The Rs.15-billion ($375-million) IT park, Smart City Kochi, will request the state government to see that it gets special economic zone (SEZ) status without any strings. Speaking to reporters after the fifth director board meeting Monday evening, state Registration and Fisheries Minister S. Sarma, who is also the chairman of the Smart City Kochi, said the board has decided to request the state government to see that the project was guided by the agreement reached between the Dubai-based Smart City and the Kerala government.

Earlier, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and Law Minister M. Vijayakumar had made contradicting statements about the status of the project. While the chief minister said the entire project would be guided by the agreement between the Dubai-based firm and the government, Vijayakumar last month said the state SEZ policy would be applicable to the project.

The state SEZ policy has set some conditions for SEZ projects, which include: no agricultural land will be acquired for SEZs; land will not be acquired for sanctioning SEZs in the private sector; no rebates will be allowed for electricity; Panchayati Raj rules will be applicable; tax holidays will be only for 10 years; 70 percent of the land will have to be used for industrial purposes and the balance 30 percent for residential apartments; and no apartments can be sold to outside parties.

All labour laws prevailing in the state will also be applicable to these SEZs.

The project would have 8.8 million square feet of built-up space, of which 70 percent would be for IT and IT-enabled services and would employ 90,000 professionals.

The project is now at the crossroads with nothing happening after the foundation stone was laid a year back.

The Dubai team is upset because for the project’s first phase, only 136 acres were granted SEZ clearance last year and the remaining 100 acres are yet to get the clearance.

Sarma said: “The registration process of 136 acres would be completed soon.”


Another hold back for delayed KochiSmart City project

The already much delayed Rs.15 billion ($375 million) information technology park, the Smart City project, in the state's industrial hub Kochi, received a further jolt Wednesday when the Kerala government changed its stand once again on the project's Special Economic Zone (SEZ) status.

The project, being implemented jointly by the Kerala state government and Dubai Internet City (DIC), was supposed to come up according to the rules and guidelines laid down in the agreement between DIC and the state government.

According to central government regulations, SEZ projects in Inda are entitled to a number of tax benefits and easier regulations.

The Kerala government, however, has declared an SEZ policy which is more restrictive than the central government norms and a state minister Wednesday said these more stringent norms will now be applicable to the Smart City project.

The state's Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan had, however, said last month that the state government's SEZ policy would not be applicable to the Smart City project.

Yet, Wednesday this stand appeared to have been reversed when the state's parliamentary affairs minister M. Vijayakumar told the state assembly in reply to an opposition question that the state SEZ policy would be applicable to the Smart City project as well.

'Kerala has floated a policy guideline with regard to SEZs and that would be applicable to Smart City project like it is applicable to the 10 new applications for SEZs that have been cleared by the state government and forwarded to the Centre,' Vijayakumar said.

At a post cabinet meeting briefing here last month, Achuthanandan and the state fisheries minister S. Sarma, who is also the chairman of the project, had said that the new SEZ guidelines would not be applicable for Smart City.

Instead, the rules and guidelines laid down in the agreement between DIC and the state government would be followed.

When Vijayakumar reversed this stand Wednesday, the entire opposition was on its feet demanding an explanation from Achuthanandan.

To wriggle out of the situation, Achuthanandan, said that the opposition need not expect a reply from him in the manner in which they want.

Soon the entire opposition was on their feet but Speaker of the assembly K. Radhakrishnan cooled down tempers and said that all issues could be looked into during the course of the assembly session.

The project would have 8.8 million square feet of built-up space, of which 70 percent would be for information technology and information technology enabled services and would employ 90,000 professionals.

The project is now at the crossroads with nothing happening after the foundation stone was laid a year back.

The Dubai team is upset that for the project's first phase, only 136 acres of land was granted SEZ clearance last year and the remaining 100 acres is yet to get the clearance.

Another grouse they have is that the state government has still not given any concession to them with regard to registration and stamp duties on land transactions.

The conditions for SEZ that has been cleared by Kerala's Left coalition government include: no agricultural land will be acquired for SEZs; land will not be acquired for sanctioning SEZs in the private sector; no rebates will be allowed for electricity; Panchayati Raj rules will be applicable; tax holidays will be there only for 10 years; 70 percent of the land will have to be used for industrial purposes and the balance 30 percent for residential apartments; and no apartments can be sold to outside parties.

All labour laws prevailing in the state will also be applicable to these SEZs.

With Smart City's fifth board of directors' meeting scheduled for next month, all these issues are likely to come and it remains to be seen what stand the government will take in that meeting.


Funds row, Smart City issue set to rock Kerala assembly

The Kerala assembly session starting on Monday is likely to see some sparks fly as the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) is ready to take on the government on issues like the alleged misutilisation of central funds and the delay in the much-hyped Rs15bn Smart City IT project in Kochi.

The Congress-led UDF, the 43-member opposition in the state assembly, says it is all set to “expose” the failure of the two-and-a-half-year long V S Achuthanandan government.

“We will expose the failure of the Achuthanandan government and the reason why this government, in order to cover up their failure, last month staged a protest in Delhi. Never before has the central government pumped in funds to Kerala through various schemes and the government has made a mess of it,” said Congress leader V D Satheesan.

The funds that Kerala received from the central government include the Kuttanad package and the Idukki package. They have brought in funds to the tune of Rs30bn meant for revival of the state’s now-defunct agriculture sector.

“The state government, instead of blaming the central government, if it had prepared the detailed project report for the Kuttanad package, the centre would have released the funds by now,” Satheesan said.

Among the other central schemes that have not been properly utilised include the national rural employment guarantee scheme, the national rural health mission and the tsunami rehabilitation package, for which the term ends in March 2009, he added.
The Smart City project coming up in Kochi, the Rs15bn IT project to be built by the Dubai based Smart City, would be another issue that the opposition would take up.
“It is more than a year since the foundation stone for the project was laid and since then nothing has happened. Now they are dictating terms and hence the government is caught on the back foot,” Satheesan said.

But state Parliamentary Minister M Vijayakumar said that the government was doing its job.

“We have now reached the half-way mark of our term and from now on we will be consolidating the foundations that have been laid on the various projects and programmes. We have done several programmes and without doubt we can say that this government in a short period of time has certainly put its best foot forward,” Vijayakumar said.

He, however, admitted that time was lost in dealing with certain controversies. – Indo-Asian News Service.


Protest over SmartCity Kochi delay

Thrikkakkara East and West mandalam committees of the Congress will observe Sunday as “a lost year” marking the completion of one year of the laying of the foundation stone of the proposed SmartCity Kochi project.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Benny Behannan will place a wreath where the foundation stone was laid on November 16 last year. This will be followed by a protest march to the Kakkanad junction where KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala will inaugurate a public meeting to protest the delay in implementing the project. K. Babu, MLA, will preside. District Congress Committee president, V.J. Paulose; United Democratic Front district convener, K.P. Dhanapalan; and former minister, Dominic Presentation, will speak.

A high-level delegation from SmartCity is set to arrive in the city next week to discuss the proposals of the core committee to expedite the progress of the project and to reach a decision on them.

A core committee with the district collector as chairperson was formed to recommend solutions to the twin problems— the relocation of a Public Works Department (PWD) road and that of the installations of the electricity department —on the 100 acres of the project area.

