(Kolkata) :West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee government on Friday sprung a surprise by fielding former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly as the maiden speaker at its two-day business summit to woo industrialists.
Admitting that he was "really surprised" to have received a call a week back from Finance and Industries minister Amit Mitra to "speak a few words at the start of this global meet", Ganguly nevertheless batted well on a new track, much in the same manner he used to step out to bowlers during his playing career.
He made an impassioned plea to business captains to invest in the eastern state.
"Please come to the state of West Bengal, support the people of West Bengal, because when you invest it decides the future of a lot of young people. A lot of young boys and girls in the age of 24-30 look up to you to take this state forward," said the local boy.
He also had some good words for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"I know under the leadership of our Chief Minister, you will receive enormous support and facilities. So please be here. Please be in Kolkata," said Ganguly, as he was heard with rapt attention by the over 4000 delegates on the Milan Mela ground.
Ganguly said he has grown up in the sporting world, but pointed out that "sports business is one of the biggest business in the country because of the passion of the thousands of people who love watching the game, whether it is cricket, football or any other sport."
He also referred to his "small business background" and said "I understand what it feels to be part of this global meet."
Refering to his presence at the BGBS last year, Ganguly recalled the speech delivered by Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani then.
"That was my first visit to the global summit, and I was amazed at the way he spoke about Bengal, about the way his Jio service were supported in our state and the way in which he has been able to take the business venture forward."
In an indirect reference to West Bengal's industrial decline over the decades, he said, "We have heard a lot of talk about the state of West Bengal, and its attitude to business."
"But in the last few years, we have seen a lot of support to a lot of business fraternity who want to set up business in this part of the world."
He lauded the state's progress in sectors like infrastructure, mineral production, roads, agriculture and education.
Alluding to a television talk show he hosted last year involving small businessmen, Ganguly said they all wanted to make it big from this part of the country.
"I was amazed to see their hunger to reach the top, at the same time to see the support they receive from the state government," he said.