Kolkata has a promising future, as its GDP is expected to reach US$169 billion in 2030, with a per capita GDP of US$7,400.
Formerly known as Calcultta, Kolkata was built along the bank of the Hugli River in northeastern India, forming a long and rather narrow city. The city is strategically positioned with three international frontiers: Bangladesh in the east, Nepal in the west, and Bhutan in the northeast.
Though there was a period of stagnation immediately after India’s independence in 1947, rising levels of education and state planning have brought Kolkata to the forefront once again. Kolkata is the capital of West Bengal, a province rich in natural resources with a thriving tea-production industry. Today, in this relatively small city of 4.4 million, high-rise residences in the former European quarter tower over colonial era government buildings.
|Area||185 square kilometer|
|GDP (2008)||US$ 74 billion|
|Principal religions||Hindu, Muslim ,Christian, Jain, Sikhs, Buddhist|
|Principal languages||Bengali, Hindi, English|
National Highway 2, connecting Kolkata to New Delhi, is an integral part of the national Golden Quadrangle, which connects Kolkata with three of the country’s other major metropolises, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai. A number of road development projects, including the Kolkata-Durgapur toll expressway, have been taken up under public private partnerships.
Though traffic in the city’s central business district is congested, a new, high-tech area traffic control system has been installed this year that promises to facilitate movement through the dense core of the city.
Howrah and Sealdah are the main railway junctions in Kolkata, which are well connected with the rest of the city by bus, with metro connections to be completed by 2014. Indian Railway routes from Kolkata to major cities in the state and the rest of the country are run from these two hubs. However, delays and cancellations are not uncommon as inclement weather and fog affect safety.
The Kolkata Airport, also known as the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, is located just 18 km from Kolkata in Dum Dum. The Kolkata Airport operates domestic flights to major Indian cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Patna, Lucknow, and Bangalore, among others.
The airport is currently undergoing renovation to add a new terminal, update runways, and increase capacity. Initially projected for completion in August of 2011, the airport expansion has been one of a long list of state infrastructure and industrial projects that have been delayed this year. Completion of the airport expansion is now set for June 2012.
Kolkata can be accessed via the country’s only river port, with two dock systems, Kolkata Dock System at Kolkata and the Haldia Dock Complex, 104 km downstream towards the Bay of Bengal.
The Kolkata Port handles over 60 million tons of cargo annually and throughput ranks among the highest in India. Kolkata Port handled 17 percent of all vessels that came through India’s ports in 2009, the highest of any port in the country.
The West Bengal Government also plans to construct a container port at Kulpiand, at the mouth of the Hooghly River.
Kolkata’s metro was the first underground metro system in India. The system’s 16.45 km run north-south from Dum Dum (near the Kolkata Airport) to Tollygunj, a key terminal point for buses as well.
An east-west corridor of the Kolkata Metro Railway will stretch from Howrah Railway Station on the west bank of the Hugli River, underground and across the river, connecting with the north-south metro line, and continuing east to the planned Salt Lake City community. Connections to India Railway stations, as well as key bus terminals facilitate integration of different transport systems. Completion of the entire east-west line has been set for 2014, with the portion running through the city’s IT hub, Salt Lake City, ready by 2012.
Kolkata is an important trade and commerce hub in northeast India. A significant share of the country’s trade comes through Kolkata’s port, and its suburbs are fostering a rapidly expanding IT sector. Its 100-year old stock exchange, the Calcutta Stock Exchange (CSE), is also going to great lengths to bolster its position by instituting internet-based trading, integrating with the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange to CSE customers access to all three exchanges.
Kolkata's good governance has gained recognition - the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) is structured around a balanced model that combines an empowered political executive with a technocratic administration. Its commissioner provides a system of checks and balances on the city’s mayor, improving legitimacy and accountability. Furthermore, the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Agency, as the technical secretariat to the KMC, provides an efficient body of implementation and city planning.
Kolkata’s IT sector, though nowhere near the size of Bangalore’s, is nonetheless growing at a rapid pace. The state of West Bengal has placed a priority on expanding this sector, specifically looking at developing Kolkata’s surrounding suburbs, as well as second-tier cities in the state, such as Haldia, Durgapur and Siliguri. The IT industry has achieved significant growth in recent years, with major development areas including software development, hardware manufacturing, IT real estate, IT-enabled services and IT security, earning the favour of IBM, Tata Consultancy Services, Siemens and Samsung.
The state’s Information Technology Policy (2003), and its complement, the Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) Policy (2002), aim to move both sectors up the value-added chain, with a focus on vertical integration.
Development of financial services and banking, insurance, discrete and process manufacturing, as well as retail and distribution are expected to raise the city’s profile as an IT investment destination. The IT policy involves the state in spurring growth in IT usage and internal demand for the city’s IT products and services by increasing the local population’s IT literacy through collaborations with multinational corporations such as IBM.
IT investors will be pleased to find procedures for setting up operations has become easier with the establishment of the West Bengal government’s IT Promotion Cell (www.itpb.org), which aims to assist investors with networking and information-sharing. Additionally, the Webel support centre (www.webel-india.com) is dedicated to supporting operations of IT investors in West Bengal.
One of the focus areas for Kolkata’s IT sector is the planned suburb Bidhannagar, commonly referred to as Salt Lake City. The Naba Diganta Industrial Township in this municipality has become a major hub for IT and related industries.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for a significant share of Kolkata’s economic activity and industrial output. The city registers 11,860 micro and small enterprises, and only 137 medium and large-sized enterprises. Major industrial output in Kolkata is focused around leather garments and bags, apparel, hosiery, PVC cables, rod iron furniture, machinery and components, silicon products, electronics and insulated cables.
With easy availability of raw materials and skilled manpower, West Bengal is India’s leading exporter of finished leather goods. The state accounts for around 16 percent of the country’s exports of leather and leather products (2008-2009). Kolkata Leather Complex, at 1100 acres, is India’s largest consolidated leather park. Intensifying trade relations with France in this area has bolstered the global brand image of Kolkata’s leather products.
A plethora of IT-SEZ and IT parks have come up in the city, attracting software corporations and Foreign Direct investment (FDI) in Kolkata. More recent developments like a huge leather complex that has come up at Bantala and an an export processing zone that has been set up in Falta have given the city's reputation as an industrial hub in right path once again. Subsequently, two other SEZs were set up. They were MANIKANCHAN SEZ for gems and jewellery and WIPRO SEZ for IT and ITES. Both of these SEZs are located at Salt Lake, Sector-V, Kolkata. As of 2010, there were five SEZ’s in and around Kolkata with 14 more being formally approved and another 14 which were approved in-principle.