SmartCity Kochi agreed to share the cost of reconstructing the dormitory complex and relocating the air quality monitoring station of the KSEB. However, the company disagreed over the estimate of Rs.1.04 crore presented by the electricity department for the reconstruction of the dormitory complex. But at the same time it accepted the estimate of Rs.3.40 lakh for the relocation of air quality monitoring station.

The officials will meet the district collector and the core committee members to discuss the issues related to the proposal on cost sharing for relocating the installation and other structures of the electricity department.

The visit is part of the efforts of the promoters to expedite the process of securing the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) status for the project. At the last meeting of the director board, the SmartCity officials, in the presence of Fisheries Minister S Sharma, who is also the chairman of SmartCity Kochi, had said that the construction works of the project will start only after getting the SEZ notification from the Centre.

Even though the registration of the land and stamp duty exemption are still pending, SmartCity has decided to sort out other critical issues, a release issued by the company said.

“Today our immediate priority is obtaining the stamp duty exemption and to secure the SEZ status for SmartCity Kochi in order to begin the construction. We have been and will continue to do everything in our hands to remove the bottlenecks and expedite the progress,” said Fareed Abdulrahman, Chief Executive Officer of SmartCity Kochi.

SmartCity Kochi has, in principle, agreed to relocate the PWD road on its own. However, this is yet to be approved by the board members.

SmartCity Kochi will lay the alternative to the PWD road complying with international standards, and on completion it will be handed over to the district administration, the release said.

Meanwhile, SmartCity Kochi has written to the district administration requesting possession of nearly 19 cents within the 100 acres that was not part of the original land deal.

A high-level team of Dubai-based Tecom, which is partnering the Kerala government for SmartCity, is arriving here next week to sort out various issues pertaining to the project.

Though the foundation stone for the project was laid a year ago, civil work is yet to begin. Moreover, it is alleged that Tecom is trying to delay the implementation due to world economic turmoil.

However, Fareed Abdulrahman, CEO of SmartCity, says, “Our immediate priority is to obtain stamp duty exemption and secure SEZ status for SmartCity to enable us to begin the construction. We have been and will continue to do everything in our hands to remove the bottlenecks and expedite the project.”

The proposed land for the project is divided by a river and, therefore, requires two separate approvals for SEZ status. Currently, the project has SEZ status only for 134 acres. The approval for the other 100 acres of Brahmapuram land, which has Kerala State Electricity Board's installations, is pending with the Centre.

The Tecom officials will be meeting the district collector and the core committee members to discuss issues related to cost sharing for relocating the installation and other structures on the 100 acres.

Meanwhile, SmartCity has, in principle, agreed to relocate the PWD road inside the project land at its own cost. However, this is yet to be approved by the board members. The company has proposed to lay an alternative road.

Further, SmartCity Kochi has already approached the district administration to acquire approximately 19 cents of the land located in the heart of the 100-acre land parcel, which was not part of the initial proposal.

SmartCity Kochi authorities are yet to respond to the proposals of a core committee formed to look into the hurdles in the progress of the proposed project.

“We have already forwarded the proposals to the State government. It is now for the project development team of SmartCity Kochi to study the recommendations and submit a proposal to the company authorities for approval,” said District Collector M. Beena. This, she said, was not happening at a great speed at the moment.

A core committee with district collector as chairperson was formed to recommend solutions to the twin problems - the relocation of a Public Works Department (PWD) road and that of the installations of the electricity department – on the 100 acres of the project area.

She said that a State-level meeting is on the anvil to follow up on the proposals of the core committee. The discussion is expected to take place on Monday on the sidelines of a meeting to discuss the land acquisition for the second phase expansion of Infopark.

Unless a final decision was reached on these two issues, the promoters would not be able to approach the Board of Approval for SEZs of the Union government seeking SEZ status for 100 acres involved. Meanwhile there are reports that Fareed Abdulrahman, the chief executive officer of SmartCity Kochi, might visit the city in the next few days. In that case, efforts would be made to broach the issues with him.

At its first meeting held on October 18, the core committee had recommended the SmartCity Kochi authorities to relocate the PWD road on its own citing the procedural delay if it were to be undertaken on a cost sharing basis with the government.

Since the company was a direct beneficiary of the road, it had an equal interest in the quality of the relocated road.

The committee had also approved the estimate of Rs. 2 crore placed before it by the PWD for the relocation of the road. SmartCity Kochi agreed to share the cost of reconstructing the dormitory complex and relocating the air quality monitoring station of the electricity department. However, the percentage of cost sharing between the stakeholders was yet to be decided. The committee’s recommendation to the company was to reconstruct the dormitory on its own to avert any procedural delay. While SmartCity disagreed over the estimate of Rs. 1.04 crore presented by the electricity department for the reconstruction of the dormitory complex, it accepted the estimate of Rs. 3.40 lakh for the relocation of air quality monitoring station.

However, all these proposals of the committee were subject to the approval of the director board of the SmartCity Kochi.


SmartCity Kochi panel submits proposals

A core committee formed to look into the hurdles in the progress of the proposed SmartCity Kochi project has drafted a set of proposals.

These proposals would now be forwarded to the State government and the director board of SmartCity Kochi for consideration, District Collector M. Beena, chairperson of the committee, said.

The committee was asked to recommend solutions regarding the relocation of a Public Works Department (PWD) road going through the middle of 100 acres of the project area and that of the installations of the electricity department.

The committee approved the estimate of Rs. 2 crore placed before it by the PWD for the relocation of the road, the Collector said. Considering the procedural delay if it was to be done by the PWD, the committee suggested SmartCity do it on its own, she said.Since the company was a direct beneficiary of the road, it had an equal interest in the quality of the relocated road. The proposal would be adopted subjected to the approval of the director board of SmartCity Kochi.

Regarding the relocation and the reconstruction of the installations and structures of the electricity department, the recommendations evolved at the meeting would assume clarity only after the modalities were worked out.

SmartCity Kochi agreed to share the cost of reconstructing the dormitory complex and relocating the air quality monitoring station of the electricity department. However, the percentage of cost sharing between the stakeholders is yet to be decided, she said.

The committee recommended that the company reconstruct the dormitory on its own to avert any procedural delay. SmartCity Kochi refused to bear any cost on the relocation of the sedimentation tank and pump house, citing a legal advice it had received on the matter.

Dr. Beena said the committee would recommend exploring the possibility of relocating these facilities at the expense of the government. As per the estimate this would cost Rs. 42 lakh. She said it was highly “unlikely” that the electricity department would bear the cost since its position from the very beginning was that it should not be overburdened.

The Collector said there would be ample time to relocate the facilities, as the construction in the area where they were being positioned would be taken up only at the fag end.

While SmartCity disagreed over the estimate of Rs. 1.04 crore for the reconstruction of the dormitory complex, it accepted the estimate of Rs. 3.40 lakh for the relocation of the air quality monitoring station.

The Infopark in Kochi will complete its five years of existence on November 1. The IT park, established on November 1, 2003, will celebrate the occasion with a week-long programme from November 1 to 7.

The Infopark was started with four companies and less than 50 employees on 80 acres of land taken over from the KINFRA Export Promotional Industrial Park.

