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smart-cityStarting from the basic principle is always sensible for any strategic planning process, as it helps to come up with directional guidance on how to approach issues when there’s chaotic abundance of info and wish lists to action on. What does it mean when we say the term ‘Smart City’? Before trying to find answers, it’s recommended to ask further follow-on questions to seek clarity on the topic; such as ‘whose the Smart City is for?’, ‘how much budget is for and given by whom to be spent by when?’, ‘Is the scope of the project only on infrastructure development, or extend to realignment of public/private administrative support services?’, ‘Is the focus of overall exercise only on new constructions to offer new services, or extends to restructuring of available resources for cost saving and effectiveness?’, ‘what priority problems and wish lists are to be addressed within the scope as compared to aiming for everything?’. Collating a list of such strategic questions ought to be the first step to define scope for ‘Smart City’ project and then creating a table of checklist to guide the overall activities of finding appropriate operationally implementable solutions. If we imagine nothing exist in the first place, we can see ‘people’ and ‘means of transport’ as the base ingredients in any geographical location. In short, ‘Smart City’ project maybe considered as means to facilitate the flow of people and vehicles in the city.

From the infrastructural and people’s commuting aspect, ‘Imphal Municipal Region (IMR)’ is the only city zone in the entire Manipur state wherein the majority of travel and resource utilization seem to be occurring. So, it may make sense to aim to transform IMR into a smart city, by considering how people from other towns/villages commute/correlate to IMR for their ease of access and convenience. Public Transport System (PTS) ought to be the first priority theme in this smart city project in two levels of focus – (1) for within the city commuting, (2) for connectivity to other connected towns/villages. Through this ‘Smart City project for Imphal’, we can also enable growth and development opportunities in other towns/villages; thereby delivering a better ‘value of money’ impact. PTS may be considered as the motherboard wherein all the other projects are plugged into making the entire device-setup alive and functioning appropriately. Accordingly, allocation of fund in the ‘Imphal Smart City’ project budget ought to be ‘60% to PTS and 40% to individual mini-projects’ as a rule of thumb.

 

After having conducted a population count in each zone within the Imphal Municipal area and also devising a simulated commuting model for a weekly-slot throughout a year cycle, we can come up with a reasonable understanding of how the Imphal city is functioning on a holistic view. We can identify what private / public service facility already exists at which spot on the map of Imphal city; such as hospitals, schools/colleges, Govt offices, police stations, fire services, markets, airport, upcoming train station, courts, public venues. State government ought to form a company or corporation to operate a public transport service meant ‘for within the IMR’. This initiative will enable (1) reduction in use of small private vehicles within the city limits, (2) reduction in pollution and noise limits, (3) ease of access to every corners of the city and 24×7 means of travel within the city limits through PTS. Feasibility study of how the ‘commuting model’ may look like for ‘within the city’ may be conducted by hiring specialist town planners and also referring to other small and large cities in the world. Due-attention to the nature of commercial transport services within the PTS needs to be understood too; such as routes of goods carrying trucks, crossover on the ‘transport services to carry goods’ meant for the purpose of large-scale business and individual family usages.

 

Progress of a city will be known ‘not by the number of private vehicles run by individuals in the city, but by the number of individuals using public transport services’. After having evaluated on the simulated commuting computer model, road networks within the Imphal city need to be reorganized; such as – (1) effective usage of ‘semi-low-floor’ buses funded earlier under JnNURN fund from central Govt, (2) effective traffic flow routes for various types of vehicles within the City, with priority focus to emergency services and ‘individual shoppers and sellers at Imphal markets’, (3) congestion/emission charge levied to private vehicles within the Imphal market areas, (4) 24×7 transport facilities to every spots within the city map and thereby creating appropriate traffic control-light systems, bus stands and terminals, solar-powered lighting on public roads, emergency phone-booth and medical care spots on the routes, waste disposal bins and toilets on the routes, (5) mandatory process in place to plan any route diversion / roadblocks prior to any upcoming Govt/public events or after any sudden accidents/constructions on the route, and thereby appropriate advertisement of roadblocks (on social media, newspapers, city-travel apps).

