Global Investors’ Meet 2024 will focus on distributed growth in T.N., says Minister

Ahead of the Global Investors’ Meet 2024, scheduled to be held this weekend in Chennai, Tamil Nadu Industries Minister T.R.B. Rajaa, in an interview with The Hindu, shares the focus areas, goals and prospects of the big ticket event — the first being organised by the DMK government. Excerpts:

January 02, 2024 12:47 am | Updated 12:19 pm IST

Tamil Nadu Industries Minister T.R.B. Rajaa

Tamil Nadu Industries Minister T.R.B. Rajaa | Photo Credit: M. Srinath

How different will the first Global Investors’ Meet (GIM) of the DMK government be when compared to the ones held in 2015 and 2019?

We want to convert a big percentage of whatever is announced this time into actual investments. We do not want to make announcements just for the sake of it. The focus is on two aspects — we want to look at what sort of jobs these MoUs would create, and what impact they would have on the Tamil Nadu economy. Our Chief Minister wants distributed growth across Tamil Nadu. We want to create more jobs for rural youth and women. The State has set a target of becoming a $1 trillion economy by 2030, and that is going to be the base on which we will work.

Over the past month, State government officials have been busy with cyclone, rain and flood relief. How are they pulling through to organise this event? Can you tell us about your GIM team?

From day one, the Chief Minister has supported us. The Chief Secretary has held many meetings on GIM. The Finance Secretary, the Industries Secretary and other Secretaries have put in efforts to make it happen. Each department is trying to add value to GIM. The Guidance Bureau and its experts are handling the event beautifully. It is a collective effort of the CMO [Chief Minister’s Office], and you will have a unique show. The creative economy is booming, and Tamils are the most creative people. We have been writing literature since the Sangam era. We have a rich heritage, culture and the most-spoken and oldest language in the world. Many of our talented youth are working in Hollywood. We have also made it big in the Silicon Valley. Some of our visual graphic artists have been working on the biggest films in the world. We have a good gaming environment. We want to tap all this talent and showcase it to the world. This time, we have roped in the Village Cooking Channel for GIM. They are one of the top YouTube channels in the State, showcasing their creative talent. We have a huge potential in the AVGC [Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics] sector, and this is going to be a huge job creator. The draft of the State’s AVGC policy is ready. 

Every government talks about bringing investments into the southern districts, but nothing much has happened on that front...

This GIM has a few investments that will go to southern Tamil Nadu. There is a special announcement for Thoothukudi — a manufacturing firm which will create thousands of high-end jobs. And, it is a very prestigious project. This is the first time the company is coming to India, and they have chosen Tamil Nadu. Both investors and people want to be close to social infrastructure. The youth want vibrant spaces, including sports amenities. We are working on it. Our Sports Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin has added value by introducing sports infrastructure in all constituencies. Firms are investing outside Chennai; for instance, the Electric Vehicle ecosystem is booming in the Hosur-Krishnagiri region (in the west), and jobs are being created here. Tata Electronics is growing in a big way. Ola is also expanding. This belt is going to see some of the fastest growth rates ever.

In most of your meetings, you stress upon Tamil Nadu transitioning into a knowledge economy — what is happening here?

The ‘Dravidian model’ is all about building a knowledge economy, and education. We started this when Periyar E.V. Ramasamy said: “You have to ask questions.” And, this is giving us results. Today, we have the highest number of PhDs in India, at 3,206. As many as 35 of the top 100 colleges in the country are in our State. Tamil Nadu has the highest number of patents filed (2021-22), at 5,206, which is 18% of the total number of patents filed in India. We need a knowledge economy to attract investors. We want all research activities to happen here — we have places like the Tamil Nadu Centre of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing (TANCAM), where people can test products. We want to create research capabilities in Tamil Nadu. We are also coming up with a Knowledge City — we want to bring in foreign universities and other institutions and create a platform to connect with our universities and colleges so that there is an exchange of ideas and research.

Though Tamil Nadu boasts making mobile phones, it is only assembling the products. When will we start component manufacturing in this space?

We have been successful in getting some of the key components manufactured here. You will see some announcements on that front. They are components which cannot travel long distances. They have to be in proximity to the manufacturer. There are a lot of new developments in phone manufacturing. We are also trying to pull in some component manufacturers of the iPhone, but that is for Apple to decide. We are providing an enabling ecosystem, which will be attractive for any mobile phone manufacturer in the world.

How is Tamil Nadu skilling its talent to meet the demands of industry?

Under the Naan Mudhalvan scheme, we are providing platforms where youngsters can be trained. By the time an investor sets up shop, the talent is ready. We have specific courses where talent is tailored to the requirements of the industry, and this is something that no other State is doing. Even recently, global shipping firm UPS selected some of our youngsters for an internship under the Naan Mudhalvan scheme, which is the most important industry-institution link, and something that was missing for long. Any industry in the world can choose students from the Naan Mudhalvan scheme.

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