The Hindustan Photo Films (HPF), a public sector undertaking which was for long a pride of the Blue Mountains now lies in a shambles.
On ventilator support for the past few years, it is now gasping for breath and long time observers are wondering whether it was doomed right from the beginning. They opine that the suspense over its future should not be allowed to continue.
Recalling its early years, Director, Nilgiri Documentation Centre (NDC), Dharmalingam Venugopal pointed out that on March 19, 1958, Manubhai Shah, the then Union Minister of Industries, while inaugurating the first All India Convention of Photographers in New Delhi, had revealed that an agreement with certain foreign manufactures for setting up of a factory to manufacture photographic goods at Ootacamund (Udhagamandalam) was about to be finalised at a cost of Rs.8 core.
By the time Prime Minister Indira Gandhi dedicated the public sector company to the nation in 1971 doubts were raised about its location, technical feasibility and economic viability.
“Was it at all necessary for a small town like Ooty?”, pressmen had reportedly asked Ms.Gandhi to her consternation.
Ever since then, there was utter confusion regarding the company’s existence. The initial French connection had not produced the desired results.
Even the best efforts of management experts like M.K.Raju and C.K.Prahalada could not find lasting solutions.
The factory naturally turned sick within two decades with the advent of digital photography but it triggered a wave of unprecedented urbanisation which has stretched the town’s infrastructure to breaking limits.
HPF was a commercial decision gone wrong and therefore there is no point in apportioning blame for it. Stating that the present government is keen on both disinvestment and an exit policy for sick units,
Mr.Venugopal expressed the view that it should not be a problem to provide a comfortable handshake to the few remaining employees.
Public sector banks are HPF’s major debtors amounting to more than Rs. 2,000 crore, led by the State Bank of India.
They have no option but to take over the available standing assets. Indunagar is located near a strategic tri-junction of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu which are home to most of the top ten banks.
These banks can float a joint venture to covert the assets into a Banking IT Hub for researching, storing and developing banking and related software and hardware together with a staff training college. The whole banking industry can be benefited by this.
In the vast land available with the company, the State Government can with the Centre’s support start a much awaited high altitude sports complex which can benefit the whole country.
Whatever land that is left can go back to the Forest Department.