 

To be precise, Imphal City is more important to ‘people living in other villages/towns’ of Manipur than those living within the Imphal Municipal Region (IMR); and the main reason being non-availability / defunct nature of modern means of livelihood elsewhere within Manipur State. Many individuals from other towns/villages commute to IMR for accessing almost every aspect of modern means of livelihood (e.g. hospitals, schools/college, Govt offices, and markets). On the ‘Smart City project for Imphal’, the planners ought to consider how best can the drop-in and drop-out points wherein ‘people, vehicles and access demand for modern livelihood services from other villages/towns connected to IMR’ can be addressed effectively. Priority focus of state Govt needs to be more on improving road infrastructure in other village/towns, so that people can at least commute to IMR daily. State Govt ought to create another dedicated company or corporation to deal with transport services ‘in and out of Imphal city’; since purpose and needs of such transport services are distinctively different from that of ‘within Imphal city’ focus. Private parties (i.e. owners and associations of buses, taxis, auto rickshaw) must be partnered for delivery of this portion of public transport system on a 24×7 basis, since state Govt may not have sufficient manpower and financial resources to provide transport services to the last-mile connectivity concept (outside the IMR limits).

 

Making the best appropriate usage of available fund in the most simplified approach for larger benefit of people in Manipur is the most reasonable idea on ‘Imphal Smart City’ project. Also, how other funding schemes (of state and central governments) can be channelized to this project can be evaluated. Just trying to copy solutions used in other cities of the world (on this concept of ‘smart city’) will make less sense for us, unless we start to focus first on the basic needs for our local scenarios first. The demography and income/knowledge level of people living in Manipur is different from other cities of the world, and we have our own ways of living and making a living. We should aim to avoid new failure cases of various large scale infrastructural projects in Manipur state (e.g. similar to ‘Flyover construction at Imphal City’). Before reinventing new wheels, let’s check what/how we can make use of the available resources in a more effective and efficient ways. Also, let’s aim first to invest the new fund for smart city project to streamline the already available service delivery systems, and then, let’s recreate something totally new, only in case of a genuine need to overhaul the system/structure portion on its entirety. Thus, let’s think of the people first and make the city, rather than aiming to create the city first and fit the people later.

 

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

 

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Manipur State Govt firmly believes that promoting tourism into Manipur can bring about socio-economic development of the state. The Central Govt (esp. Ministry of tourism, and North Eastern Council under Ministry of Development of North Eastern Regions) has been also supporting the State Govt by providing huge funding assistance for tourism related projects. Main activity on this regard is to organise annual tourism festival titled ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in the month of November (21-30). sangai-loktak-articleThe expenditure for 2014 event was about Rs 2.5-3.0 crores and the cost of 2015 event may be Rs. 3.0-5.0 crores. Since large sum of public money (collected through taxes) has been spent for conducting this festival by the State Govt, it is appropriate to ask and rather be made a mandatory task for State Govt to evaluate economic appraisal of the festival project along with a social impact analysis. Such an evaluation report must be produced by the State Govt as ‘white paper’ periodically to access ‘pros and cons / impact’ of every Manipur Sangai Festival being conducted.

Any course of discussion on ‘whether current format of the festival is appropriate and what programs should be added/removed, or there is another possible way of conducting the festival in an entirely different approach’ ought to be guided by the basic principle that “Manipur Sangai Festival has been devised to promote Manipur globally for its tourism potentials and by doing so, bring about socio-economic development to the local population within Manipur State”. Also, we need to be clear with our adopted strategy on this festival – ‘Is the spending on the Manipur Sangai Festival an investment or just mere expenditure; i.e. are we creating a sustainable capacity building system for the local economy, or are we just enjoying ourselves by spending huge sum of money for few days in the name of tourism promotion?’. This article rather focuses on an alternative way of conducting the festival than being a critic to the current festival format.

