were watching us at this very moment without my knowledge and the act were to be discussed in public at a later date, would it cause us private shame?
Formula 8: When we can certify the quality of our own work. Let me explain this idea a little. Say, you are going to prepare an RFP (request for proposal). Who on earth can say if you have given your best to it? Only you can say that. Only you can say that this is perfect based on the information at hand. If you look at Konarak, Lingaraj or Jagannath temples, which make this State so proud, no one can say that there is an imperfection in the architecture and sculpture. It is because, they were created by people who could certify the quality of their own work ., If we look at the work of a painter like Jatin Das or a poet like Jayanta Mahapatra, only the painter and the poet would know if the work is truly ‘done’ just as the Sculptor knows when his work is complete. A developed state is like the sculptor, painter and the poet. It does certify that its work could not have been done any better and what passes its hand is truly the final piece. We can learn a lot from Germans’ whose engineering excellence and quality enable them to charge premium in International markets.
Formula 9: The dynamics of power in a developing state play a big part in the development of that state. The ruling class will manipulate resources and power to remain in power. The ruling class can drain resources through corruption or legislation to the disadvantage of the poor and less powerful.
In the Philippines, one ordinary government employee when issued government money to buy a pair of scissors must get an official receipt for the purchase. If he cannot show a receipt he will pay for the pair of scissors out of his pocket. Or he can be punished for it with suspension from work or even dismissal.
Formula 10: The final aspect where we need to change our thinking is our attitude towards English. We need to embrace English like never before. Not England, but English. This point may sound contradictory to my previous ones. However, I am not talking about confining English to the classes, but really taking it to the grass root level. English and Odia can co-exist. Odia is the mother and English is the wife. It is possible to love them both? My answer is YES!
We must not confuse patriotism with the skills one needs to compete in the real world. If you are making an effort to start a school where none existed, why not give people that would help them the most! I can teach a villager geometry and physics in Odia, but frankly when he goes to look for a job he is going to find that education useless. English will get him a job. Yes, I know some may say what will happen to Odia and our traditional culture. I want to ask these people to pull their kids out of English medium schools and then talk. If you go to small towns, English teaching classes are the biggest draw. There is massive demand for something that will improve people’s lives. I have no special soft spot for this language, but the fact is - it works in the world of today. And if more English helps spread prosperity evenly across the state, trust me we will preserve our culture a lot better than a state that can barely feed its people.
In small towns, districts and even villages – we need to spread the English language. Odisha already has a head start as so many Odias speak English and we are lucky that we don’t have to get expat teachers like China does.
One thing I have always noticed on my trips abroad was the fact that women in the developed world did not look down, look away or consciously avoid eye-contact when outside their homes. Just as the men did, they walked straight, almost heads held high. In Odisha, especially urban Odisha, I am able to see the same now unlike the yester years. This makes me believe that we are at the threshold of change - from an emerging state to a developed one. We just need to get our ingredients right and the future will have sunshine, rainbows and butterflies.
Hope the government machinery and especially the State Leadership take note and acts now when the iron is hot!
[The author is a Core Committee member of Invest Bhubaneswar and is championing the effort to help Bhubaneswar Airport attain International status. He is a member of TiE Bhubaneswar and an active Life Member of INTACH, Bhubaneswar chapter. The views expressed are his personal and do not represent the organizations he represents. He can be reached at email@example.com.]