Two Young Men And A Tango

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Liquor baron and owner of one of India’s major airlines Vijay Mallya, was excited to revive UB Groups hops and a pharmaceutical project that it had abandoned in Kashmir. Soon after, the entire Ruia family owning the Essar Group flew to Srinagar to set up a 2000-seat Aegis BPO by debit to their Rs 100 crore initiative for J&K. They announced recruiting 500 youth within three months. There were dozens of business meetings with J&K’s chief executive. Everything proved either a threat or a promise. Nothing happened.

Yet again, it was the local entrepreneur who saved the day and proved the mover and shaker of the Kashmir industry. Two young men, both second generation entrepreneurs who studied abroad and flew back to take over from their fathers, dominated the scene as their projects leapfrogged into commissioning stage.

Mudassir Mir of the Magpie Hydel Construction Operation Industries created history by becoming the first local entrepreneur in energy sector after his 12-MW Athwatho project in Bandipore started generating energy. “I am content with what I did,” says Mudassir.

When the project was handed over to him the “professionals” in Power Development Corporation told him that it would produce 10-MWs. Once the project was reviewed by better trained professionals, it yielded 12-MWs.
Mudassir’s company is battling the infrastructural bottlenecks, inherent to the system, that have the potential of retarding his growth. “Systems across the world accept a variation of plus minus 10 percent in voltage,” says Mudassir. “But when you have 50-60 percent variation in the 33-Kv line to which your generations are linked, what do you do?” All major generation units have an inbuilt capacity to manage fluctuating voltage of a griding system but not the smaller ones. “When it (low voltage in transmission line) frightens us and we think the machines will get bumped off, we close down,” he says.

No wonder that his unit generates only one third of potential output. This could impact the project’s viability as two-third of the Rs 77 crore investment is market barrowing.

“We need to improve the rudimentary infrastructure especially in areas where such projects are coming up. In Bandipore, for instance, grid strengthening is an urgent need,” Mudassir says. “Its improvement will mean more power.” He sells energy to the Power Trading Corporation which is his strength. A parallel line to Bandipore will improve his unit’s generation and help realize its full potential.

Athwathoo is a test case for him. His fight to get the bottlenecks removed will help him sail through at other places, where over Rs 200 crore will be invested. Magpie’s 10-MW Tangmarg unit is slated to open in 2011. For the 15-MW Poonch unit he is in the process of acquiring land from state government. “Better infrastructure will invite good investment even in energy sector which is very technical and highly capital intensive,” he insists.

Khurram Shafi Mir, the other young man who invested Rs 18 crore in the cold and Controlled Atmosphere Storage (in Lassipora) of fruit, is happy. He is yet to receive any money from the market but he is sure to make it.

Harshna Naturals (a JV between Mir’s and Kohli’s) built 2000 mts capacity of cold storage and 2200 mts of CAS plus a grading and, a waxing and washing unit. “We closed procuring two weeks back, it is fully occupied,” says Khurram.
It has already managed the forward linkages with some of the best up-market retail chains including Field Fresh, Mother Diary, Adani’s, Reliance Fresh and MSL. This year the MNCs are utilizing 70 percent of the capacity, twenty percent is with the growers and the rest with the promoters themselves.

Mir has many things on paper and many more on mind. “My priority in 2010 will be the banana ripening facility that we have tested and a juice plant. A canning unit will be added later,” he said. He is also planning to import fruit that has huge market in Kashmir.

Mir says they are keen to experiment with various local produces like peach, cherry and pear. His experiment of storing raw walnut for the major exporter Kashmir Keasar Mart has been an astounding success. “If we go by DPR we will recover the investment in six years and if we manage 90 percent occupancy, we will break even in only two year. I am keen to chase the second option,” he says.

The Lassipora facility has ignited many entrepreneurs. “Of the five facilities, this is second that has come up as others are in different stages of

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