An erstwhile sleepy ancient town, Rajasthan’s Neemrana has metamorphosed into a favourite destination for Japanese investors

How far would you have to go from New Delhi to come face-to-face with the best of Japanese business? Before you tab up Google and start looking for the answer, read on a bit.

For just 120 km from Delhi along the National Highway 8, a little town —otherwise known for its 15th century hilltop fort built by the Chauhan rulers and the magnificent Chand Baori — is emerging as the hub of Japanese industry in India.

The historically significant, ancient town of Neemrana is witnessing an ever-growing hustle-bustle of Japanese entrepreneurs who have made this region their home. Here, over a sprawling 1,200 acre “Japanese Zone” are headquartered companies like Nissan, Nippon and Daikin, to name just a few.

Ever since his return to power in 2008, Chief Minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot has laid stress on developing several industrial zones in Neemrana, especially over the last few years.

The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in Majarakath, the Japanese Zone in Neemrana and the Export Promotion Industrial Park (EPIP), developed by the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO) in several phases, are some of the zones that have led to this region’s emergence as a major industrial hub.

Prominent Japanese industrial houses have set up units in the Japanese Zone, covering over 70 per cent of its total area. The government hopes the remaining 30 per cent will be filled up soon.

Of the 28 industries set up in this zone, the unit of Daikin Air-conditioning India Pvt. Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japan-based Daikin Industries, deserves special mention; it is the company’s first Indian unit, and has attracted an investment of Rs. 600 crore.

The region has also seen massive investments by several other companies: Rs. 400 crore have been invested by Mitsui Chemical Pvt. Ltd.; Rs. 240 crore by Nissan India Pvt. Ltd.; Rs. 160 crore by Unicharm India Hygienic Pvt. Ltd.; Rs. 120 crore by ACI Mitsui Prime Advanced Composites Pvt. Ltd.; Rs. 155 crore by auto parts company Mikuni India Pvt. Ltd. and Rs. 100 crore by NYK Logistics India Ltd.

Once this hub realises its full investment potential of Rs. 21.5 billion, the government hopes it will generate employment for more than 3,000 people.

Nippon Steel, the world’s largest steel making company with 150 units across the globe, has also set up base here, and is likely to attract an investment of over Rs. 300 crore.

The reason for Neemrana’s transformation from a sleepy, ancient town into a major industrial hub is its strategic location. Situated between Delhi and Jaipur on NH-8, it is only a 100 km away from the Indira Gandhi International Airport. Neemrana is also a part of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and the Delhi-Mumbai Freight Corridor.

With such advantages, Neemrana is pegged to emerge as one of the biggest auto hubs in the country, just a stone’s throw away from Delhi, the country’s largest automobile market.

Rajasthan’s premier industrial area Bhiwadi, which is at the confluence of Delhi-Haryana and Rajasthan, is being connected to the railway network under the Delhi-Mumbai Freight Corridor. Once that happens, Neemrana’s prospects will get a further boost.

“It is not just the Japanese. Industrialists from other countries are also eager to invest in Neemrana on a large scale,” says R.C. Jain, Senior Regional Manager, RIICO. “Only recently, a 25-member team representing 15 African countries visited the place and so did members of the Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (TEEMA), which is a representative body of 3,700 companies of Taiwan,” he adds.

To further promote this region, the State government has planned to construct a cargo airport near Neemrana. Intended to come up somewhere between Ajarka and Kotkasim, this airport would facilitate transportation of finished products of the industries situated in Neemrana, Shahjahanpur, Bhiwadi and Bahrod.

It has also been proposed that Neemrana, Shahjahanpur and Bahrod be included as three sub-metropolitan cities in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The DMIC investment region plans to include Neemrana and Khushkheda in the first stage and develop an industrial township here on the lines of Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad.

“The region covering Bhiwadi, Shahjahanpur, Neemrana and Bahrod will soon witness the construction of big residential complexes, development of small and cottage industries to support big industrial units, setting up of educational institutions, and hotels, commercial institutions,” feels Additional Chief Secretary (Industries) and RIICO chairperson Sunil Arora.

“This will bring greater benefits to tourist spots like Alwar, Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary, Neemrana Fort, which will in turn serve as important milestones in the all-round development of the State.” Mr. Arora adds.