At present, the Infopark has 50 IT companies, including those from the US, Europe and Australia and 8,000 IT professionals. Its present turnover is Rs 500 crore. It was Rs 66 crore in 2004- 05. The Infopark also possesses 106 acres of land.

State Information Technology Secretary Ajay Kumar, who is also the chairman of the Infopark, told to this website's newspaper on Thursday that the Infopark could achieve 85 percent software export growth in the previous fiscal while at the national level only 25 percent growth was registered.

"The Infopark could also attract various IT firms like the Smart City, the TCS, Wipro and the Larsen and Turbo to Kochi. Kochi is a fast growing city and the Infopark can achieve a lot in the IT field in Kerala," he said.

"We are proud that we could complete preparations for starting three Infoparks in Cherthala, Ambalappuzha and Koratti which will be a milestone in the history of Infopark, Kochi. All these parks will be operational within three years," said Infopark Chief Executive Officer Siddarth Bhattacharya.

Infopark senior business development manager Nisanth Kumar said that at the time of its launch the Infopark had only 1-lakh sq ft building - Thapasya.

Currently, the Infopark has 22-lakh sq ft building and the construction for another 22-lakh sq ft is in progress, he said.

It was in July 2004 that the Wipro, one of the leading firms in the Infopark, started its operation in Kochi.

The Larsen and Toubro started its operation in 2005.

Infopark senior technical advisor K Kurien said that as part of our celebrations, we are going to launch new projects like health club, monthly journal, shopping complex, club-house and guest house on the campus.


SmartCity Launches Connect Magazine

SmartCity, a joint venture between TECOM Investments and Sama Dubai, is set to launch a magazine, Connect, to increase the interface between the knowledge-based industry and SmartCity stakeholders.

The magazine will be launched at the forthcoming GITEX, the technology exhibition featuring Information Technology players in Dubai.

It forms part of SmartCity’s strategic move to augment its marketing activities to attract international, regional and local businesses to its strategically located destinations such as SmartCity Malta, SmartCity Kochi and TECOM Business Parks in Dubai.

“We are very excited about the introduction of Connect – which aims to provide cutting edge insights from today’s thought leaders and promoting industry excellence. Connect is in line with SmartCity’s vision to create a global network of self-sustained business townships to foster the knowledge economy by Connecting SmartCity locations,” Fareed Abdulrahman, the chief executive officer of SmartCity, said in a statement issued from Dubai announcing the launch.

He said the first edition of the magazine would feature insights and opinions from Symantec and the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Communication in Malta, along with many other key individuals within the knowledge-economy industry.

The magazine targets CEOs, CFOs and key decision-makers in IT, media, and the knowledge economy. It would cover a wide-range of topics including business and technology trends, interviews and opinion articles from influential people.


SmartCity promotes Kochi and Malta at GITEX 2008

At GITEX 2008, SmartCity, a joint venture between TECOM and Sama Dubai, both members of Dubai Holding, is presenting landmark status updates of its current projects in Kochi and Malta.

SmartCity is actively marketing the development of knowledge based communities, like SmartCity Malta and SmartCity Kochi, to senior CIOs, knowledge workers and IT professionals from some of the Middle East’s most dynamic business and government organisations, as well as developers from the world’s leading IT companies.

Held in Dubai, GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK 2008 builds upon the global interest in the Middle East’s ICT landscape by presenting a power-packed week of dedicated trade segments, which includes GITEX Business Solutions, GULFCOMMS and Consumer Electronics. Focusing on the region’s fastest growing sectors – these three distinct, yet closely related segments, deliver focused forums for key buyers and decision-makers from across the region.

On Tuesday 21st October, Claudio Grech, SmartCity Malta CEO, will be delivering a presentation to a series of potential regional operators, explaining how SmartCity Malta is set to become the European ICT and Media destination offering unparalleled services to its partners in the first knowledge-based township in the region.

Commenting on the developments, Fareed Abdulrahman, SmartCity CEO said: “SmartCity Malta and SmartCity Kochi are the first two nodes in a top-tier global network of excellence townships. In the next few years, both of these SmartCity entities will open up a world of opportunities not only for the people of Malta and Kerala, who will benefit from new jobs, but also for the knowledge-based industry that will now have access new markets, talent pools and business partners. This will create prosperous and educated societies underpinned by long-term and extensive networks of life and work opportunities.”

SmartCity aims to create a global network of self-sustained business townships to foster knowledge-based businesses in strategically located destinations worldwide. These townships will harness commerce by providing an environment conducive to business, intelligent infrastructure and advanced support systems. SmartCity entities worldwide, will be home to a vibrant knowledge economy anchored by international, regional and local companies. The SmartCity strategy is based on the successful models of Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Dubai Knowledge Village.
SmartCity Malta, developed in partnership with the Government of Malta, has just received permits to begin construction from the Malta Environment and Planning authority (MEPA) and is set to become the leading ICT and media cluster in the heart of the Mediterranean. It will also be the first European outpost of the SmartCity global network. On completion, which is expected to be in 2021, SmartCity Malta will offer a combination of ICT and media office space, hotels, a conference centre, retail, food and beverage outlets, residential units and open public spaces. The USD300 million knowledge based township, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, is the largest foreign investment in Malta and is expected to create 5,600 jobs.

SmartCity Kochi is a joint venture between SmartCity and the Government of Kerala, on a site of 246 acres in the rapidly expanding Southern Indian state of Kerala. SmartCity Kochi is currently undergoing the necessary procedures to obtain the SEZ notification from the Authorities. Construction will commence when full approvals are received. SmartCity Kochi will eventually become a regional destination for knowledge-based industries in Kerala. SmartCity Kochi will also host a number of business support services as well as residential, hospitality, retail and recreational facilities. The project has an employment generation potential of 90,000 jobs.

The South Indian state of Kerala is encouraging UAE investors to set up special economic zones and technology parks.

The state is talking to several leading UAE investors including the SS Lootah Group, non-resident Indian groups and Emaar MGF.

SmartCity Kochi, a joint venture between the Government of Kerala and Dubai's Tecom, is an Rs17 billion (Dh1.28bn) project to develop 8.8 million sq ft of built-up space. Other UAE investors are keen to participate in IT projects in Kerala, a senior government official told Emirates Business.

Dr Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Information Technology, Government of Kerala said: "We are currently negotiating with leading business groups from the UAE like SS Lootah and NRI bodies for joint IT projects in the state. We are offering several key projects with special economic status to UAE investors including a 450-acre technology project in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital.

He said Emaar MGF, the Indian subsidiary of UAE-based Emaar, is also negotiating for an IT special economic zone in Kerala.

Dr Ajay said the Kerala Government was also considering a plan to encourage small and medium-sized NRI groups from the Gulf region to set up IT parks in rural and semi-urban centres throughout the state.

"The UAE-based SS Lootah Group is keen to have a major presence in Kerala's IT sector and we are not feeling depressed about the current slowdown in the US and European markets, the main source of business for IT outsourcing firms," he added.

Projects includes a 25-acre site in Kollam with special economic zone status. Investors would have to use 70 per cent of the area for industrial operations and 30 per cent for commercial developments such as convention centres, recreational facilities and socio-economic infrastructure.

