A land of verdant, undulating hills and plains with a variety of flora and fauna, the North East Region (NER) of India comprises of 8 states: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, each fascinating and beautiful in its own way.
The North East Region has abundant natural resources and rich biodiversity and is an ideal region for agri-processing and tourism. The large amounts of minerals like dolomite, coal, limestone and uranium make it an attractive location for setting up resource-based industries.
Other than the natural resources, its human resource capital has also been going up, driven by better education and training facilities in the region. In fact, the NER has one of the highest literacy rates in the country.
Connectivity in NER
The NER shares international borders with China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. It offers robust opportunities to place itself as a major manufacturing, trading, and logistics hub for import and export to the ASEAN region.
To capitalise on this proximity to other nations, inter-country connectivity has been improved over the years. Air transport connects the North Eastern states with the rest of India. Guwahati is now directly connected by air with most of the major Indian cities and Dhaka and Bangkok.
Rail connectivity has also improved. This development has positively affected the citizens of this region, since it has led to better integration with the rest of India.
The rail-cum-road bridge at Bogibeel, is worth mentioning here – it is the longest rail-cum-road bridge in India and connects the north bank of Brahmaputra river with the south bank at Dibrugarh in upper Assam.
Road transport serves as the dominant mode of transportation in the region. Several road connectivity projects have been taken up under the Bharatmala Pariyojana, which aims to complete 80-90% road connectivity by 2023. Even connectivity through waterways has witnessed some major changes in recent years.
Export to Bangladesh using Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) has also increased. Heritage tourism along the waterways between the North East and Bangladesh can attract millions of tourists from the region and abroad. Cruise tourism is another promising opportunity.
Road transport serves as the dominant mode of transportation in the region. Several road connectivity projects have been taken up under the Bharatmala Pariyojana, which aims to complete 80-90% road connectivity by 2023. Even connectivity through waterways has witnessed some major changes in recent years. Export to Bangladesh using Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) has also increased. Heritage tourism along the waterways between the North East and Bangladesh can attract millions of tourists from the region and abroad. Cruise tourism is another promising opportunity.
Promoting the use of waterways can lead to greater economic activities along the river banks by communities, which in turn will have a positive impact on the local economy and livelihoods.
Investing in the NER
The Government of India is making efforts to promote start-up companies and develop entrepreneurship in the North East. Initiatives like the Act East Policy, Make in India, access to finance through MUDRA scheme for micro, small and medium enterprises and the effort towards developing infrastructure are attracting investments in the region. Schemes for Bamboo Parks and others offer opportunities for development of agri-business in the region.
A large number of young entrepreneurs of the North East Region have made their mark in different parts of the country with unique start-ups in different sectors. Namhah Tea, an online herbal tea venture, promises home delivery of tea direct from the tea gardens. Zizira, an online store, is taking gigantic strides in the organic food market. Tech Variable, another start-up, is bringing together engineers from the NE region to innovate and create new ideas and technologies.
To foster the start-up ecosystem in the North East, the North East Development Financial Corporation Ltd (NEDFi), under the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), launched the North East Venture Fund to aid start-ups. Institutes like IIT Guwahati and IIM Shillong have also set up incubation centres aimed at mentoring the entrepreneurs.
To capitalize on these opportunities and promote business connectivity in the region, CII is organizing the North East MSME Summit for entrepreneurs in collaboration with the Ministry of MSME. The convention would promote trade opportunities in the North East Region, enhance economic activities and generate awareness. Nestled in the mountains, the North Eastern Region is a treasure trove. With India moving into a new era of economic growth, it is imperative that that the untapped resources of North East India are utilized to their full potential.