Industrialization in Assam dates back to the days of first commercial plantation of tea and tea occupies an important position in the state’s economy. Apart from that, Assam, with its four refineries and allied produces a major part of the petroleum and petroleum-based products in India. Additionally, the 1600 registered factories include major, medium and small units in Central Public Sector, State Public Sector and Private & Joint sector. The overall industrial scenario of the state is investment friendly. The Industrial Relations scenario in the state is peaceful. There is a low incidence of labour related disputes. Direct collective bargaining of negotiations between employers and employees is widely practiced.
The Government of Assam is emphasizing on adoption of a naturonomic investment strategy for eco-friendly sustainable development of the state. The vast water resources of the state could be leveraged for harnessing hydro power, development of pisciculture / aquaculture and transportation links. The strategy also encompasses reinvention of tea industry, revolution in organic cultivation, eco-tourism, eco-infrastructure driven investment in rural and urban township and textile.
Assam has a vibrant industrial base. From the oldest tea industry and huge onshore oil production to the only Stock Exchange in the region and large presence of Banks and FIIs, its industrial base spreads across a wide spectrum of existing industries in petroleum, petrochemicals, fertilizers, textiles, cement, paper, plastics, cosmetics and a host of products and services. But there is always scope for more. Amongst numerous options, the focus area identified for investment could be: Commercial Horticulture, Marketing of Fresh, Processed and Frozen Fruits and Vegetables; Commercial Cultivation, Extraction and Value Addition of Herbal Medicinal and Aromatic Plants; Information Technology; Electronics and Computer Hardware; Tourism and Tourism Infrastructure. Conventional areas of investment could be Hydrocarbons (Exploration & Production, Petrochemicals & Plastics); Minerals (Cement, Coal, Ceramic, Coke); Energy (Generation of Thermal/Hydel/Non-conventional Power).
Amongst numerous options, the thrust areas identified for investment are as follows:
Food processing and Agro based Industries:
The agro-climatic conditions of the state favour growing of a variety of fruits, vegetables/ spices like coconut, banana, pineapple, orange, ginger, turmeric, chillies, pepper, etc. Mechanized and scientific cultivation of Agriculture and Horticultural produces are being adopted in the state. Until recently, horticulture was practiced as a largely non-commercial activity. With better quality planting material, organic farming, adequate research support and better know-how, the state could easily cause a major boom in horticulture and food processing sector.
The sector has the potential to grow at a rapid pace in Assam with the increasing demand for processed food. The wastage of perishables due to non-availability of adequate processing infrastructure. With the favourable agro climatic conditions that are conducive for a wide range of products, opportunities in the sector abound in processing, sourcing, inclusive farming, logistics and cold chains.
Mineral based and Plastic industries:
Major minerals available is crude oil (reserve - over 1.3 billion tonnes) and the state accounts for about 15% of India's crude output. The wells at Digboi, Duliajan, Sivasagar also produce Natural gas (reserve-156 billion cu. mtrs.) accounting to about 50% of India's total onshore production which may be used as feedstock for production of fertilizers, electricity, petrochemicals and also as fuel in the industries.
A gas cracker unit (BCPL), is now functioning for polymerization of HDPE/LLDPE and Polypropylene will supply huge intermediate feedstock for further processing in a host of downstream polymer units.
Limestone with reserves of about 700 million tonnes is another important mineral available in various grades. The China clay from Karbi- Anglong district is a vital input for the ceramics industry. Deposits of decorative stone like granite estimated to be more than a billion cubic meters are available in various shades and colours and has a huge domestic as well as export market. Coal reserves account for more than 320 million tonnes. The coal found in upper Assam and the Central Assam highland has high sulphur content, high volatile matter content, high calorific value and low ash content.
With reserves of around 1.3 billion tonnes of crude oil and 156 billion cubic metres of natural gas, and the same being available at attractive prices, Assam is an ideal destination for energy / oil and gas based industries. There is ample scope for gas and coal based thermal stations.
With 4 Refineries, Gas Cracker project in operation, Assam presents a new ground for downstream industries specializing in petro, plastic and allied products.
Bamboo based industries:
Bamboo, which is the fastest growing plant and generates large bio-mass, holds the potential to replace wood on many grounds. India is 2nd largest in bamboo resources in the world next only to China. The North Eastern region holds about 65% of the country's total estimated stock which is around 90 million tonnes. The Government of India has launched the National Bamboo Mission with focus on North East India. Opportunities abound in the areas of re-inventing bamboo in plywood units and paper mills, micro-propagation & production, shoot processing, industrial products, machinery & equipment and skill up-gradation & training. A Bamboo Technology Park at Chaygaon is likely to be operational soon with its state of art technology.
Extraction and Value Addition of Herbal Medicinal and Aromatic Plants:
With its vast hills and forests, Assam is the home of a variety of medicinal herbs and plants. About 300 types of medicinal herbs and plants are known to exist in abundance in the State. An approximate calculation states that only about 5- 10% of the plants and herbs are commercially cultivated for extraction purposes and hence present a huge resource.
Information Technology related activities:
Assam has a large manpower base that is highly skilled in Information Technology. As such, opportunities exist for IT enabled services like software development, call centres, back office operations, data entry and conversion, transcription and translation, content development, animation, engineering and design, market research, consultancy and management.
Hospitality industry and Tourism, etc:
To nature lovers all over the world, wildlife enthusiasts, sightseers, ornithologists and photographers, Assam is a dream destination. Its landscape, lush green forests, wild life sanctuaries, pilgrimage spots and tea gardens offer a wide choice to cater to the tastes of tourists from different backgrounds. A few popular tourist destinations in the state are:
• National Park: Kaziranga, Manas, Orang, Sonai, Rupai
• Wildlife Sanctuaries: Laokhowa, Pobitora, Dibru- Chaikhowa, Nameri
• Scenic Beauty: Chandubi, Bhairabkunda, Darranga, Bhalukpung, Haflong
• Pilgrimage: Guwahati, Hajo, Majuli
• Historical sites: Batadrawa, Tezpur, Sivasagar, Barpeta
• Golf courses with air strips: Narengi, Borsola, East Boraoi and 21 others
Projections show that foreign tourist inflow into Assam will grow by around six-fold in the next five years. Add to that a projected increase of 15-20% in domestic tourists in the next five years and the government’s thrust on tourism and related activities, the state presents a number of emerging opportunities – in tourism infrastructure like hotels, resorts, amusement parks, river cruises, airstrip development and in joint tourism circuit development like heritage circuits, wildlife tourism, eco-tourism, cultural tourism, pilgrimage and tea-golf circuits.