There is an analogy topic that we can correlate to: ‘how Olympic Games are conducted in various countries on rotation, or how National Games are conducted in various states of India on rotation’. The host country for Olympic Games (or the host state for National Games in India) aims to make the maximum benefits from having the sports event in their country (or their state, in case of National Games) through creating new infrastructures (e.g. roads, bridges, markets, houses, water/electricity/gas supply facilities), new engagement frameworks (e.g. coordination among various ministries of the Govt for public order and utility services supply, involving public and private organizations, including students and staffs from schools/universities, sharing public support tasks with local municipal bodies), and new promotional means (e.g. extensive marketing to increase visits by tourists during the sports event and also later on for the following months/years). Thus, there are always some diverse options in every planning on where/how to spend a huge sum of money for executing a big event. Our focus for Manipur Sangai Festival also ought to think from this perspective of ‘How best is the way to spend the allocated budget for the festival (e.g. Rs. 5 Crores) into what activities for short term and long term gains to people and land of Manipur?’

The name ‘Sangai’ has been chosen to represent the annual Manipur tourism festival by the State Govt; maybe because this title has global appeal due to the relevance of endangered ‘Sangai’ species to global audience. How about we try to imagine this scenario for the sake of analysis – What if ‘we choose to conduct this Manipur tourism festival with special focus around the villages/towns where this special deer is located (i.e. those around Keibul Lamjao National Park and Loktak Lake)’!

Often, there is this query of ‘Should development come first, or should security (i.e. better law and order) come first before anything else (including tourism activities)?’ In addition to just conducting a tourism festival to promote tourism potential, Manipur State Govt has the duty to develop infrastructure and enhance living standard of villages/towns within Manipur. So, how about hitting two targets with just one arrow? – By planning the Manipur Sangai Festival around villages/towns of Keibul Lamjao and Loktak Lake; such as, by having more event venues, involving local people/organisations, delegating tasks to staffs at Govt offices (schools/colleges and other Govt departments) and administrative officials at various sub-divisions/gram-panchayats, and a series of well-created programs in those villages/towns.

The tourism festival ought to be more of people’s event rather than just being an event for ministers and higher officials of the State Govt. There is no ‘actual high risks of security’ scenario for having tourism programs and event venues in villages/towns around Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao, and rather it may be just a myth that there is no security outside the state capital; or, maybe it is just a sign of being laziness for ministers and higher officials of the State Govt to visit places outside the Imphal Municipal Council areas. Since the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ is for promoting tourism potentials of the whole state, tourism events can be still conducted at those already chosen venues of the Imphal Municipal areas; yet the central focus can be given to “villages/towns around Sangai’s home”. Such an approach will facilitate in (1) creating new businesses by private entrepreneurs in these villages/towns, (2) providing better roads and modern utility services (electricity, water, medical) which have been neglected for years, (3) exchanging of ideas and modern knowhow between people of city and villages/towns. In due course of time, we can see villages/towns (such as Thanga, Ithing, Karang, Moirang, Moirang Khunou, Kairenphabi, Kumbi, Ithai, Wangu, Nongmaikhong, Khordak, Tera Khunou, Laphupat, Phoubachao, Komlakhong, Uchiwa, Mayang Imphal, Toubul, Kwashiphai, Nachou, Bishenpur, Oinam, Nambol, Yaingangpokpi, Wangoi, Tentha, Wabagai, Hiyanglam, Ningthoukhong) developing in a faster pace on par with Imphal Municipal areas.

Various independent events being conducted in Manipur till date can be included as special programs to the list of programs in the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ for the benefit of local people of villages/towns around Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao (rather than facilitating profit earnings to few individuals who owns large restaurants or hotels or tour operators); such as Fish sales festival, Pineapple sales festival, Handicraft/Handloom product sales festival, sports festival, Save Loktak event, Save Sangai Event, Food festival. Tour routes to enjoy such variety of mini-festival events during the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ can be created through these villages/towns for local tourists as well as national and international tourists. Various developmental schemes of the State Govt and Central Govt can be redirected towards organizing ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in these villages/towns under advanced and proper coordinated planning; such as (1) development of roads and cleanliness drive by villagers/NGOs through NREGA (Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act), (2) various development funds under Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, and Department of MAHUD (Municipal Administration, Housing & Urban Development), (3) enterprise support funds from central ministry of MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) and Department of Commerce & Industry, (4) promotion of local culture under Department of Art and Culture, (5) developing of local agribusinesses under Department of Agriculture, and Department of Fisheries, (6) preserving ecology and biodiversity under Department of Forest and Environment.

