Kohima: To assist local entrepreneurs lock trading opportunities outside the state, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio launched an Export Facilitation Centre (EFC) of the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) Wednesday at the Investment and Development Authority of Nagaland (IDAN) building in Kohima.

During the launch, Rio advised local entrepreneurs to take advantage of the facility and promote their works. Although Nagaland is a political state and was born out of a political agreement, he said that the Nagas have been “mentally distorted” with the focus on politics rather than on the economy.

As he hoped that the facility will help educate and change mindsets, the CM pointed out that despite rich natural resources, Nagaland continues to remain poor as these resources are untapped and dormant. He said that due to the Naga political issue, the exploration of the state’s petroleum products and natural gas has been stopped since 1994.

While the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the state realise the need to be self-reliant, Rio said the government has formulated a ‘Naga model’ of farming to make way on how to keep the farmers active in producing goods.

Hoping that the EFC will be a beginning, he urged Naga entrepreneurs and the youth to be focused and responsible as the world has huge opportunities. As Nagaland is a consumer oriented society, he said the state government will facilitate if dedicated individuals come forward with innovations.

The CM said so far the state government was not convinced to invest in any innovation through a Rs 35 crore project set aside for innovation. Saying that this indicates that there are no innovations, he questioned the potentials of the youth and said the fund will be diverted for other projects if there are no takers.

Manoj Pant, vice chancellor IIFT, said through the cell, export promotion activities will be made where faculty and experts will assist local entrepreneurs in exporting their goods and products.

IDAN CEO Alemtemshi Jamir informed that the cell, which is a “giant leap for Nagaland”, is funded by the North East Council and the Nagaland government provided the accommodation. Highlighting that there is compartmentalisation among government departments, he said that when it comes to trade and commerce, all departments must work together.

He further informed that IDAN is only a facilitating agency and the cell will be handed over to the Industries and Commerce department.

Cultural entrepreneur and proprietor of Heirloom Naga Jesmina Zeliang, who shared her journey of becoming an entrepreneur, recalled how her business began in 1993 with cane and bamboo crafts, not realising that the market demand will increase.

Traditional crafts and handloom products through her venture now export products to over 30 countries. She informed that over 400 women weavers from Nagaland, Manipur and Assam, and over 500 male artisans are engaged.

Sharing her expertise, she stressed on the need to stay relevant at any point of time and to always think out of the box. She suggested that the state government identify deserving entrepreneurs to participate in trade fairs which will open avenues for the entrepreneurs.

She also urged the need to create trade concentration centres in every district to facilitate and aggregate entrepreneurs.

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