The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry
The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, India’s oldest institution of its kind, traces its origins to 1833. The Chamber, a not-for-profit organization registered under section 8 of the Companies Act 2013, has played a pioneering role as a helmsman, steering the evolution of Commerce and Industry in India. The Chamber reviewed and commented upon some of the most critical legislations in the country. The Bengal Chamber was involved in the conceptualization of the airport in Kolkata and the Howrah Bridge and had lobbied for creation of overland trade routes with China through Tibet. The Bengal Chamber has helped in the formation of a slew of educational and cultural institutions – Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management (IISWBM), Nazrul Manch and the Academy of Fine Arts apart from bringing to Kolkata the son-et-lumiere at the Victoria Memorial.
The Chamber has always recognized the fact that in the new environment of society, industry and business, the need for Corporates to internalize and demonstrate their responsibilities to the society in which they operate is no longer a matter of debate. From being the chief relief distributor during the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 and taking a leading part in the Bihar Drought Relief programme in the late 1960s to adopting a Rural Development Programme in a cluster of twenty villages near Kolkata from 1977 to 1985 to initiating a movement on Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility, the Chamber has taken CSR as one of the guiding principles for business operations.
In mid 2009, when large parts of West Bengal were ravaged by a cyclone of monstrous proportions, a team from the Bengal Chamber visited the cyclone battered villages in remote and inaccessible places where relief had not reached the population. The team distributed clothing, food and water to 800 individuals in the villages of Lahiripur, Char Gheri and Kalidaspur of the Sundarbans area of South 24 Parganas. The affected people had lost everything but had not lost the will to fight back against the unpredictable vagaries of nature. It was this unconquerable spirit of the people which prompted the Chamber to further donate a cheque for Rupees Six Lakhs Thirty Nine Thousand to Sri Ramkrishna Ashram, Nimpith, which the latter has used towards sinking of deep tube-wells in remote areas of Sundarbans. More significant than the amount of monetary contribution was the spirit and the organization of the Chamber to be the first to reach the inaccessible villages and provide on-the-ground relief to the affected families. The Chamber will be remembered by those hundreds for making a difference when all seemed lost.
Today, the Chamber’s range of operations is diverse and evolving over time. The Chamber is deeply involved in areas like Healthcare, Education, Energy and Environment, Information Technology, Finance and Banking, Taxation, Corporate Governance, MSME Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure, Shipping, Branding, Tourism – to name a few and has now assumed a multi-faceted role. Our tie-up with the European Business and Technology Centre (EBTC) on promoting clean technology access deserves special mention. Our linkages with overseas Governments, Businesses and Institutions are growing stronger by the day and we have created very relevant B2B platforms for both inward and outward investments by hosting delegations and taking regular business missions spanning continents. We have over 30 sector/area specific Committees catalyzing business growth, industrial development and socio-economic progress.
The Chamber’s AGM2013 was graced by Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of India which was an unprecedented occasion, in the words of the President of India, for Chambers of Commerce in general. The President expressed his unequivocal love for Kolkata and for the Chamber, which had influenced his decision to address, for the first time ever, the AGM of a Chamber of Commerce. Shri Mukherjee said that the Chamber had provided yeoman service to the nation for 180 years and wished for it to continue for the next 180 years.
The Chamber is also engaging with value added services in energy and environment management including in the North East. The Bengal Chamber has also commenced its activities in the North East by working with the individual State Governments focusing on the issue of propagating the need for a behavioural approach to energy conservation. In this realm, apart from staging a commencement seminar in Guwahati that was addressed by the Director General of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency and leading agencies, the Bengal Chamber has been undertaking conservation awareness projects in Nagaland and Tripura. The Chamber is also partnering the Tea Research Association in tea-gardens focused conservation initiatives in the North East.
