"I am delighted to be a part of the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations of the prestigious Tamil Chamber of Commerce and to present the Tamil Chamber & Chozha Naachiar Foundation Exim Awards.
I understand that the Chamber was started in the year 1944 by the great son of Tamil Nadu Dr. R.K.Shanmugam Chetty, the First Finance Minister of Independent India who represented India in the Brettonwood Conference, USA on money matters. This crucial conference eventually paved the way for the formation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. It is a matter of pride that the Tamil Chamber has a small but significant role to play in the formation of the two International organisations. Stalwarts of the Chamber have played a great part in the growth and welfare of the commerce and industry. From the galaxy of its activities and events mentioned by the President of the Chamber Mr. Chozha Naachiar Rajasekar in his Welcome Address, I gather that the chamber is in the forefront of commerce, encouraging the growth of commerce and industry and extending its arms in to help the needy and to ensure the general welfare of the community.
It is important to mention that the Former President of the Tamil Chamber Late Thiru Nagappa Chettiar played an instrumental role in the formation of Central Leather Research Institute, Chennai. After Independence, he fought with the British Leather Auctioneers for opening letter of credit in the name of Indian Exporters instead of treating them like commission agents. Through this landmark initiative, he earned a soaring reputation and a recognition for the leather exporters from India.
The History of the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce cannot be chronicled without including the economic and commercial history of Tamil People and the story of their determination, perseverance and industriousness. The people of Tamil Nadu are well known for their business acumen and entrepreneurship from as early as the Sangam period of Tamil History. It has been recorded that since ancient times the Tamil community went abroad crossing barriers of land and ocean and traded with people in far off countries, true to the Tamil saying “Thirai Kadal Odiyum Diraviyam Thedu” meaning “Cross even the vast ocean in search of wealth”. During the Chozha Dynasty, Raja Raja Chozhan created a Naval Force to protect the Maritime Trade from the sea pirates, which played a major role in conquering Java, Sumatra and Ceylon. As another Tamil saying goes, “Yadoom Voorey Yavarum Keleer” meaning “All places are ours, All people are ours”. The people of Tamil Nadu and our whole country should feel proud that this epithet has been inscribed and displayed on the walls of the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. Just like the Tamil people, word of Tamil glory also crosses seven oceans.
While browsing the history, Chozha Dynasty is the only dynasty in India which nurtured Maritime trade and commerce across the world from the Southern tip of our country. They built a powerful navy, ships and improved the maritime trade relations with many parts of the world by sending business delegation to several countries. The Chozha Dynasty had trade relation not only with Asian countries but also with China and other European countries. In those days, swearing-in-ceremony of the Chozha Kings was done by the Chief of the Traditional trader family by placing a crown on the King’s head. Such was the power and clout of Tamil traders. In the Chozha Dynasty, King Kulothunga Chozhan I had the title “Sungam Thavirtha Chozhan” , the chola who ended tax, for his landmark decision to exempt traders from paying customs duty. There was a visionary ‘Free Port Policy’ during his regime about a 1000 years ago.
I am extremely happy, that The Tamil Chamber of Commerce is organizing field and factory visits to industries in and around South India and abroad. It is a unique initiative as it gives members knowledge about industries and an exposure to the best practices adopted in world class factories. I congratulate the Chamber for visiting 56 industries so far.
I am also pleased to know that the Tamil Chamber of Commerce led a business delegation to a number of foreign countries to promote bilateral trade relationships.
The Chamber is organizing EXIM Achievement Awards function in association with Chozha Naachiar Foundation since 2010 and I have to mention here the fact all the awards were given based on merit only with the statistical performance data derived from Customs and Ports. This is a laudable initiative. When I went through the list of awardees, I could not help but notice that most of the awardees are from automotive sectors from Chennai. Chennai is also called the “Detroit of Asia”. There are awardees from Government departments, Customs, Navy, Coast Guard, Public Sectors like Ports and private players like Shipping, Logistics, EXIM trade, container freight station, warehouses, and banks too.
I appreciate the chamber for instituting Dr. Nalli Awards in the category of Best Weaver and Best Designer in Silk Sarees and a number of other awards for excellence.
I am happy to know that the Chamber is represented in Customs, Central Excise, GST, Railways, Port and other departments of Central and State Governments and taking the issues of trade and industry forward.
The world is changing at a rapid pace aided by technological and digital revolutions. Any nation unable to keep pace with the changes will become obsolete. India is at the threshold of becoming one of the major economic powers and the private sector can play a huge role in accelerating the growth and development of the country.
Tamil Nadu is among the States which are in the forefront of industrialization. It is rich in agriculture, rich in resources and endowed with abundant human capital. This State is known, among others, for the automotive, leather and textiles industries and the hard working nature of the population. To spur growth, we have to improve infrastructure, resource efficiency and promote innovative technologies.
