Smart cities in India: GIFT City raises the bar for infrastructure creation
If GIFT City (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City), replete with its high-rise towers and futuristic infrastructure, has been included in the Smart City Mission Statement and guidelines as a Model City, it’s not without reason.With development rights for more than 15 m sq ft of built-up area, of which two m sq ft are already operational and another three m sq ft under development, GIFT, the first International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) coming up in India, is also moving towards becoming the smartest city in the country.
It has been hogging the headlines with some of its mega projects going live of late. Foremost among them is the BSE’s International Exchange which has earned for India a place on the global capital markets map. Today, the exchange has a transaction rate of 4 micro seconds, arguably the fastest in the world. It facilitates trading in stock futures of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and JP Morgan and has increased its daily turnover from $500,000 to $2 million in just over two months.
Says Ajay Pandey, CEO of the R78,000-crore GIFT City project for almost two years now: “When I took over the reins, GIFT was largely an under construction project, with the 30-storied GIFT One and Two towers being the two main structures to have come up.” Two years later, not only does it have another impressive high-rise – the Hirandani Tower housing the BSE International Exchange—but also a futuristic tier-IV data centre and the Jamnabai Narsee School. Among the works in development are the World Trade Centre, a business club, the SBI’s local headquarters and residential complex, a five-star hotel, the Brigade office building and residential projects, including a Janaadhar housing scheme. “The fundamental difference between GIFT then and now,” explains Pandey, “is that while earlier it was an infrastructure-led project, it is now a business-led one. Henceforth our focus would be on augmentation of existing capacity.” With a total of six high-rises expected to come up in the next two years, he also predicts “a whole new skyline” for GIFT.
“As of now, 5,000 people are employed here and we hope the figure will cross 10,000 by 2018.” Those with offices at GIFT say there has been virtually no attrition thus far. “That’s probably because the quality of life is so good here,” Pandey quips.
More than 100 companies are operational at present in the city though most, awaiting completion of their own premises, are operating from the plug and play incubation facilities being provided by the administration. Pandey says that the first phase of infrastructure development is over. This included 45 lane km of roads, a 3-km utility tunnel, a 3 MLD water treatment capacity, a 66 KVA dual supply power station, district cooling centre, and a
50 TPD water treatment plant. To monitor all operations, there is a city command and control centre.
But isn’t it a case of putting the cart before the horse as the business being generated doesn’t quite justify the investment ? “Not really,” says Pandey. “Starting from the Budget of 2015 to the Umbrella Regulations announced by the Finance Minister in April the same year to the Budget concessions in 2016 for facilitating operations of the IFSC to the amendment of rules in January allowing foreign law and audit firms to set up offices, all steps are aimed at facilitating the emergence of a truly global IFSC.” Hopefully, if things proceed as per plan, India may soon have an IFSC which is world class in every sense.