Recently, we have embarked on a movement at the national level committed to energizing a behavioural response to save energy by launching an e-portal (www.wattguru.com) dedicated to propagating the virtues and benefits of energy conservation. The Chamber has joined hands with Jadavpur University (JU), a pride of the State and a renowned centre of learning in the country, together with DFIC Management Consultants (Germany and India) to set up a “Centre for Energy and Climate Excellence (CECE)”, the focus of which is to undertake consulting and research-based activities towards meeting the needs of businesses in the realms of energy conservation, energy planning and sustainable management practices. One project of the Chamber is organizing workshops on climate change sensitization for various boroughs of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
The Chamber has also created the largest annual forum for strategic planning on climate change mitigation and conservation issues in this part of the world. The annual Environment and Energy Conclave, an international forum for Climate Change mitigation and business response, is held every August and is the preferred forum for discussing environmental and climate challenges and mitigation actions in sync with our industrial growth aspirations. The Conclave is a melting pot of thoughts, ideas, actions and best practices sharing bringing together corporates with national leaders from the Government, Social Activism, NGOs and Academia. The eighth edition of the annual Environment and Energy Conclave of The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, held on 28th August 2015 in ITC Sonar, brought together Shri Piyush Goyal, Hon’ble Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy, Government of India and Shri Manish Gupta, Hon’ble Minister-in-Charge, Power & Non-Conventional Energy Sources, Government of West Bengal along with the decision makers from Government and Industry in the realm of Power and Energy. It was a Summit conference on Power! Both Shri Goyal and Shri Gupta were effusive in their praise about The Bengal Chamber and its work in the space of Energy and Environment in the last few years.
The Chamber has indeed assumed a multi-faceted role while also focusing on catalyzing a City of Analytics for leveraging the big data revolution in the world. The concept was ideated in a seminar organized in December 2014 involving players from the world of analytics, in which the Chamber presented the project of creating a “City of Analytics” by repositioning Kolkata as a “niche city” specializing in IT applications rather than only a traditional IT hub. A niche city would mean promoting a select skill-set, just as Silicon Valley in the USA is known to be the home of technology companies and start-ups. West Bengal may take advantage of the most happening of businesses all around the globe – Analytics. Kolkata can ideally leverage its advantage of being home to intellectual manpower which is its unique attribute, backed by premier higher education institutions like IIT, ISI, IIEST, JU, IIM and others. Thereafter, the Government of West Bengal, through the Urban Development Department, identified 51 acres of land at Kalyani, just 45 minutes away from Kolkata airport, and the project was announced in mid 2015. The project has been christened ‘Samriddhi - Kalyani Analytics City’, and is one of the smart city projects in West Bengal. The e-auction tender will be floated in the next few months. The Bengal Chamber has already received positive response from investors - both domestic and international – for the project. The Chamber has engineered the creation of the blueprint of the project describing the contours of the city, which has been designed as per international standards, and will create a benchmark in sustainable habitat combined with world-class business infrastructure. ‘Samriddhi’ has received special mention in the meetings of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of West Bengal Smt. Mamata Banerjee, during her visit to London.
The Chamber’s IT Committee comprises of all leading developers, consultants and corporates as well as senior bureaucrats in charge of IT in West Bengal. The focus is to communicate and create a bridge between IT users and developers on how IT applications can make enterprise planning and manufacturing processes simpler, faster and less complicated – achieving all this at a lower cost. In keeping with this practice, our IT Committee has pioneered a number of initiatives and programmes in new directions, including our path breaking seminars on e-Waste, Cyber Security and IT as a Career Choice with students. We also organize an annual IT Quiz and Business-IT Conclave, which are must-attend do’s for techies and corporates alike. The IT events have always stood out in content, participation and delivery. The ‘IT as a Career Choice’ modules have, in the past, been attended by more than 1200 students. The Chamber has envisioned positioning Kolkata as a “niche city” specializing in IT applications rather than only as a traditional IT hub.
The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Royal Exchange, 6 Netaji Subhas Road, Kolkata 700 001
Tel: 91-33-2213 0625 (D) / 2230 3733 (B) / 2230 3711 (B)
Fax: 91-33-2230 1289 Cell: +91-9830708197