Tussle and Triumph in conversation with multifaceted Shyamkanu Mahanta
Shyamkanu or as he is fondly called Kanu is the youngest of five brothers, the eldest being Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta, IPS officer now Joint Secretary, Govt of India, Amarjyoti is a Civil Engineer and runs his business, Dr. Saumarjyoti Mahanta, Principal Sibsagar Commerce College and Dr. Nani Gopal Mahanta, Head Political Science Department, Guwahati University and well known intellectual of Assam.
Shyamkanu, born to Sjt Lila Mahanta, the Ex-President of Assam Sattra Mahasabha, and renowned award-winning author Dr. Nirupoma Mahanta, has been a very active sports person and is also a skilled Sattriya performer. He has performed in many Raax Leela and Ankia Bhaona performance apart from performing in many famous dramas.
He is married to Anita Deka Mahanta who looks after administrative aspects of MMS Advisory and Trend MMS. Both these entities have generated employment opportunities for 150 skilled individuals.
Currently, he is the promoter MMS Advisory Pvt Ltd, a project management company engaged in roads, power, industrial infrastructure and tourism projects. He is also the chief functionary of Trend MMS, a Socio-Cultural Organisation of North East Region which organizes the “North East Festival” in Delhi, “Rongali” in Assam and “Colours of North East” in Mumbai.
Shyamkanu’s next initiative is planning to set up series of Wayside amenities in Assam in near future. Tourism sector will be our main focus coming years.
1. You are an engineer by education and also an established industrialist, please share some details on your transition.
I worked with NEDFI in project finance across North East India, then I joined IL&FS and worked in Delhi, various other parts of India apart from NER. At IL&FS I did large power plants as Project Manager such as ONGC Power Project of Rs.6000 crore, I was responsible for driving Champamati Power project 4 MW in difficult BTC areas, many tourism projects.
The learnings in these projects helped me to start my venture MMS Advisory Pvt Ltd.
I always wanted to do something in the region, considering the massive lack of development and I made my base in Guwahati. I carried on what I learned in NEDFI and especially in ILFS where I was exposed to best management practices in project management.
2. You are also involved in Assamese Cinema Industry, how do you think Assamese Cinema Industry has evolved over the years? What is your upcoming project in Assamese Cinema Industry?
I was entrusted by CRADAA (An Association of Cine producers and stakeholders) to prepare a report of Cinema revival. During my research, I got interested in Assamese cinema. Being an entrepreneur myself I am still not fully convinced about the market unless some improvements are done in terms of distribution and especially cinema halls.
Of late, after the huge success of Mission China, the industry is looking up. However, lack of enough halls will always be a deterrent in terms recovering the investments. Without the return on investment, quality of movie will be low as investments will be low.
We are in the process of making a movie comprising of few bankable actors, with slightly larger market perspective. Taking some time to make it due to the commitment of our actors and most importantly, we want to see more halls coming up before going full throttle.
3. What is the objective of North East Festival and Rangoli?
I was in Delhi and saw the massive outrage when Nido Tania was killed in 2012. We have seen the racial issues against NER people becoming very serious. Plus perception about the NER was very bad which affected tourism and investment.
We have started North East festival in 2013 with an aim to create awareness about India’s North East region and to promote tourism.
Last five years, North East Festival drew lakhs of people and got extensive coverage in Delhi based media. Perception about the region have improved considerably and it became meeting points for talents of North East. Buoyed by the success of North East Festival, we started Rongali with an aim to promote Assam as a destination and to build bridges amongst the tribes and communities of Assam. Last few years, Rongali received tremendous response an people thronged the venue in large numbers. Various tribes of Assam showcased the Bor Axom culture and it has helped in building bridges amongst the communities.
At a time when divisive forces tried to disrupt the harmony of the region, Rongali talked about love and togetherness. It has become a very popular festival and we plan to make it bigger and more inclusive in coming years.
4. Please share details of some of the challenges that you have faced in Assam as an industrialist and how did you overcome it?
Being an entrepreneur in Assam is a difficult task. The economy is not doing great, the private sector is not doing that well, the market has limited our activities, we did try to explore new projects to increase our portfolio of services.
Our core competency is consultancy and we tried to build on our reputation and ability to deliver professionally. The challenges need to be addressed professionally which we are trying to do.
5. Times are changing in Assam and a lot of youngsters have come up with their startups. As an experienced and established industrialist, what are your initiatives for the new generation of entrepreneurs?
NEDFI has created a Rs.100 cr start-up fund. I feel North East start-up can take advantage of that fund to start with. I believe for right ideas, money is available now.
We are trying to promote new startups. We are organizing a start-up convention on 20th January 2018 wherein we are creating a platform for young entrepreneurs of Assam who will interact with successful entrepreneurs.
The objective is that the venture capitalists and bankers come to a single platform with budding entrepreneurs to facilitate investment and innovation in the region. We plan to carry out follow up work to encourage investments.
Shyamkanu Mahanta at India Today Conclave 2017, on opportunities for Northeast Region and the issues on why Northeast lagged development.