If we conduct ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in such an approach, percentage of having more inclusive participation from public (individuals and organisations) may be higher. Benefits out of the annual tourism festival are likely to be more sustainable, and a long lasting social impact may be delivered to the local population and land within Manipur state. Thus, we need to explore other ways of conducting Tourism festivals that make the best usage of available financial and manpower resources.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Realities of life start to bite us when we are around 25-35yrs of age. We begin to look at our lives with more seriousness about the past and the future. By now, we acknowledge two facts – (1) Money (through a salaried job or an earning source) is crucial for living. Having a good philosophy for humanity and a non-income earning hobby aren’t enough in life. (2) Our parents are not young anymore and we need to offer our support at their old age. This is more important because, we need act as role models to our kids (or future kids) by showing care and love for parents. Thus, we are struck by the most challenging dilemma around 25-35yrs of age – ‘shall I return back to Manipur, but how?’returning_home_airport_01In search of opportunities to study in prestigious colleges/universities and work in jobs after our studies, we have left Manipur during our teenage period. By the age of 22-35yrs, we are working in a relevant professional career and residing at a developed city of India outside Manipur state or in a foreign country. Also, we are likely to been married by then and have already started a small family with own kids.

One popular option used by most non-resident Manipuris to return back to Manipur (irrespective of current profession or years of job experiences) is to try for Manipur Civil Services Combined Competitive (MCSCC) exam conducted by Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC). It’s not sure whether most MCSCC exam aspirants actually know what type of work or life style one has to live once selected in that exam and begin to serve in various administrative departments of the Manipur government. Also, it’s not sure what happens to those years of work experiences, technical skills acquired and professional education undertaken in the past by those non-resident Manipuris after becoming high ranking administrative officers. Maybe, MCSCC exam is the most targeted choice because of the status of MCS/MPS officials in society and the income earning possibilities within the state among available jobs.

Another popular option used by non-resident Manipuris (with an average academic, especially among boys) is to try for a job in Manipur Police services (such as Assistant Sub-Inspector, Sub-Inspector, Indian Reserve Battalion Sepoy, Commando Sepoy). Prior job experiences and graduation degree of individuals are also less relevant while applying to the services of Police. What most educated Manipuris living outside Manipur expect when shifting to Manipur is a reasonable salary from a job (or an income source) and maintaining a reasonable social status within Manipur. Also, most non-resident Manipuris love to aim for the job of a teacher in school or a lecturer in college in Manipur. Thus, many non-resident Manipuris depends on government provided jobs to return back to Manipur and many of us haven’t yet tried to explore about any other options to come back to Manipur.

Some of the reasons why most non-resident Manipuris could not realize their wish to return back to Manipur are – (1) non-availability of directly similar jobs in their professions in Manipur, (2) availability of few jobs in some relevant professions, but needing to bribe officials and ministers to get those jobs, (3) being too late in one’s age to shift to Manipur (because of having grownup kids who were already adjusted to the outside social environments, or inability to just leave the jobs as monthly salaries fulfilled family maintenance, or their parents had already died and no close relatives lived in Manipur now), (4) not earned enough money and not gained appropriate business acumen with risk-taking attitude to start businesses in Manipur.

Some of the possible opportunities in Manipur that non-resident Manipuris can try to shift back to Manipur are – (1) starting a business in tourism/hospitality sector (such as running a restaurant, hotel accommodation, travel transport services, cultural tour programs), (2) starting a locally relevant agro-business (such as rearing of pigs/chickens, egg production, milk production, cultivation of pineapple, sales of dried fruits, potato farming), (3) starting a trading business on off-the-shelf goods (such as electronic items, bedding-clothing items, woods and furniture), (4) starting an advertising and marketing agency (such as sales and promotion of local products, non-news related publication and design activities, general website design activities), (5) starting advisory services (such as educational consultants to admit students from Manipur to various colleges in other Indian states, income-tax/business setup services to local enterprises, export-import setup services to local entrepreneurs, investment in stocks and real estates located in other cities of India, funding grant application to various government and private bodies for projects of local enterprises). The other possibility is to try to expand the business one already owns in other cities of India or abroad to Manipur, or to try to expand new offices in Manipur for the company wherein one currently works at senior management position in other cities of India or abroad.