The expected investment for one project is Rs300 crores. In Cherthala, six five-acre units are available and the investment sought is Rs50 crores per project. In the same city there are plans for a technocity – an integrated IT township – covering 60 acres. An 80-acre technocity project in the same city needs hotels, convention centres and recreational facilities worth Rs800 crores.

N Radhakrishnan Nair, CEO of Technopark Thiruvananthapuram, said the centre was undergoing major expansion involving the addition of a further 92-acre section and a 450-acre technocity. He said the Taj Group has commissioned a business class hotel inside the Technopark.


Smart City Kochi project director

Smart City Kochi has decided not to renew its contract with Baju George, project director and acting company secretary. Mr. George’s contract with the company ended on September 30. Sources in the Smart City said, “His contract ended in September and he decided to move on.” “Currently, Chief Executive Officer Fareed Abdulrahman and Business Development Officer Mithun Beeru are the designated Smart City Kochi officials interacting with the government. When a new project director is appointed, his job would be to develop the project rather than to interact with the authorities,” said sources.


SmartCity Kochi work awaits notification

Fisheries and Registration Minister S. Sarma has said that the date for launching the work on Smart City can be fixed only after the 136 acres of the project land receives Special Economic Zone (SEZ) notification from the Union government.

The statement dashed the hope that Monday’s director board meeting of the prestigious project would come up with a definite date.

Addressing presspersons after the board meeting, Mr. Sarma, who is the chairman of the project, made it clear that no tentative date had been fixed.

Asked how much time it would take to get the work started, he said that it depended on the time taken to receive the notification from the Union government.

The Board of Approval for SEZs of the Union government had granted approval in principle to 136 acres out of the 246 acres of project land identified at Edachira, near here, in March.

However, the SEZ status gets formally conferred only after the board issues the notification.

Mr. Sarma said the SEZ Commissioner and other officials would visit the project area as part of efforts to issue the notification.

He, however, said the visit would take place only after a settlement was reached on a case filed by a person in the Kerala High Court against displacement.

This, he said, will take a couple of weeks.


New SEZ policy not applicable to Smart City Kochi: Kerala CM

New SEZ policy not applicable to Smart City Kochi: Kerala CM
Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan today said the new Special Economic Zones (SEZs) policy, formulated by the state government with certain norms and regulations, would not be applicable to the Smart City Project in Kochi.

Replying to questions after weekly-cabinet briefing, VS said ''the new policy will not be applicable to the Smart City and other projects like Techno park, set up by the Government.''

Achuthanandan said since the Smart City and other similar projects were established with the initiatives by the government at the government land and already entered an agreement with the government, the subsequent norms or policies would not be applicable to any of these projects.

The state government had come out with a policy, setting the norms and regulations for establishing SEZs in the state recently, since there was some confusion as to how the SEZ policy could affect the Smart City project, which was approved on the basis of different criteria with regard to utilisation of land area.

The Rs.15 billion ($350 million) Smart City project, being worked jointly by the Kerala government and Dubai Internet City (DIC), aiming to put Kerala on the global IT map, will not come under the new special economic zone (SEZ) policies, said chairman of the project and state Fisheries Minister S.Sarma.The project would have 8.8 million square feet of built-up space, of which 70 percent would be for information technology and information technology enabled services and would employ 90,000 professionals.

Speaking to reporters here Wednesday, Sarma said the new SEZ guidelines will not be applicable for Smart City. Instead, the rules and guidelines laid down in the agreement between DIC and the state government will be followed.

“The different phases of the project would also be governed by the agreement,” said Sarma.

The minister’s statement comes at a time when early this week Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan cleared 10 SEZ applications subject to 13 conditions put forward by the state government.

The conditions include: no agricultural land will be acquired for SEZ; land will not be acquired for sanctioning SEZ in the private sector; no rebates will be allowed for electricity; Panchayati Raj rules will be applicable; tax holidays will be there only for 10 years; 70 percent of the land will have to be used for industrial purpose and the balance 30 percent for residential apartments; and no apartments can be sold to outside parties.

All labour laws prevailing in the state will also be applicable to these SEZs.

The project is spread over an area of 246 acres, of which 136 acres of land in the first phase of the project was granted SEZ clearance last year.

“The remaining will also be granted SEZ status at the opportune time,” said Sarma.

While much time has elapsed since the agreement to this project was inked in May last year and the foundation stone laid in November last year, the state government appears to be upset with Smart City officials for the delay in beginning construction work.

A overnment official said this issue would be taken up in the forthcoming board meeting of Smart City, slated to take place later this month.

Media reports indicate that the DIC officials are busy with another Smart City project at Malta and that has upset the state government here.


SmartCity kochi: families to relocate soon

The owners of the land identified for the proposed SmartCity project are learnt to have agreed to relocate by the end of this month.

The authorities reached an informal agreement with the families living on a portion of the136 acres of land identified for the project at Edachira at a meeting held recently.

The families would leave after the Ramzan festival is over.

The promoters of the project, however, had taken a cautious approach, as it was not sure that the families would not backtrack in the last minute since the agreement was an informal one.

On the other hand the promoters were buoyed by renewed urgency by Fisheries Minister S. Sarma, who is also the chairman of SmartCity Kochi, to remove the various roadblocks in the implementation of the project.

Registration of land in the name of the promoters of the project and SEZ notification would not happen until the inhabitants were moved out. If this agreement materialises, 136 acres would be free of all obstacles to receive SEZ notification.

Though land had been identified and houses were being constructed for their rehabilitation, the inhabitants were yet to move out citing the non-completion of houses.

They have had already been given about seven months to shift.

The presence of inhabitants was one of the lingering obstacles that had been delaying the notification of the Board of Approval of the Union government for SEZ on the 136 acres.

The land forms part of the 236 acres included in the lease agreement between the promoters of SmartCity and the State government in last November.

Though the land had received in principal approval of the Board, the award of SEZ becomes formal only when the notification is issued.

One of the preconditions for this is that the land must be free of inhabitants and constructions.

In the meantime, it is pointed out, that the government can go ahead and declare waiver of stamp and registration duties ahead of the SEZ notification since the land had already received the in principal approval for SEZ.

Sources said that such an announcement would help boost the confidence of the promoters who have had been frustrated by the lack of any tangible progress ever since the foundation stone for the project was laid last November.


Emke Group plans Rs 1,200 cr shopping mall project - The Lulu Mall

The UAE based Emke Group is setting up India's 'biggest' shopping mall, including a 300 room hotel, at a rs 1200 crore investment at Kochi which is expected to be ready by 2010, a top company official said today.

The Lulu International Shopping Mall will be spread over 17 acres of land at nearby Edapally with a built ip area of 20 lakh square feet, Yusuffali MA, Managing Director of the Shopping mall and Managing Director of the Emke group told a press meet here.
Depending on the success of the project, similar malls would be planned in other states as well, he said.

Describing it as a ''dream project'', he said the plan is not only to build just a shopping mall but a landmark destination for both residents and tourists alike.

The facilities, brands, services, architecture, amentities would be comparable to the best in the world, he said.

The mall will have parking space for more than 3,000 vehicles.