Reformative measures like the introduction of GST will improve the economy in the long run, although there might be some teething problems in the initial stages of implementation. We are now truly one nation, one tax. Tax overlaps and cascades will not hamper tax calculation and collection anymore. With increasing emphasis on online and app based filings and submissions, the scope for evasion and corruption would be diminished significantly. In the end, such reforms will also benefit all the consumers and will hasten commercial activity, ultimately leading to growth and development.
I am happy to share with you the ambitious, transformative vision that is making India one of the most favorite investment destinations in the world. Indian economy, growing at around 8%, currently is one of the fastest growing major economies of the world. Over the past half a decade, India has witnessed a positive swing in stock market indices, foreign exchange reserves and public investment in infrastructure.
Sisters and brothers,
We in India, are committed to build a five trillion-dollar economy by 2025, making India the 3rd largest consumer market in the world. This grand dream cannot be achieved until India’s vibrant, dynamic private sector joins hands with the government.
The latest report of the World Bank has forecast that the economy is projected to grow at 7.3 per cent in 2018-19 and 7.5 per cent in the next two years.
As the World Bank has noted in its latest report, “India’s growth in recent years has been supported by prudent macroeconomic policy: a new inflation targeting framework, energy subsidy reforms, fiscal consolidation, higher quality of public expenditure and a stable balance of payment situation. In addition, recent policy reforms have helped India improve the business environment, ease inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) and improve credit behavior.”
India has climbed 30 places in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index this year and IMF has forecast that India will grow at more than 7 percent in 2018 and 2019, ahead of other major economies.
A number of economic reforms have been undertaken by Indian Government including digitisation of the economy. More than 326 million persons have opened bank accounts in the last four years making financial inclusion a reality. Tax base has been widened and tax compliance has increased. The policy initiatives taken by the Indian government such as Make in India, Skill India, Digital India, Smart Cities and Start-up India are opening up new opportunities.
We have seen a strong global confidence in the India story with a surge in Foreign Direct Investments which reached over US $ 62 billion in 2017-18. We are moving away from red tape to red carpet and making procedures simple and transparent.
Chambers act as bridges that connect the governments and the industry in creating conducive atmosphere for the businesses to thrive and produce wealth. The chambers should be conscience keepers of the private sector. There are a number of areas where the private sector should be mature enough to undertake self regulation. Environmental compliance audits being one example. We are at a juncture where uncontrolled development has caused almost irreversible ecological and environmental damage.
The Chamber should encourage businesses to be truthful and disciplined and practice restraint and self regulation when it comes to matters such as responsible waste disposal, use of chemicals and pesticides, maintenance of standards in food processing etc. It is for the collective good of the planet. Profit should not be the only motive of business. Business ethics should take prominence. The foundations of business ethics should be laid right from our business schools.
The chamber should also work to make sure that Indian businesses are inclusive and that vulnerable sections of the population are given equal opportunities. One often hears stories about how our women struggle to shatter the ‘glass ceiling’. The industry should strive its best to end discrimination especially against women. A woman’s pregnancy cannot be grounds for stalling her professional development. It is unethical and inhuman. It is up to the chamber to act as guardians to those who are wronged in such a manner.
There should also be special focus placed upon Micro, small and medium enterprises and cottage industries. The chamber should work to promote self help groups, especially that of women. The success story of Kudumbashree in Kerala and the way it transformed the lives of ordinary women who gained not only the much needed financial independence but also gained the respect that they rightfully deserved. It is an example worth emulating. Small industries are as crucial to our economy as transnational corporations which earn precious foreign exchange are. The reason being that they empower the poorest, the weakest, the most vulnerable. By encouraging cottage industries, we have to make our rural areas hubs of thriving economic activity, thereby ending distress migration.
Chambers of commerce should also focus on innovations, especially when it comes to agriculture. Our agriculture is not sustainable and lacks the much needed forward and backward linkages. You should take students and labs to the field and give the farmers the advantage of modern technology. You should create efficient supply chains and cold storage systems. The crisis in agriculture can be and must be ended and you have a crucial role to play here. Make the dream of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022 possible.
Another one of your crucial mandates is to encourage the private sector to be more generous when it comes to their social responsibility and not limit themselves to their mandated CSR spending. The core of Indian philosophy is sharing and caring. We have to nurture and mould our private sector to share their wealth and care for the less fortunate. When corporate become generous, they achieve wonders and Indian corporates do have a history of great generosity of spirit.
You also have to encourage and nurture entrepreneurship. The government of India wants the youth of today to ‘stand up’ on their own two feet. Entrepreneurship makes people ‘job creators’. It has a multiplying effect on employment generation and contributes to general prosperity. Chambers of commerce also play a formulating role in advising the governments in enacting legislations and regulations that promote ease of doing business rather than act as strangulations.
I am confident this organization with its present band of enthusiastic soldiers of service will stand up to the occasion and work for the commerce and industries community and also the entire community as a whole.
My congratulations to Tamil Chamber of Commerce for celebrating the Platinum Jubilee and I wish them the best in all their future missions.