The key challenge to returning back to Manipur by most non-resident Manipuris is that they haven’t acquired relevant skills, life experiences and risk taking willpower to venture into the career opportunities feasible within Manipur. Also, they may not have enough cash to invest the required start-up fund and most importantly, they may not have known appropriate advisory contacts to support them during the transition phase from ‘where they are currently living’ to ‘within Manipur’. One must motivate self to learn transferable skills while at work in various jobs at other cities of India; such as (1) business acumen on how to deal with finances and resources, (2) people management below and above the current job position, (3) relationship building with peers and non-peers, (4) calculated risk taking and self-starting attitude, (5) networking with relevant professionals and individuals in the interested industry/social domain, (6) awareness on government policies and funding supports in interest areas, (7) self simulation of draft ideas by making occasional visits in Manipur and execution of prototype projects, (8) learning to work in teams to achieve personal project objectives, and yet led by self. Its worth to remind ourselves that – ‘Employees tend to remain lifelong as employees or salaried persons, while entrepreneurs of own businesses tend to aim big to grow as one wishes and leave behind the businesses/wealth-earnings to their family on retirement’. In most state/central government jobs within Manipur, one may find self being stuck for life apart from just waiting for the monthly salary. Also possibly, he/she may not like the work environment and job roles, but, there is no other alternative job to quit and thereby no other means of livelihood.

If a non-resident Manipuri wishes to return back to Manipur someday, one should start saving money from early stage of life and start planning how one can invest own time/money in Manipur. As an example: by building homes at our respective town/village in Manipur in a way that some rooms/floors can be let out to tourists for a short stay, we can even earn some income and also contribute to tourism growth to the local town/village. Thus, if we are ready to write MCSCC exam and become MCS/MPS officer after having done entirely different jobs for years in industry and completed highly technical academic studies in the past, why not we dare to dream even bigger like creating own business firms by using the intelligent brain, life experiences, and willpower we’ve got. Earlier the actual realistic planning on ‘how to return back to Manipur’, higher is the success rate of returning; otherwise the person is daydreaming and wasting own time/effort.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Manipur State Govt has tried to build new infrastructure projects at many tourist spots and organize tourism festivals in the recent years for tourism promotion. Yet, common people seem still confused what exactly Manipur tourism is all about. So, basic queries arise – ‘Why tourism?’, ‘Do we really need it?’, ‘What’s the gain/loss?’, ‘Who are the real stakeholders?’, ‘What role by whom for how long?’, and ‘what’s tourism in business sense?’ Thus, looking again with a fresh mind about promoting tourism in Manipur and growth of businesses connected to tourism may be useful.

manipur-road-mapThe foremost essential focus that state govt ought to do in tourism promotion (even before investing in any infrastructure building projects) seems to be about ‘Building a good network of motorable roads connecting every village/town within Manipur’. Once motorable roads are built, intra-state and inter-state commutation will be easier; thereby allowing people themselves to participate in tourism related activities by default. Second focus ought to be ‘Sensitization of local public on how tourism works and who can play what role to get maximum benefits for public themselves’.

On social aspect, tourism is to do with movement of people i.e. temporary migration, while on business aspect, tourism is to do with visiting people buying goods/services from local people during their stay. In true sense, tourism is just all about people and state govt seems to miss this key ‘understanding’.

Most appropriate slogan on Manipur tourism seems to be ‘Govt provides Motorable Roads and People take care of Tourism’. Once a network of motorable roads connecting every village in Manipur state is in place, people will automatically take care of tourism related businesses. So, state govt’s main focus on tourism promotion ought to be ‘Motorable Roads’. The add-on priority of State govt on tourism promotion may instead focus on collecting statistics of tourist visitors (such as places visited, tourist traffic, reason of interest/visit, days/hours stayed, money spent per person, demographic survey of tourist inflow, and issues found during tourist visit, etc). This statistics info is crucial not just for tourism aspect but also for controlling social migration and illegal immigration issues. Some genuine support that state govt can do in Manipur for tourists are installation of readable signposts on travel roads, creation of tour-route guide maps, distributing illustrated pamphlets showing entertainments and activities that can be done while visiting a place, stationing tourist support centres at various locations with info, and opening a call centre support for tourist emergencies, etc.

