Sajjan Bhajanka is the President of Bharat Chamber of Commerce (BCC), a Bengal-based Indian Business chamber, and Chairman of the Century Plyboards (I) Limited. Bhajanka who has a business and industrial experience of around three decades in the fields of Plywood, Ferro Silicon, granite, export and import, was recently in Kathmandu leading a 10-member delegation of Indian businessmen and industrialists. Akhilesh Tripathi of NewBiz caught up with Bhajanka for an interview. Excerpts:
Could you briefly share the purpose of the visit by this delegation from Bharat Chamber of Commerce?
Ours is a permanent business chamber of Bengal. Nepal and India are natural partners for development of business. Nepal is gradually moving towards political stability. So, now our purpose is to explore business and investment opportunities in Nepal. Likewise, we also want to help Nepali investors who want to set up business in India or export their products to India. We want to discuss these issues with our Nepali friends.
Besides hydropower, what are the areas of interest for Indian investors in Nepal in general and this delegation for particular?
We have 10 members in this delegation. They come from various sectors such as construction, infrastructure, cement & steel manufacturing, timber and plywood, hydro power, hosiery and textiles, real estate, transportation etc.
One of the purposes of this visit is to assess the environment for investment in Nepal? How do you find the environment?
Yes, you are right. I know that today Indians are capable of investing money abroad and one of the major purposes of this visit is to explore investment opportunities in Nepal. The investment environment in Nepal has improved compared to the past as the country seems to be headed for political stability. This has to be supported by investment-friendly laws and policies.
What are the areas where Indian business community is interested to invest in Nepal?
Hydropower is a major sector in Nepal where significant amount of Indian investment could come. There is scope for small as well as big hydropower plants. Similarly, there could be scope for mineral-based industries like cement. Similarly, industries based on natural resources and agricultural resources, too, have scope in Nepal. Herbs-based industries and adventure tourism, like Prime Minister Modi said during his recent Nepal visit, too, have good scope in Nepal. These are the areas of interest for the Indian investors as well.
What is holding Indian companies back from investing in Nepal’s hydropower?
Mainly, it’s the political instability. There are some policy issues as well. But fortunately, Nepal is now headed towards political stability. A new constitution is being written and, hopefully, will be implemented over the next one year. This is good sign.
During the interaction with FNCCI office-bearers, you said that Century Group is interested to establish a plant in Nepal. Could you elaborate a bit on it?
Century Group has recently established a plywood factory in Myanmar because we believe in moving beyond boundaries. In India also, the market for plywood and wood-based industries is huge. But there is not sufficient raw material. There are forests in Nepal whose sustainable yield is very high; even if we cut 2 to 3 per cent of the forests, it is good for the forests. We would like to study the availability of timber in Nepal. If it is good, we will think about establishing a new plywood factory in Nepal.
Bharat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has done some good work in the area of rural development. Could you elaborate a bit on it?
Under our rural development programme, we adopt a village. And then we try to introduce something which increases the income of the villagers. For example we tell the villagers about innovative irrigation technologies, and modern agricultural technologies and practices. We try to facilitate the villagers in getting these technologies. Similarly, we help them in getting clean drinking water and other sanitary issues. We also give them vocational training such as masonry, carpenting etc. This rural development programme of our can be replicated in Nepal as well.