Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Jul 01, 2002
Industry & Economy
A feature on Whitefield Industrial Estate, Bangalore: Striving to be the best despite all odds
Sharat Chandra Prasad
The factory of Geneva Finepunch Enclosures at Whitefield.
Primarily a suburb close to the Chennai-Bangalore highway, Whitefield was named and used for the imprisonment of prisoners of war. This slowly became a settlement area sought after by retired officials.
Life in the past used to depend largely on Bangalore, as people had to go to the city for their livelihood. As time passed, this stretch became industrialised and in the 1960s and 1970s, it became one of the fastest developing industrial areas, with several medium and large-scale industries setting up shop here.
Public-sector giants such as HAL, BEML, ITI and NGEF became instrumental for massive private investment in the area. Consequently, Krishnarajapuram, Mahadevapura, Whitefield Road and Old Madras Road, upto Hoskote, became the industrial belt of Bangalore, which attracted capital investment from many industrialists.
The Whitefield Industrial Area is one of the oldest industrial areas in Karnataka with over 700 industries of all sizes and types. There are at least two ancillary estates in this area, which is known for its serene and beautiful climate.
Bhoruka Steel, Mittal Steel, SAN, Alembic Glasses, Alfred Herbert, Graphite India, Usha Martin Industries are some names that established themselves here long ago. Today, this area boasts of several hi-tech industries in various fields such as electronics, garments, graphite etc. But then these are the survivors of a long and hazardous journey and are testimony to their business acumen.
But let us see how the area scores in respect to infrastructure.
The Whitefield Industrial estate is the only place having two roads connecting Bangalore, encompassing the entire industrial complexes. It is one of the best connected place from airport and Krishnarajapuram Railway Station.
The New Export Promotion Zone, which is five years old, is one of the best layouts having software companies and a specialised hospital.
Power is the bane of many of the industries. There are a large number of engineering industries in small, medium and large-scale sectors and require availability of constant quality power. Frequent trippings, low voltage and frequent hike in the cost of power have resulted in major economic problems for several industries and many have downed their shutters due to power problems. The Allembic Glass factory is a classic example of a manufacturing unit with a power-crisis. Hoody transformer, which was built at a cost of Rs 1 crore, created more transmission problems than solving any.
Scarcity of water is another problem that plagues the entire region. The water level is as deep as 500 ft. Most of the industries buy water tanks for their water requirements. Local panchayats are unable to fulfil the needs of residential localities itself. The Cauvery water project that started five years back has failed to take off.
Roads are the backbone of any industrial set up, but unfortunately, the roads leading to Whitefield are in a bad state. The work on the cable bridge, which was taken up with much enthusiasm, is yet to be completed. The work on the grade separators at Benniganahalli, and Murphy Road are still going on.
Several representations were made to the authorities, but only recently small measures were taken to mitigate the hardship to the travelling public.
The main road linking Krishnarajapuram to Hope Farm is one of the main links and is in a state of disarray. Even after repeated requests the road has not been repaired.
There was a time when one had to make STD from Whitefield to Ulsoor. Slowly and steadily, the communication improved, but less said about the service the better. With the establishment of the Kundanahalli exchange, industrialists thought things would improve, but frequent disruption in the communication facilities still occurs.
Labour plays a key role in the development of the industries. Considering that many units located here employ a large number of people, the area has witnessed militant trade unionism in the past, and the situation now is peaceful co existence.
However, labour reforms are the need of the day. Employers will not shy away from welfare obligations, but they should have the freedom to operate in a global environment.
Our Greater Bangalore Industries Association (GBIA) was formed 25 years ago, and is a premier Association of over 200 industries in this area, struggling to get the industries their dues. Interaction with the Government, training programmes for use by industrialists and their employees, talks by eminent speakers on topics of relevance, are regular features. Blood donation camps are conducted regularly in association with the Rotary Club. Annual sports events are also conducted amongst the member industries to build a spirit of team-work. The GBIA is proud to have sorted out many a problem of the industries and all the industries particularly those in the small-scale and medium-scale has been greatly enriched by their association with GBIA.
Two years ago, the Association felt the need for a full-fledged conference hall and other facilities for the use by the member industries. Today, the GBIA is proud to have a state of the art board room equipped with LCD projector and the facility can be availed by any of the member industries at a nominal cost.
Over a period of time, the GBIA's interaction with the government has borne the fruits for a meaningful interaction and today we associate with the Government in formulation of industrial policies. Industry-level representations are made to various bodies such as Labour Department, KERC, Pollution Control Board, Industries Department etc.
(The author is past-president, Greater Bangalore Industries Association, Whitefield Industrial Area.)
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