Taking an example to understand potential stakeholders in Manipur tourism:

Visiting Manipur by air is the best choice of many (foreign/national) tourists. Imphal Airport thus becomes the first thing a tourist is likely to see. Hence tourist friendly environment needs to be created within airport (e.g. direction signboards, promotion messages, Do’s and Don’ts guides on social ethics, courtesy from airport staffs, take-away tourist fliers at easily accessible locations, foreign exchange store, shopping and gift stores, emergency doctors/clinic, etc). Just outside the airport exit, a tourist expects friendly travel operators who will not cheat and safely take him/her to nearby hospitable hotel or paying guest houses. In between airport exit and nearby hotel/accommodation location, a tourist may have expected roads on the route to be of motorable condition with proper signboard, and local people (including houses/buildings) of welcoming attitude.

At the hotel or paying guest house, a tourist may not get own foreign food/snacks, but will at least expect local food and cuisines being served in high hygienic conditions. Tourists will appreciate the hotel more, if extra tourist guide info is provided in addition to delivering excellent customer service. A tourist will expect customer friendly staffs, proper sanitary waste bins and toilet services, and other relevant entertainment services while visiting a tourist spot or an ecological garden. Business owners of that tourist spot (or garden/park) may do their best to enhance the customer experience, because inflow number of tourists impacts their business. But, we often seem to miss to acknowledge who is going to take care of providing hospitality to tourist in the route gap between a hotel and a tourist spot. That missing gap is what local people on the route ought to take in-charge of; thereby also giving job and benefit to themselves by providing add-on product/service for visiting tourists. New recreational spots and small shopping stores can be created on the route in between any tourist spots and nearby reputed star hotels within Manipur. Best effort has to be made to create many cycle-drive and foot-walk routes in most village/town (nearby popular tourist spots) so that tourist visitors can roam around and spend time/money in the process while interacting with local businesses and people on those routes. This approach will bring about inclusive growth within Manipur by allowing small businesses and local people to earn by serving tourist visitors in addition to earning by those large businesses and star hotels.

During popular festivals at a particular location conducted on specific dates in a year, students of local schools/colleges can be availed to support visiting tourists voluntarily or under paid service. Proper coordination for festival support to tourists can be made between festival organizers and management of educational institutions. This approach will also enables students to experience management skills and help own personality development. These educated students can support visiting tourists in English or other foreign languages as tour guides. Pamphlets showcasing attractions on a particular Leikai/Zone may be created by local clubs (or tour operators) for the benefits of businesses and people in that Leikai/Zone. Local ‘Leikai Mandap’ and community halls can be redecorated occasionally for exhibitions and tourist events; thereby allowing ‘Leikai clubs’ to participate in maintaining Leikai roads/streets and also welcoming visiting tourists altogether during the big festival. Also, individual houses and properties (if interested) can be allowed to adapt for businesses providing some benefits to visiting tourists. Rickshaws and horse-carts can be reused rather in a fashionable way for shorter travel within village/town routes by tourists.

State govt has to start delegating more (i.e. give work/opportunity with responsibility and accountability) to non-govt entities and local businesses on tourism related activities within Manipur. Necessary support for finance and resources (on demand) should be made available to social and private bodies working in the area of tourism and hospitality services. State govt (or delegated authorizes) may also act as auditors or benchmarking bodies to check quality specification and conformance by tour operators and businesses in tourism sector – such as hygiene level, business operations under valid licenses, maintenance of registry for foreign nationals and outside-state visitors at hotels, customer support ethics, extra care support for disable visitors, upholding diversity in work-force, maintaining dignity for children and women, etc.

State govt should provide an integrated tourism framework (i.e. a basic diagram) that explains in a simplified manner how various stakeholders are interacting to each other on day-to-day basis within Manipur state. This approach will allow local people, business owners, tour operators, and govt officials to work alongside towards tourism promotion and tourism related business growth. Rather than conducting only one big festival at Imphal municipal area per year by state govt (incurring heavy cost in crores rupee), many smaller festivals and events throughout seasons in a year ought to been conducted by local people and businesses (with support from state govt) in their respective locations within Manipur state. State govt also need to keep in check about the side-effects (i.e. implications) of tourism related activities in Manipur due to inflow of large volume of tourist visitors – such as air population due to excessive exhaust from motor vehicles, noise population due to festivals, resource scarcity due to over-consumption, road traffic chaos due to extra tourist vehicles, cultural and social influence from tourists, etc. Accordingly, new policies and support services need to be established to tackle tourism induced problems by state govt, and people should be sensitized on these topics periodically.