The project is being built as per the best international specifications by world renowned consultants W S Atkins of UK and will house over 300 national and international brands of fashion, jewellery, electronics, life style, home furnishing, furniture and accessories, book shops and footwear.

Seven theatre multiplex, family amusement centre with bowling alley, six restaurants, a 50,000 square feet food court with 18 outlets and coffee shops are also being planned.
The project also includes a 300 room five star hotel and a commercial tower exclusively for the Airlines and Aviation sector.

An agreement has already been signed with the world renowned Marriot Hotels for the management of the five star hotel.

This is the first of its kind speciality commercial space in the region and is sure to complement the tremendous growth taking place in this sector, he said.

Hill International, a world leader in managing construction risk, has been given a contract by SmartCity Kochi Infrastructure Private Ltd. to provide project management services for the development of the SmartCity Kochi real estate development in kochi, kerala, India. The two-and-a-half year contract has an estimated value to Hill of approximately INR 373 million ($9.1 million).

Raouf S. Ghali, President of Hill's Project Management Group (International): "We are very excited to be entering the Indian market with such an important project. SmartCity Kochi will be a state-of-the-art business community."

The realty project will be based in the South Indian coastal city of Kochi, SmartCity Kochi in Kerala. UAE, especially Dubai, has innumerable number of workforce from this Indian state. The development will be built on approximately 300 acres. Another important feature of the project is the development of a sustainable township based on the U.S. Green Building Council LEED standard.


Govt approves 29 SEZ plans

The Board of Approval (BoA) for Special Economic Zones (SEZs) today cleared a total of 29 proposals to set up SEZs, including three proposals for conversion of in-principle approvals into formal ones. The Board recommended grant of 23 formal and six in-principle approvals.
Prominent among the formal approvals are four IT/ITeS SEZs in Kerala by Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited, another two IT/ITeS/electronic hardware SEZs in Andhra Pradesh by Godrej Real Estate Private Limited and Two more IT/ITeS SEZs were approved to be set up in Gujarat by Strength Real Estate and Gaurinandan Property Holders.

Two biotechnology SEZs in Andhra Pradesh by Lahari Infrastructure and a Biological E were also approved.

An SEZ for non-conventional energy, including solar energy equipment/cell SEZ in Gujarat by Euro Multivision was also granted formal approval.

An engineering SEZ in Tamil Nadu by Township Developers India was converted from in-principal to formal approval.

In-principle approvals were granted among others for a multi-product SEZ in Madhya Pradesh by Reliable Smart City.

The airport and aviation sector, including maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) SEZ in Tamil Nadu by Taneja Aerospace and Aviation Limited, was given in-principle nod as also a free trade warehousing zone SEZ in Tamil Nadu by Vikram Logistics and Maritime Services.

Kerala ink land lease agreement of SmartCity Kochi

Moving a step forward, SmartCity Kochi, the joint venture between SmartCity and the Kerala government, on Tuesday signed the lease agreement for the remaining 11.4 acres of land. This makes up the northern land parcel of 136 acres.

The agreement was signed by state IT secretary Ajay Kumar and SmartCity chief executive officer Fareed Abdulrahman in Thiruvananthapuram.

SmartCity Kochi will come up on a total 246 acres near Kakkanad, a Kochi suburb. It currently has an informal SEZ approval of 133 acres of the land.

The signing of this agreement is expected to enable SmartCity Kochi to progress with the SEZ notification process.

SmartCity Kochi is currently in the process of setting up a fully functional sales office in Kochi.

The sales office will allow direct contact with potential business partners and allow a more hands-on approach to the development and relations between SmartCity Kochi and its stakeholders.
Seeing the huge potential for specialised consultancy in the field of electro-mechanical design and supervision, UAE-based Specialised Engineering consultants, has opened its second office in the country.

With mega projects like Smart city and Medi city coming to Kochi, SpEC views Kerala as an area of vast growth potential, the firm's Managing Partners Syed Sabzada and Syraj Hamza said at a press meet here.

The company, which has offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, started its operations by opening an office at Kozhikode followed by the one at Kochi. There is lack of professionals at present in India to take care of the mega projects coming to the country, Sabzada said.

SpEC management team is associated with various projects in UAE, including Internet city, Media city, Knowledge village, Financity city, Dubai Sports city, Marriott Hotel among others. They are also involved in various Data Centre design projects for Emirate Airlines group, Dubai Mercantile Exchange.

Among its projects in India, SpEC has taken up the design and supervision of the Choice Group's Rs 50 crore tallest residential building in South India -- The Choice Paradise in Kochi which is expected to be ready by 2009.

It is also involved in the Rs 80 crore expansion project of the Le Meridian Hotel here for setting up convention centre, hotels rooms and a new shopping centre, the company's Director India operations Ashar Panakat said.

The current project list of SpEC worldwide includes US$ 670 mn, 3.2 mn square feet area development project comprising hotel and service apartment.
Total value of the projects designed and implemented by the consultants exceeds US$ 2.5 bn internationally.


Mouchel appointed infrastructure consultant for Smart City Kochi

Mouchel appointed infrastructure consultant for Smart City KochiUK-based consulting company Mouchel has been appointed as infrastructure design and implementation consultant of the Rs.15 billion ($357 million) Smart City Kochi project to be developed here. Smart City CEO and board member of Smart City Kochi Fareed Abdulrahman announced this here in a press release.

Mouchel’s selection comes two days after British firm Colin Buchanan was appointed to prepare the master plan for the project.

Smart City Kochi is a joint venture company promoted by the Dubai-based TECOM Investments, SAMA Dubai and the Kerala government.

The project will come up on 246 acres and once completed, it would provide around 90,000 jobs.

“Mouchel will develop and deliver advanced intricate infrastructure that will set a new benchmark for India. The state-of-the-art infrastructure that Smart City Kochi will provide will be unique and will create the ideal location where knowledge is placed at the fingertips of local, regional and international companies,” said Abdulrahman.

The first general Smart City Board to meet July 3

The first general body meeting of SmartCity Kochi stakeholders here today decided to hold the third board of directors meeting here on July three to discuss various issues including SEZ status for the project and the Master Plan.

The general body meeting, a statutory requirment, was attended by Chairman of SmartCity Kochi and State Fisheries Minister S Sarma, Additional Secretary, IT Dept, Sreela, Smart City Business Development Manager Sulaiman Al-Riyami, Marketing Manager Mithun Beru and Project Director Baju George.

Smart City Kochi is a joint venture between the Kerala Government and Dubai-based TECOM Investments and SAMA Dubai. Among the issues to be discussed by the Board of Directors will be SEZ status for the project, the master plan, the lease for an 11.75 acre of land lying in the project area and the removal of a PWD Road passing through the Smart City area, sources said.

The construction work of SmartCity Kochi is expected to begin by October this year, said S. Sarma, Minister for Fisheries and Registration and chairman of SmartCity Kochi.

He was briefing the media here after the annual general meeting of SmartCity.

The State government has completed formalities on its part for transferring the remaining 100 acres needed for the project from the Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

Now it is for the promoters Tecom to follow up the procedure, Mr. Sarma said.

Tecom was faced with the difficulty of not being able to register the 236 acres identified for the SmartCity project. While 136 acres has been given the SEZ status, Tecom is seeking the same status for the remaining 100 acres.

