It is called the City of Palaces, and for a good reason. The first state to be colonized by British, nobody can deny the old world charm the city has. But today as I sit down to pen these thoughts, I can’t help but wonder why Kolkata continues to be old world even today. Be it companies, infrastructure, habits of the people or even state politics – nothing much has changed here.
My first impression of Kolkata was when I visited the city as a ten-year old. Those trips were mostly holiday visits, so all my memories are happy and pleasant. Since then trips have been regular to the place, first for personal and now for professional reasons.
I recently went back to Kolkata for meeting a prospective business partner – an entrepreneur. The city has some very gritty entrepreneurs like the Agarwals, Goenkas, and Lohias among others who have worked and survived in the system. And then there are others like the Birlas and Mittals who decided to move out, and subsequently built their empires someplace else. Last year, a World Bank survey done in partnership with International Finance Corporation (IFC) on doing business in India, ranked Kolkata at the end of the list at No. 17. That survey rankings summarised the ability to get permissions and complete formalities required in setting up businesses in the city. Think startups, and Kolkata hardly has any mindshare.
When the entrepreneurship wave is sweeping the whole country, why is Kolkata untouched? What makes it so tough to work in Kolkata? The city has so much character in every aspect - may it be business, mouth watering food, top class literary talent – each has its own charm. The only new addition to the city’s fabric is the metro that has replaced trams as the preferred mode of transport.
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