Thus, involving local people into tourism planning and making local people to take ownership of tourism related activities across villages/towns of Manipur is one of the best ways toward achieving the comment of ‘Nice People, Nice Place’ from tourist visitors. Giving ‘an amazing experience’ from the moment a tourist lands in Manipur and letting to return back home after spending few memorable moments in Manipur should be our focus on how tourism promotion activities and growth related projects ought to be.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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A recently published news article about ‘Manipur Sangai Festival 2012’ reads as:

“The festival has been organized with a total cost of Rs 2 crore – Rs 1.50 crore from the Ministry of Tourism, GOI and Rs 50 lakhs from the state government. Construction of the stalls for the festival which will have 500 stalls will be handled by the Directorate of Commerce and Industries for which Rs 30 lakhs have been allotted. Rs 30 lakhs have been allotted to the Arts and Culture department for the preparation of the cultural programmes, while Rs 5 lakhs have been sanctioned for the Youth Affairs and Sports department, the Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association has been allotted with Rs 25 lakhs for the adventure sports, informed sources.”

If the state government is willing to invest (or say ‘spend’ instead, because of little visible Returns On Investment) a whopping ‘2 crores’ on conducting ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ to promote tourism in Manipur and attract tourist visits to Manipur, why state government does not seriously consider organizing ‘Global Manipuris Summit’ annually (as a semi-professional event, similar to Pravashi Bharatiya Divas) to connect to Manipuris residing nationally and internationally for socio-economic development of Manipur state through their contributions back to the motherland.

Tourism itself doesn’t do anything but the associated services/products created around tourism sector benefits or affects people and places. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people “traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes”. Though tourism promotion incurs a cost, we also ought to consider the opportunity cost (i.e. the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action) for having those tourism promotion activities. Thus, promoting tourism or growth of tourism ought to refer to something concrete out of tourism sector having an impact on the associated services/products in other relevant industries.

State govt should be able to answer ‘what actually determines the success or failure of conducting Manipur Sangai Festival’. Is it just about celebrating few days by showcasing few cultural and adventurous programs by incurring a heavy cost (e.g. 2 crores for 2012 event)? If only local people in Manipur comprises major % of consumers attending in the event, does the money spent for conducting the event justified? Who exactly are the target consumers for the event (e.g. other Indian state nationals, or foreign nationals) and how effective are the various marketing channels used to attract these consumer segments (i.e. contractors/partners used for the event)? How many local businesses benefits from the visit of tourists (local or national or foreign) during the event and what is the incremental economic impact in the following year after this year’s event because of increase in customers/tourists visit in Manipur? Are major % of tourists spending only at Imphal market places and how much % of tourists visits far-flung locations (in other districts of Manipur) making a spending to local businesses therein? Thus, state govt ought to have an ‘Impact Analysis framework’ by identifying relevant KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) prior to conducting the event and measuring result against the pre-indentified performance metrics. This would give a clear understanding to judge if we’ve made an effective and efficient usage of the allocated money. Thus, unless we can show that local businesses and people (not just in central Imphal municipal areas but also in other valley and hill districts areas) are benefited in some ways out of the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ and proven via statistical data, we ought to introspect other new ways of tourism promotion approach to cause socio-economic impact in Manipur state.