Failing this, the company will have to go for separate registrations.

Issues such as setting up of an office and relocating the PWD road that passes through the project area will be taken up at the next director board meeting, to be held here on July 3, Mr. Sarma said.

He presided over the annual general meeting. Baju George, acting company secretary, SmartCity Kochi; Sreela, Additional Secretary, Government of Kerala; Midhun Beeru, business development manager, SmartCity Kochi; and Sulaiman Al-Riyami, business development manager, Tecom, attended the meeting.

The meeting approved the budget and accounts.

It also ratified the appointments of Ajayakumar, State IT Secretary, and Anirudha Damkey, director of finance, Tecom, as director board members at the second director board meeting.

Tecom had earlier appointed Colin Buchanan, one of the leading United Kingdom-based multi-disciplinary consultants handling town master planning, urban design and traffic engineering, as the master planner for the project.


Colin Buchanan appointed as SmartCity Kochi consultant

Colin Buchanan - SmartCity Kochi consultantSmartCity Kochi has appointed Colin Buchanan, a noted U.K. multi-disciplinary consultancy, as the master planner for its upcoming project in Kakkanad. “We will continue to consult the State government and the local community on our joint IT/ITES vision”, said SmartCity CEO and Board Member of SmartCity , Fareed Abdulrahman.

Smart City Kochi is a joint venture company promoted by Dubai-based TECOM Investments, SAMA Dubai and the government of Kerala.

The project will come up in an area of 246 acres of which 100 acres have already been given the status of special economic zone (SEZ).

It would also see a record 90,000 jobs being created.

The decision to appoint the British firm was announced in a press release issued Sunday from Dubai by Fareed Abdulrahman, Smart City CEO and board member of Smart City Kochi.

"Smart City will develop the master plan in consultation with Colin Buchanan," said Abdulrahman.

"At the same time we will continue to actively consult the state government and the local community on our joint IT/ITES vision to ensure the success of the self-sustained business township."

State IT secretary Ajay Kumar told IANS: "Everything is going according to the plan of action that the board of directors have prepared. The board meets once every three months."

Colin Buchanan is one of the UK's leading multi-disciplinary consultancies dealing in town master planning, urban design, regeneration, economics and development, transport and traffic engineering and has extensive experience in implementing new and innovative solutions for its global clients.

Colin Buchanan, which has prepared a master plan for Smart City Malta, was recently awarded the NCE Consultants of the Year Award 2008 in recognition of its high profile projects like Crossrail, and ULTra Heathrow Terminal 5.

Smartcity Malta Masterplan

Smart City Malta ModelSmartCity Malta Board of Directors registered the impressive response and market interest received from Maltese, regional and international companies looking to relocate their operations to SmartCity Malta. This will, in turn, lead to the creation of quality job opportunities for ICT and media knowledge-workers and professionals. The Board emphasised that all these positive steps secured to date, were a reflection of the successful public-private partnership that is SmartCity Malta.

This was stated by the Board when it convened today to discuss the current status and subsequent steps of the project following the success of SmartCity Malta Phase One launch ceremony held in Ricasoli on Saturday (June 14).

SmartCity Malta, a joint venture between SmartCity and the Government of Malta, is part of a global network of self-sustained knowledge-based townships. SmartCity Malta is dedicated to the success of its business partners and the realisation of the knowledge-economy vision of Malta.

Following the internationally acclaimed launch of SmartCity Malta last Saturday, today the Board of Directors held extensive discussion regarding the construction of Phase One. The focus was primarily on the aspects related to the development of the infrastructure, health and safety frameworks, and the measures to be adopted to ensure that SmartCity Malta is developed in a sustainable fashion, not the least by the implementation of environment-friendly practices.

Another key decision made by the Board was the appointment of Claudio Grech as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for SmartCity Malta. On his appointment, Grech commented: "I am very privileged and honoured to be appointed to lead such a diversified and challenging project. I have today assured both shareholders that I will deliver my task to the best of my abilities, within the context of national aspirations for the ICT sector."

A new board member of SmartCity Malta was appointed. John Gatt, who is the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Communications, will be replacing Mr Grech as the Board Member appointed by Government.

Fareed Abdulrahman, CEO of SmartCity, stressed SmartCity's commitment to the mutual long-term vision of SmartCity and the Government of Malta stating that "SmartCity Malta will not only be developed in an environmentally sustainable manner, but it will also generate sustainable investments from local, regional and international business partners".

SmartCity Malta and SmartCity Kochi are the first two projects to be part of the global network of knowledge-based industry townships that SmartCity seeks to develop. This global network will foster productive linkages and tap synergies between knowledge-industry centres worldwide, thereby contributing to economic development.

Earthrace, the world’s fastest eco-boat in Kochi(cochin)

Earthrace, the world’s fastest eco-boat in Kochi(cochin)
Earthrace, the world’s fastest eco-boat, successfully underwent massive repairs in Singapore and will set off later today on the next leg of its world record attempt to Cochin, India, where it is expected to arrive on Friday 13th June.

Earthrace is a 24m tri-hull wavepiercer that runs on biofuel and is on day 42 of its attempt to break the world record for a powerboat to circumnavigate the globe. Despite the delays for repairs, the boat is still 1,556 miles ahead of the world record pace, set by the British Cable and Wireless team in 1998, despite sustaining significant damage in Palau and having to complete the last leg of the journey on one engine.


Route map of Kochi Metro Rail

Click on the route map for larger image

Kochi Metro rail route map - Click on the map to enlarge


Smart City Kochi: Two consultants short-listed

Giving impetus to the proposed Smart City project, a director board meeting of the company here on Wednesday short-listed two consultants for drawing up a master plan for the project. The names of the consultants would be announced as soon as the formalities in this regard are over.

“The short-listing of master planners for SmartCity Kochi is a defining step towards our commitment to the fulfilment of the project. The master plan will focus on creating complete business and community infrastructure keeping in mind the requirements of high-quality work environment for knowledge-based industries and the experience of a rich community lifestyle for its workers,” Fareed Abdulrahman, Chief Executive Officer of SmartCity, said.

The company had received proposals from four national and international players for preparing the master plan last year.

Though the lease agreement for the remaining 12 acres, which were excluded from the lease deed signed last November owing to the presence of inhabitants, was to be signed on Wednesday, it did not materialise.

The meeting inducted into the board as directors Anirudha Damkey, Director of Finance, Tecom Investments, and Ajay Kumar, Secretary, State Information Technology.

The company has taken steps for securing the Special Economic Zone status for the remaining 100 acres. In addition to this, efforts are being made to obtain another 167 acres for future development of the project.

The Board decided to participate in the forthcoming OutsourceWorld Exhibition in London to promote Kochi as a major centre of Information Technology and IT Enabled Services. Kochi will be showcased to the world as a hub for knowledge-based excellence.


Second Director Board meeting of SmartCity kochi held

SmartCity Kochi, a self-sustained township for the knowledge-based Industry, today conducted its second Board of Directors' meeting in which a lease agreement for additional land was signed, two Board Directors were appointed and as many master planners short-listed for the project here.

