Pradipti Jayaram

Even as the Kerala Government goes out of its way to court investors and attract businesses, according to the recent World Bank report on doing business, the State assumed the 18th spot in ease of doing business among Indian states. Despite having a stellar record on the human development front, the State finds itself lagging behind the likes of MP, UP, and Odisha – States that fared quite poorly on the HDI.
To find ways to improve Kerala’s standing going forward, the Directorate of Industries and Commerce in association with the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), a Kochi-based think tank, cohosted a Conference on the subject of ease of doing business titled: Measures to Improve Kerala’s Ranking.
The event was organized in partnership with the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) and the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) Kerala chapter. It took place on Saturday (January 23, 2016) at Hotel Le Meridien in the city.
Along with the inaugural session, which gave an overview of the issue, four parallel discussions were held, and each featured a presentation made by a member of CPPR.

Extensive research being conducted by CPPR over the past year on the subject, part of its ‘Breaking Business Barriers’ initiative, backed by the British High Commission, New Delhi, informed the insights and recommendations put forth in these presentations.

Best practices

Madhu Sivaraman, Director (Projects), set the tone of the ensuing panel discussions in his presentation, part of the inauguration. He went over the various reforms that better performing States had adopted and pointed out Best Case Practices that Kerala could adopt. “For instance, Punjab has successfully implemented the single window clearance scheme and this has greatly benefited its business climate,” he added.

Limitations and possibilities

Following this, in the panel titled: Adequate Credit for Business and Financial Literacy, moderated by Jeevandas Narayan, Managing Director, State Bank of Travancore, the panellists mulled over the small size, dearth of capital, technology and quality services, and lack of financial literacy that inhibit the  growth of businesses in the State.

Prasant Jena, Project Director, CPPR, advocated on behalf of industries and their expectations. With respect to SMEs he offered the solution that specialised financing schemes could be introduced, which, while they are high risk, do promise robust returns; hence, “they should be looked at more favourably,” he added.

IAS officer Dr M Beena, Managing Director, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, moderator of the panel discussion titled, Start a Business with Ease:  Permits, Clearances and Industrial Land, emphasised the need for deliberation on the subjects outlined in the title of the session and called them the “crux of doing business”.

Taxing matters

The biggest hindrance to startups are the multiplicity of taxes that are levied and are expected to be kept track of, observed CPPR’s Archana MV in the panel discussion on tax literacy, moderated by P Ganesh, Executive Director, Glass and Glazings Systems. “The tax system is one which stresses on enforcement over compliance,” she added.

In the panel on human resource initiatives, moderated by IAS MT Reju, CEO, Additional Skill Acquisition Programme (ASAP), Seppi Sebastian, founder trustee of CPPR, stressed on the importance of enhancing in-house training and development for employees.

Part of the concluding remarks, D Dhanuraj, Chairman of CPPR, made a presentation that summed up the day’s interactions.

Continuous process

Calling easing business a task that warrants continuous effort and interaction, he extended an invitation to the dignitaries and participants to a two-day conclave in Kochi, hosted by CPPR and tentatively planned for March, on the same subject called ‘Breaking Business Barriers’.

The conclave would present CPPR’s research findings on the matter.

 

*With inputs from Team CPPR (Amrit pradhan, Deepthi Mary Mathew, Komal Machaiah, Jayati Narayan, Mathews Raju, Minna Joseph, Sheetu George and Vinny Davis )