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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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