Vizag-Bhubaneshwar: A Potential Growth Corridor
Vishakapatnam aka Vizag and Bhubaneshwar are two places, with which I have a personal connection. Vizag is my home town, the place where I spent a good 30 yrs of my life, where I grew up, was educated, and worked for some time too. Bhubaneshwar is where I got the first important break in my IT career, and a place where I was for 3 years before moving to Hyderabad. Both the cities separated by just around 8 hrs by road and rail, are what the media would call as “small towns” or “Tier II cities”.
Vizag is the industrial hub, home to some of India’s largest public sector behemoths, Vizag Steel, HPCL, BHPV, Hindustan Shipyard, a place that is strategically important due to it being the HQ of the Eastern Naval Command, a major port along the East Coast. The presence of the Naval Dockyard, Navy, and the PSU’s has ensured a cosmopolitan mix of population in Vizag.
Bhubaneshwar one of the older cities in India, the site of the ancient Kalinga battle, close to the world famous Konark Sun temple and Puri, now a growing IT hub, with the top ones like Satyam, Infy, TCS already having set shop here. Add to it an educational center, with one of India’s best management colleges XIMB located here.
The article is primarily to look at the area between these two places as an opportunity for growth, not just the two cities, but also the entire stretch between them. The reason why I had picked up these two cities apart from my personal connection, is that the entire corridor between them has a vast potential for development economically, as well as making it a tourist zone. In fact, if we actually stretch it further till Chandipur, that also includes the port of Paradip, what we are looking at here is a corridor, that for reasons best known has not really been exploited to it’s potential.
While Vizag is an industrial giant by itself, with HPCL, BHPV, Vizag Steel having their manufacturing units here, it is the hinterland that has the real scope for more manufacturing and industrial units. Currently Srikakulam, Vizianagaram districts adjoining Vizag are the most backward in Andhra Pradesh. A significant chunk of the labor working in the major metroes in India comes from these districts, as also the Ganjam district in Orissa, adjoining these two and lying in the Vizag-Bhubaneshwar route. Take a trip on the Konark Express from Mumbai to Bhubaneshwar, around 70% of the passengers would be the labor from Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Ganjam area. It is quite a common sight, to see these villagers waiting by hordes, catching the trains to Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai for the labor work. While Srikakulam district does have some industrial estates, both the Vizianagaram and Ganjam district have very low levels of industrialization, barring a few places. Even in the case of Vizag most of the Industrial ancillary units are set up, towards the Vijawada side, there is virtually no manufacturing activity on the road towards the Srikakulam side. This entire stretch of the land between Bhubaneshwar and Vizag has a huge scope for industrial development, there is a good availability of cheap, surplus labor, which in a way could also cut down the migration. Another advantage is that Vizag has access to the Iron ore mines at Kirandul, Ballaidila in Chattisgarh, through rail, that could also cut down costs in raw material supply. With Bhubaneshwar not really having much industry, Vizag could be the one driving the industrial growth here.
Potential growth areas for industry here- Steel, Shipping( with Vizag and Paradip ports), Heavy Industry, Machinery, Fishery units.
Bhubaneshwar already has Infy, Satyam, TCS quite well established here, plus a good number of smaller, medium sized IT firms, startups. Bhubaneshwar in fact is seeing a large number of people, quitting their jobs in MNC’s, coming back to their place to start their own ventures. The rather leisurely pace of life, the peaceful nature of the city, and a large educated population makes the city, an excellent prospect for the service sector here. Vizag itself has HSBC’s BPO center, plus a good number of smaller IT startups. However when it comes to IT, Bhubaneshwar has the advantage over Vizag, with more firms established in that city. Again both the cities have a strong banking sector, with all the major public, private sector banks located there, and also the major insurance firms in India. Another advantage that the cities have for services sector is the educational infrastructure here. Vizaghas GITAM University, Gayatri, Andhra University all of them institutions with a proven track record, and having some excellent manpower. Bhubaneshwar has KIIT University, OEC, IIMB, IIT and IIIT, which makes the city a favored venue for many recruiters. Also the rather leisurely pace of life, quite atmosphere, a cosmopolitan and friendly population, just adds to the advantages.
Potential growth areas for services here- IT,ITES, Banking, Finance,Insurance.
This is one segment that has never been really well utilized, except in the last few years. Consider this, the Golden triangle of Bhubaneshwar-Puri-Konark, with their ancient temples and the world class Sun Temple, not to forget the Sand Sculptures of Puri. Puri apart from it’s beach and temple, has been hosting the Bring Your Own Film Festival for many years, a platform for indie, amateur movie makers to showcase their movies. The entire coastal stretch between Bhubaneshwar and Vizag has some of the best unspoilt beaches in the country. The AP Tourism has done a great job in developing the tourist infrastructure in Vizag and surrounding areas. Apart from the beaches, Vizag also the famous Borra Caves, nearby, Araku and Anantagiri, often described as the poor man’s Ooty. Add to it the historic sites of Shalihundam, Srimukhalingam, Bobilli, Vizianagaram, the bird sanctuary of Teli Neelapuram in Srikakulam district, the hills and waterfalls of the Eastern Ghats adjoining it. The world famous Chilika Lake, a wonderful sight for the eyes, which needs a better tourist infrastructure,Satpada famous for it’s dolphins. If you can stretch it up further, you have the Bhitarkanika Crocodile Sancturary, the Gahirmatha beach famous for it’s Olive Ridley turtles in Orissa. Beaches, hills, forests, historic sites, religious place, you have it all along this stretch which has not really been explored to it’s potential.
Lying along the NH 5, both Vizag and Bhubaneshwar are well connected by road. Bhubaneshwar has excellent rail connectivity with Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, though not many with Mumbai, except the one major train. Rail connectivity is still a bit of an issue for Vizag, not many direct trains here, towards the other cities, and more often than not getting a berth is a major problem. There has been a long standing demand for more direct trains from Vizag, but sadly no result so far. Vizag has a good airport well connected to the major cities in India. Air connectivity is still an issue with Bhubaneshwar, its strange that inspite of being a capital city, and having a good potential for tourism and IT, the city to date does not have an international airport.
It is imperative that the potential of the Vizag-Bhubaneshwar corridor is explored well. It needs to be done, to ensure more equitable development, as well as reduce the pressure on other cities. Making Vizag a future economic hub is also beneficial for Andhra Pradesh as a whole, it takes the load off Hyderabad, and in the event of Telangana being formed, would make it a prime contender for the next capital too.