Gujarat ‘Motor City’ set to rev up growth
SANAND THE first sight of India’s newest “Motor City” is a collection of giant blue-and-grey structures, windowless boxes in corporate colours that are the hallmark of modern manufacturing.
The warehouses and machining plants, walled in on an enormous site of more than 1,000 acres (400 hectares), are owned by Tata Motors which moved to the western state of Gujarat in 2008 to start producing its Nano small car.
A short distance up the road in Sanand, an hour’s drive from the state’s biggest city Ahmedabad, teams of labourers, drilling rigs and trucks are preparing the foundations for a new $1.0-billion Ford facility.
Rising from the dust opposite fields of swaying wheat is a new global car-manufacturing hub, the sort of industrial project which politicians in India often talk about creating but have seldom delivered.
Michael Boneham, an Australian who heads Ford in India, lists the reasons for investing in Gujarat and in the process highlights some of the failings of other states.
The easy availability of land was “critical” — Ford did not want to risk the sort of protests that have blighted industrial projects elsewhere — and he has nothing but praise for the local government.
“I’d call them business-like.
We’ve set up a two-weekly and now monthly meeting with key project leaders,” the India managing director told AFP during a recent visit to the site.
“There are assignments, timings, and there are commitments that are met, which is what impresses me. The government also has transparency which is important for us, and accessibility.” Reliable power supplies, decent infrastructure and ports by Indian standards, and the availability of educated labour were the other factors that tipped the decision on where to locate Ford’s second Indian plant, which will open in 2014.
Accompanying the Detroitbased group will be 19 automotive suppliers who are set to build factories and train workers, in the process creating the sort of corporate ecosystem that looks set to attract other manufacturers.
Further up the road, French car manufacturer Peugeot has chosen a plot of land for its first factory in India — a proposed $850 million investment — but its plans are on hold due to the debt crisis in the eurozone.
Maruti Suzuki, India’s biggest car manufacturer, is pressing ahead with a factory elsewhere in Gujarat — in Mehsana, close to the Mundra port — while motorcycle group Hero has also picked the state for its fourth factory.