Going by the definition of ‘Tourists’, it may not be improper to consider thousands of Manipuris already working/migrated to various cities of India and foreign countries as ‘Tourists’ intending to visit Manipur state occasionally every year. In addition, thousands of Manipuri students studying outside Manipur may be also considered as ‘Tourists’ in the sense that they visit once or twice back home in Manipur annually for few days of holiday breaks and they spend money buying some services from local businesses during their stay in Manipur state. Moreover, these consumers are almost ‘Confirmed tourists’ who’ve the most likeliness to visit Manipur state as compared to other tourist categories, since being Manipuris they have got a purpose to make a visit and spend their money while in Manipur state. It may be harder to ask a non-Manipuri or foreigner to visit Manipur state as compared to asking a Manipur origin. Going by the actual volume of Manipuri tourists visiting Manipur annually from outside the state (within India) and from foreign countries, the number of Manipuri tourists may be in the order of lacs thereby contributing in few crore Rupees to the state economy annually. Thus, it also makes a common sense to focus on ‘Manipuri Tourists’ (from outside the Manipur state and abroad) as one of the key potential consumer segments while planning for any tourism festivals and events of Manipur (thereby catering to what these consumers may like as their holiday-break options).

Considering overall socio-economic development in Manipur state, state govt needs help more from people and private firms (apart of using its own govt officials and resources) to rejuvenate the current situation for a positive change. State govt has been facing difficulties to attract national/foreign companies to invest in Manipur due to law and order situations. Also, entry of non-local companies and professionals may cause unseen socio-cultural impacts to local communities in Manipur. Moreover, it is hard to evaluate long term benefits of having those non-local entities since there is the tendency for non-local companies to take away profits earned elsewhere to their own pockets and native localities. Thus, Manipur state would need to groom local firms to grow ready enough to compete on national/global markets and still embed Manipuri ethics and culture within these organizations.

Since last 2 decades (90s and 00s), Manipur state has had export of its high-skilled manpower to other states of India and abroad due to lack of opportunities and unhealthy social security conditions in Manipur. These Manipuris have mostly migrated and settled with a job and family in those locations with a bleak intention of returning back to Manipur. Also, the next Manipuri generations are going to be exported similarly (right after their 10th or 12th standards of education) outside Manipur state with no choice to return back in the coming two decades (say 2030 or so). Thus, fate of Manipur state is likely to go from bad to worse considering that potential pillars of the future are already migrating away in search of better prospects and leaving behind a huge generation gap of 40years (i.e. 1990-2030) to take care of Manipur. Unless state govt seriously consider a long term strategy right now to reconnect to those lacs of Manipuris already migrated to other states of India and foreign countries, Manipur state is going to face a huge crunch of high caliber manpower resources and passionate industrialists/professionals wishing to develop Manipur state in future.

Realizing the importance of maintaining ‘India’ brand globally and getting tremendous contributions from NRIs/PIOs (as investors to India and lobby groups for India in foreign countries), central Indian govt has been conducting ‘Pravashi Bharatiya Divas’ (PBD) annually from 7-9 January by welcoming Overseas Indians for a semi-professional gathering since 2003. Similarly, it is need of the hour for Manipur state govt to consider conducting ‘Global Manipuris Summit’ annually similar to PBD focusing on socio-economic development of entire villages/towns within Manipur state through active contribution of Overseas Manipuris and Manipuris already migrated to other Indian states. Such a global Manipuris focus festival is not just intended for socio-economic development but also for tourism growth in Manipur (if compared to ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’).

Interestingly, few pioneers among Overseas Manipuris has already initiated actively engaging with Manipur state govt after their attendance to PBD 2011 to create a global Manipuris platform focused on socio-economic development of Manipur by integrating with activities of state govt ministries and though support of relevant officials in each industry sector. An initiative named ‘KEN-Manipur’ has been spearheaded by overseas Manipuris (with support from few self-dedicated state govt officials) to create a Knowledge Exchange Network (KEN) that links every Manipuri professionals living across the globe in various industry sectors and plugging into the network of Manipur state govt officials in each department/ministry. State-wide socio-economic development and integrity of Manipur among various ethnic communities can be expedited in a short span of 5yrs or so, if state govt enables the flow of best brains and personal money back to Manipur state by allowing engagement among local and non-local Manipuris through such KEN approach. Also, organizing annual ‘Global Manipuris Summit’ in Manipur just after PBD event in January (similar to ‘Manipur Sangai Festival) will allow Overseas Manipuris to attend both the events while visiting India from abroad. Thus, the real onus lies now in the hands of Manipur state govt to consider the prospect of connecting to Manipuris outside the state SERIOUSLY as HIGH PRIORITY with a STRATEGIC PURPOSE.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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