Kerala Fisheries Minister and Board of Directors Chairman S Sarma and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SmartCity Fareed Abdul Rehman signed a lease agreement for an additional twelve acres of land for the project.

Recently, the Board for approval of Special Economic Zone(SEZ) at the Centre had accorded SEZ status for 136 acres of land and steps were initiated to obtain the same status for the remaining 100 acres of land, which had in-principle SEZ approval of the Board.

The Board, which met to take stock of the recent developments and to decide on the future course of action under the Chairmnaship of Mr Sarma, also short-listed two master planners for the project.

Mr Fareed said '' the shortlisting of the master planners was a defining moment and they will focus on creating a complete business and community infrastructure for the project.'' The Board had also decided to induct Director of Finance TECOM Investments Anirudh Damkey and Secretary to Department of IT Ajay Kumar as new members.

The first Directors' board meeting was held on December, 2007.

The Vice-Chairman Abdul Lateef Almulla, Project Director Babu George, Business Development Officer Deepak Padmanabhan and Jamal Abdul Salam, were among others present on the occasion.

The Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan laid the foundation stone for the multi-crore project, promoted jointly by Dubai-based Tecom and the State Government, on November 16 last year.

Smart City Kochi 3D Model The board of directors of the proposed Rs.15-billion Smart City project here in Kerala late Wednesday evening decided that the work on the project would commence in October 2008.

Addressing reporters here after the three-hour long meeting, chairman of the board and state Fisheries Minister S. Sarma said the consultancy for the preparation of the master plan would be agreed upon within the next 10 days.

Dubai Internet City (DIC) officials, who will be building city, were also present at the second full board meeting of the Smart City project after the agreement was inked last May.

'Work will begin in October. We have now got special economic zone (SEZ) status for 100 acres of the total 246 acres. We will try and get the SEZ status for remaining area also,' Sarma said.

The project was finally cleared last May, nearly three years after it was first mooted. When complete, it would have 8.8 million square feet of building, of which 70 percent would be for IT and IT-enabled services.

The second director board meeting of Smart City will be held at the Taj Malabar here on Wednesday at 5 pm.

All director board members are expected to attend the meeting. Fisheries Minister S Sarma who is the chairman of Smart City Kochi, IT secretary Ajayakumar, Tecom chief executive officer Abdul Lathif Al Mulla who is the vice-chairman of the Smart City, executive director of Smart City Fareed Abdul Rahman, Dubai Internet City director Jamal Abdul Salam and project director Baju George will attend the meeting.

The lease agreement for the remaining 11.5 acres of land for the Smart City project is expected to be signed during the meeting. The master planer for preparing the master plan of the Smart City will also be finalised during the board meeting.

Tecom officials have not yet submitted an application to the Union Government for approving the 100 acres land acquired from the KSEB, as Special Economic Zone.

The first director board meeting of Smart City was held on December 2007. But the registration of the 234.5 acres land handed over by the government to Tecom on November 15 2007 had not been conducted as the State Government has not exempted stamp duty and registration fee.
Kerala Private bus soon tracked through global positioning system (GPS)Private buses in Kerala will soon be tracked through global positioning system (GPS) and passengers will get all the information they need virtually on their fingertips.

The Kerala State Bus Operators Federation, with a fleet of 20,000 buses plying across the southern state, has hired fleet management services provider Dhanus to install the automatic vehicle locator and asset protection system.

Both passengers and service operators will be able to track buses on a specific route, its timings and other details on their computers or on mobile handsets using a web-interface or a mobile WAP interface.

Within a year, the entire fleet of the KBOF will be equipped with the tracking system that helps monitor the buses constantly by sending real time information.

When a bus meets with an accident, a message is sent automatically.
“With this initiative, transport owners in Kerala will be able to provide passengers with instant information on the location, arrival and departure timings of every bus via the Internet and SMS,” A D Sudhindra, executive chairman of Dhanus Technologies, said.

A gadget costing Rs30,000 is installed on bus which can then be trackeded via satellite and the information about the vehicle can be made available in almost all Indian languages.

“Close to 85% of the buses in the state are operated by KBOF members and this initiative will ensure that both regular passengers and tourists have accurate bus schedule information on their finger tips,” KBOA president A K Abdullah said.

“This technology would be a boon for passengers and operators who will benefit from the real time tracking information system. It’ll also help us make the operations cost-effective,” Abdullah said.

It even allows the operators to monitor the fuel tank.
An LED display screen placed in the bus would display in English and Malayalam details such as the next stop and the distance and time that would take to reach the destination.

“It will be extremely useful at times of breakdowns and accidents. It also helps increase passenger safety by keeping a check on the speed. Dhanus would be offering a web interface in Malayalam, Hindi and English, enabling access to both natives and foreigners,” Abdullah said.

The bus operators also expect to generate additional revenue by allowing advertisers to reach their target customers through static and dynamic advertising content, including audio visual elements which can be displayed in the buses.

Dubai Internet City (DIC), one of the largest managed ICT clusters in the world and a member of TECOM Investments, today announced 112 new companies have chosen to locate their operations at the cluster during 2007, which translates to 33 per cent growth over 2006.

The new entrants include global companies such as British Telecom, Qualcomm, Google, Layton International, Telecom New Zealand, Dimension Data, Logo Business Solutions and VeriSign, top-tier names in the ICT sector.

Malek Al Malek, Director of Partner Relations at DIC, said: 'Since inception, Dubai Internet City has played a critical role in actively developing the regional ICT industry. Through our initiatives, we have successfully taken a lead in bringing knowledge and expertise to the region in collaboration with our business partners. The direction that Dubai Internet City moves reflects the rate that our business partners are also growing in the region. Together we have put DIC in the forefront of this region's ICT industry maintaining consistent growth while enriching the business community with international companies.'

Several reasons have fuelled the region's ICT sector's growth in the last year including increased government spending on IT, a highly advanced infrastructure, availability of qualified cadres and the UAE's political stability and security - a key factor for attracting foreign direct investments and international companies.

Many of the existing companies in the ICT cluster have doubled or expanded their premises, resulting in 84 per cent growth rate for rented area in 2007 against 2006. Dubai Internet City has facilitated the set up of over 1000 IT companies in the free zone offering a plethora of business benefits for its business partners including a platform for networking, partnerships and business developments.

Riding the crest of success, Dubai Internet City's parent company TECOM Investments developed the SmartCity concept to take the successful model beyond Dubai's borders in partnership with Sama Dubai, a Dubai Holding international property development entity.

The alliance has resulted in the establishment of self-sustained townships in two crucial locations - SmartCity Malta, Europe and SmartCity Kochi in the southern Indian state of Kerala - with more in the pipeline. Research and statistics from specialized companies in the UAE and MENA region indicate that the size of the ICT sector in the UAE during 2007 surpassed US$2.85 billion with an accumulated annual growth rate of more than 20%.

According to research conducted by IDC and Gartner BMI, the accumulated annual growth rate will maintain double digit momentum until 2011 when the size of the ICT market in the UAE will reach $4.1bn. Hosting most of the Fortune 500 companies as well as more than 1,000 specialised industry leaders from diverse segments of the information and communication technology sectors, Dubai Internet City has emerged as a global ICT hub, while catering to the region's increasing focus on knowledge-economy. Currently DIC is home to around 14,000 professionals, working in different ICT sectors.

