Nestled amid the picturesque landscapes of India’s Northeast region, Meghalaya emerges as a hidden gem brimming with capability for commercial enterprise and investment possibilities. Beyond its fascinating natural beauty and diverse wildlife, this state, one of the seven sisters, is shaping up to be a promising destination for investors and entrepreneurs alike.
Formed in 1972, Meghalaya shares borders with Assam and Bangladesh and stands as one of the wettest places on earth. With 12 districts and a populace nearing three million, its financial system is quite rooted in agriculture, bolstered by way of a thriving forestry industry.
Despite its mineral-rich lands, industrial ventures remain sparse. Projections for the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) for 2023–2024 hover around Rs 46,600 crore, carrying an estimated growth rate of 11.5%. Notably, a commendable 8% surge in per capita income has elevated figures to Rs 1,10,002 in 2022–2023, in contrast to the national average of Rs 1,96,983.
Diverse agro-products and valuable medicinal herbs flourish in Meghalaya’s fertile soil. The renowned Lakadong turmeric, a prized variety, is cultivated extensively here, and the state ranks as the third-largest strawberry producer.
Moreover, an excellent opportunity lies in the hydroelectric power domain, with an expected capability to generate round 3000 MW. Moreover, Meghalaya boasts the distinction of being the leading producer of coal and limestone within the north-east vicinity.
A network of roads conveniently connects its districts, even though the railways have yet to operate at full steam. Pioneering the facet in connectivity, the Meghalaya government envisions linking the state to West Bengal through Bangladesh, a move expected to catalyze regional trade and commerce in a significant proportion.
The investment horizon in Meghalaya is nothing short of promising, attracting capable stakeholders across food processing, manufacturing, and also in the service sector. Present industries, while substantial, fall short of harnessing the abundant resources available.
Investment infusion into agriculture holds the key to ramping up production, creating ample raw materials for food processing and the manufacturing of various goods, including textiles, pharmaceuticals, and health and wellness products. Furthermore, the state offers promising opportunities for investments in the fields of tourism, education, skill enhancement and IT services. Its strategic advantages include available land and water resources, a skilled and cost-effective workforce, affordable raw materials, port connectivity via Bangladesh, and an import/export channel to South East Asian nations through Myanmar.
A cornerstone of Meghalaya’s economic prowess lies in its hydroelectric potential, poised to generate up to 3,000 MW of power. The state also commands the mantle of being the primary coal and limestone producer in the Northeast.
Reflecting its commitment to fostering a business-friendly environment, the Meghalaya State Investment Promotion Board (MSIPB) forged an MoU with Invest India in July 2021. This MoU gave birth the concept of the Meghalaya Desk at Invest India, which has been actively operationalized to leverage and amplify investment prospects across key sectors, thereby fuelling trade and investments within the state.
Evidencing this commitment, the Meghalaya Desk, in collaboration with the Meghalaya State Investment Promotion Board and PRIME Meghalaya, orchestrated a seminal conference on CSR, entrepreneurship & sustainability. The event seamlessly aligned with the chief minister’s startup & CSR week, in Shillong from November 14-16, 2022. Notably, this endeavor underscored the region’s dedication to responsible business practices, sustainability, and the startup ecosystem. Moreover, the Meghalaya Desk facilitated the Meghalaya State Roundtable, a pivotal segment of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region’s (DoNER) Northeast Global Investor Summit (NEGIS), convened on May 17, 2023, at the State Convention Centre in Shillong.
The roundtable comprised sessions like investment readiness workshops, an inaugural session and a B2G interaction, each aimed at spotlighting investment potential across sectors such as as tourism, agriculture, textiles, sports, IT, and education.
Meghalaya’s economy thrives on agriculture and boasts a bustling commercial forestry industry. The state’s tapestry includes staple crops like potatoes, rice, maize, pineapples, bananas, papayas, and an assortment of spices. The services sector, while modest, encompasses real estate and insurance entities. In the rural expanse, cottage-based eco-friendly industries, like sericulture and weaving, thrive, emerging as vital economic drivers.
With a steadfast resolve to bolster the Northeast economy, recent central government policies unfurl a welcoming business landscape, bridging the gap that historically set the region apart from its mainland counterparts. This challenge, transformed into opportunity, presents a fertile ground for businesses to burgeon, uplifting the socio-economic fabric of the region and concurrently contributing substantially to the national economic tapestry.
In conclusion, Meghalaya’s allure is not merely confined to its breathtaking landscapes but extends to a realm teeming with investment possibilities. Its agricultural riches, hydroelectric prowess and strategic advantages beckon entrepreneurs and investors, holding the promise of not only driving regional prosperity but also playing a significant role in the nation’s economic narrative.
The author, Sankarshan Basu, is dean of Amrut Mody School of Management (AMSOM), Ahmedabad University and programme director at the Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship.