In an exclusive interview with OdishaLive, Mr. Ramesh Mahapatra, President, Utkal Chamber of Commerce & Industry (UCCI) – Odisha’s apex organization of Industry, Trades and Services – talks about the inception and journey of the Chamber.

_DSC2727Q. What is Utkal Chamber of Commerce & Industry and how did it come into being?

A. Utkal Chamber is the apex Chamber of the state of Odisha. It was the great leader Mr. Biju Patnaik, the then in 1962 persuaded 7 industrialists and business leaders Mr. K. K. Iyengar, Mr. V. S. S. Mani,  Mr. Madhusudan Padhy, Mr. B. Mohanty, Mr. Khatau Sunderdas,  Mr. K. G. Ghatak, Mr. G. N. Agarwalla to start a Chamber of Commerce in line with the Bengal chamber of Commerce. But formally UCCI was formed on 13 January 1964 and was incorporated as a company. It had only 7 members then. The ‘Utkal’ as you know is the old name of Odisha, so it was formed as Utkal Chamber of Commerce and Industry to encompass both industries and also the trade and business community of Odisha. Thereafter UCCI slowly expanded, extending horizons spreading reach and today it has more than 500 members encompassing the states mega industries, large industries, small industries.

Q. Apart from Industrialists and people related to trade and commerce, who else are the members and how does the Chamber operate going hand in hand with other bodies?

A. Many leading professionals like chartered accountants, cost accountants, company secretaries, lawyers even doctors and also quite a lot of trade and commerce in service sector offices in Odisha. So Utkal Chamber is the largest apex chamber of the state and many district chambers and district associations are also affiliated to the Utkal Chamber like the Balasore Chamber of Commerce, Association of Industrial Entrepreneurs of Bhubaneswar, the B.B Merchant Association, Plywood Traders Association, Electrical Manufacture and Trade Association and so on. In addition to that we have members of banks and financial corporations like State Bank of India, HDFC.

Q. How does the Chamber finds it involved in other activities other than industries, trade and commerce?

A. Today Utkal Chamber plays a very vital role in all the sectors particularly to solve the problems of Industries if it is genuine and affects the people. Utkal chamber further represents 42 bodies of the government of Odisha and some of Government of India like the Railway Advisory Committee, the Utkal Chamber President represents the Board of Directors of Odisha Infrastructure Development Corporation, Odisha’s Small Industry Corporation and the Chamber sends a nominee to be a trustee in the Paradip Trust Port which is done by Ministry of Shipping & Transport and so on and so forth the —- of society, the advisory body for Child & Social welfare and of course the Cuttack Development Authority and many such Government bodies where the Cchamber plays its role in advising these concerns for the betterment of the state particularly the business industry and also in protecting the rights of labor, child, women and wherever possible.

Q. Kindly throw some light on the journey of the Chamber so far.

A.  The Chamber started with 7 members, originally have a building of its own and as late as 1990, it shifted to Barabati stadium, thereafter in 2003 0r 04 we had our own building which was a very small building with a small conference hall and the land was allotted by the Government of Odisha for Construction of its own building which is where we are celebrating the golden jubilee year. Then we had this sprawling building which was made possible by the contribution of the members and also by generating money over the years and this 4 storey building is the landmark building of the Utkal Chamber which has been completed recently.

Q. How is UCCI celebrating its Golden Jubilee year? What are the events lined up on this occasion?

A. We just had our building inaugurated by the Honorable Chief Minister of Odisha and he also flagged off the golden jubilee celebration starting on 14 january 2014. We are launching a mega exhibition form 22nd of Feb. to 26th of Feb. highlighting the progress made in all sectors in Odisha, that is why the name of the Exhibition is ‘Odisha Moves Forward’. This is organized  at the main Exhibition ground at unit-3, Bhubaneswar. This is a national level exhibition where we expect participants from all over the country particularly the MSME industries and trade and commerce, the various important trade bodies and commercial establishments. Then we also have a CSR seminar on physically challenged persons which will be inaugurated by Mrs. Poonam Natrajan , who is the Chairperson of the Trust for Physically Challenged People, Govt of India on 18th of January.

After that we have planned business innovation contest, where new business ideas will be put forth by particularly the engineering and management students. We are going to give substantial awards to the first, second and third best ideas judged by a panel of judges. More importantly we will try to find funding from them both from the annual investments of venture capitalists and from banks so that these young boys can fructify their ideas and establish their businesses. Then we have planned several seminars on mining & geology, environment & forests, on urban development and so on so forth.

We want to highlight the growth of Odisha over these years. The state has achieved a much higher SGDP over other states and what we can do in future to make it an Industrially forward state and also as a developed and leaders among the states of India.

Q. UCCI has the punch line “Pursuing Prosperity”. What does it stand for?

A. Every company has a punch line. Pursuing prosperity means we not only believe in our prosperity but also the prosperity of everyone around us. So that is the motto of UCCI to ensure all of us to prosper which in turn results in prosperity of the state and the country.

Q. How important do you think it is for the Industries to take up CSR activities? Where does the Chamber stand in this context?

A. CSR activities began in the Chamber since the last two years. As you know charity begins at home, so we thought the chamber must contribute its own might in the society by studying the CSR activity for which the chamber also provides budget from its own funds and also through contribution of the members. The whole objective is to inculcate amongst our members who are business leaders from small, medium and large scale industries that we must give back to the society from which we have derived so much. After all the Govt. now prescribes 2% of the profit to be spent on CSR activities of course if the profit exceeds 5 crores or the turnover exceeds 1000 crores. 2% CSR spending is a must. But more importantly we would like to emphasize to the members that irrespective to the profit or turnover, if you can at least spend 2 or 3% so that we can help the down trodden, the under privileged section and leave our mark in the society.

Q. Which sectors are the highest contributors to the state’s economy and which ones need to be revived?

A. As you know in Odisha, the Industries are mostly coming up in steel, aluminum, chromites which we have plenty and we are the leaders in power plants and coal as we have more than 5% of the coal deposit, almost 30% of Iron ore deposit, almost 85-90% of the chromite deposit so obviously industries will come into these.  And rightly in the first few years, our chief minister had emphasized on these sectors. But now our emphasis has been shifted we must concentrate on development of the MSME industries. A MSME development policy has been done in 2009 and a very aggressive food processing policy has been propagated which gives a lot of subsidy for encouraging food processing in the state. More importantly the agriculture policy which helps farmers, fishermen, agri , dairy etc. With all these policies Odisha will make progress.

Q. Where does Odisha stand with respect to other states in our country?

A. Odisha has been a very poor state. Historically because it was a land of plenty, the people tended to be lazy so the enterprise was lacking. Now with all the incentives and schemes available it will grow.

The SGDP has been growing but it cannot be equal to Mahrashtra or Gujurat in just 10-15 years. But I’m sure within the coming 30 to 40 years we will catch up and be a leader among other states.

Q. What are the state’s largest exports and how can we amplify the number?

A. Odisha’s biggest export were steel, minerals and metals. So these sectors will continue to do that. We need to revive the IT sector which the government has already taken plan. Second IT park is coming up and Infosys is planning a second campus. Marine exports are also booming. From 300 crores 5 yrs back the exports have grown to a 1000 crores now. The government plans to double the export in next 5 to 6 years. Apart from that the Chemical exports are also growing.

Q. Agriculture has been the major occupation of people of Odisha. What are the steps needed to be taken to develop the agricultural scenario in the state?

A. Farming in Odisha has been very old fashioned. But today the government of Odisha Agricultural Policy will take Odisha’s agriculture a long way as we are providing a lot of subsidy on equipments, on farm mechanization and modern methods of farming. Farming has to be made attractive. So once this sector grows people will be willing to put forward food processing plants to value add to these products.

Q. How important do you think is the role of media in promoting the Industrial scenario?

A. The media has a very important role to play particularly in promoting enterprises meaning they should highlight and make the young generation aware of the various policies framed by the government and highlight what Odisha has to offer. Attracting the masses to the website of the government and presenting a comprehensive idea will help.

Critical analysis is sometimes helpful but portraying a positive image will encourage good deeds. We are developing at a steady state and will be leaders on the board by the next 15 to 20 years and the media should portray this with positivity.

Q. Your message to the members of the Chamber…

A. My message to the members will be we all must grow in our respective fields and businesses and also must contribute to the growth of the state and let us live together in the spirit of comradeship and one many.

Q. Your message to the viewers and public…

A. My message to the external world will be please do not look for jobs but be a job giver yourself. Be an employer not an employed. Take advantage of the facilities provided by the government and be an entrepreneur. Create wealth not only for yourself but also for the state, country and the general public.

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