The way for implementation of the Smart City project in Kerala’s port city of Cochin has been cleared with the federal government granting special economic zone status (SEZ) to the mega IT facility.

The board of approvals (BoA) for the SEZs, which met in New Delhi yesterday, has granted the SEZ status to 136 out of 246 acres of land acquired for the project, said State IT secretary Ajay Kumar. The remaining area was not considered along with 136 acres as it is separated by a river.

The BoA has sought a separate application for SEZ status for 100 acres of land acquired from the Kerala Stat Electricity Board. Ajay Kumar said the application would be submitted before the next meeting of the board next month.

The last BoA meeting deferred a decision on the SEZ status following a complaint filed by one Kuruvilla, alleging that the land for the project was acquired without ensuring proper rehabilitation of the displaced. The board rejected the complaint after considering the explanation furnished by the state government.

The project promoted by the Dubai-based TECOM in joint partnership with the Kerala government, envisages creating 8.8 million sq ft of built-up space and supporting infrastructure for IT and IT-enabled service companies.

The SEZ status brings a slew of benefits to the developers. They include 10-year tax holiday, Exemption from duties on all imports for project development, 10 per cent FDI for all manufacturing activities, speedy approvals, clearances and customs procedures and dispute resolution etc.

There will be no foreign ownership restrictions in developing zone infrastructure and no restrictions on repatriation. The developers also get freedom to develop township with residential areas, markets, play grounds, clubs and recreation centers without any restrictions on foreign ownership.

Smart City project director Baju George told reporters at New Delhi after the BoA meeting that the master plan for the project would be submitted next month. “We are hopeful that we would be able to begin the work on the infrastructure project by September”, he added.

The Smartcity has already shortllisted four national and international companies for preparing a detailed master plan. The foundation stone for the project was laid by Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan last November.

The project modelled on Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Dubai Knowledge Village has an employment generation potential of over 90,000 jobs over 10 years.


Smartcity Kochi masterplan - Four companies shortlisted

Dubai-based Smartcity has shortlisted four national and international Companies for preparing a detailed master plan for the Rs 2,000-crore IT infrastructure project in Kochi.

The Companies have been asked to submit their proposals, SmartCity Executive Director Fareed Abdulrahman said in a statement in Kochi.

The foundation stone for the project, a joint venture between Kerala government and Dubai Smartcity, was laid by Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan last November.

The project promises to offer business support services, residential hospitality, retail and recreational facilities.


USD 750 Million Kochi Metro rail project to start next month

Civil work on Rs 3,048-crore Kochi Metro Rail is slated to get cracking next month(April 2008). The Elevated Light Rail Kochi Metro PPP would be ready for public use in three years, according to M Vijayakumar, Kerala minister in charge of rail transport.

“Only about 26 hectares of land (as the rail in elevated) will be required. Of this 16 acres is of private ownership. Within a year, the necessary land acquisition can be completed,” Vijayakumar told the Assembly in reply to a question.

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Job Opportunity for 3000 - Tejomaya at infopark kochi is ready

Tejomaya is situated near Smart City Kochi

Inauguration: 15th March 2000 by Kerala CM V.S. Achutanandhan

Experience the beauty of bountiful nature within L&T Tech Park. As the name TEJOMAYA suggest, the building is resplendent with the effulgent energy pervading all over. Green-Tech in character, they are replete with energy efficient systems and state-of-the-art Technology: -

  • Built over an area of 4 Acres of land within the Infopark Campus.
  • Total built-up area of 4.00 Lakh Sq.ft.
  • Centrally Air-conditioned Space.
  • Highly reliable power system.
  • Building management system for optimisation of energy consumption.
  • Assured water supply & sewage treatment plant of 300m3 capacity.
  • DG Power Back up.
  • Fully equipped with the most modern infrastructure facilities.
  • Data-Voice Connectivity through multiple service providers.
  • Granite Flooring & Cladding in the entrance & lift lobbies.
  • Vitrified tile flooring in the atrium, service corridor, and toilets.

Kerala's FDI flows slip

Despite notching Dubai Tecom's $330-million Smartcity deal in Kochi and a high investor confidence in Assocham's recent survey, Kerala's FDI inflow has slipped a tad. FDI inflow in the last fiscal is lower by 0.26%, says Economic Review-2007 released by State Planning Board.

Tourism has been a reliable cash cow for the state, according to the new indications. Revenue growth through tourism is up by 17.9% in 2007-2008. Foreign tourist arrivals are growing by 19.3% per year.

In exports, the state had mixed fortunes. While export of tea, coffee and coir looked up, spices and cashew export suffered.

More state PSUs are on the turnaround track. Those in the black have ploughed back Rs 92.05 crore profit to state government in the last fiscal. Mining licenses have fetched Rs 26 crore to the state.


Kerala plans to develop IT parks in all districts

The state government has worked out a plan to develop IT parks in all districts in the state as part of its efforts to enhance its presence in the Information Technology sector. A state-sponsored company called Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd had been formed for this and consultants Pricewaterhouse Cooper entrusted to work out the project details.

The proposed IT parks would be in addition to the existing Technopark in the state capital, Infopark in Kochi and the joint venture Smart city coming up in Kochi.Some districts like Alappuzha, Palakkad, Kannur, Kasargod and Kozhikode had already submitted site proposals which were being examined by the government.

The IT department had drawn up a set of norms for the sites for the IT parks which included proximity to rail, road and air connectivity, basic needs like uninterrupted power and water supply and housing facilities. One park required at least 50 acres of land.

Dh1.8bn Sky City plan in Kochi by UAE

UAE officials are working with the Government of the Indian state of Kerala to develop a Dh1.8 billion Sky City project at the coastal city of Kochi. The proposal involves building an eight kilometre-long elevated highway above an existing 4.2km bridge that carries traffic over water.

The new road would be lined on both sides with 20,000 square metres of residential and commercial space.

Kochi is a booming commercial city in the southwest of the state flanked by the Arabian Sea on one side and hills on the other.

Sky City has been proposed as a solution to the city’s growing traffic congestion problems, which would not put pressure on the limited land resources in the area.

Three-storey apartments, shopping centres, leisure facilities and other amenities such as pedestrian paths and car parks would be built on the highway platform. There could also be helipads and marine transport.

“The UAE Government is currently studying the Sky City project in Kochi,” said Ashok Lal G, general manager of projects at the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation.

“The project involves the construction of a bridge up to eight kilometers long over an existing bridge and will use the space above it to build shopping complexes, offices and residential buildings.

“There is an acute shortage of land in Kochi to develop new roads and people are reluctant to give up their land for road development.

“Last December, a UAE delegation led by Younis Al Khoori, secretary of the UAE Ministry of Finance and Industry, and other senior government officials visited Kerala to boost UAE investment.

During their visit it was announced a new investment company, a joint venture involving the governments of the seven emirates, would invest in Kerala projects.”

The UAE has experience of reclaiming space for construction through projects, such as Dubai’s Palms and the World and Abu Dhabi’s Breakwater and Al Raha Beach development.

“We are trying to use Dubai’s expertise in growth and infrastructure development. Part of Dubai is reclaimed from the sea and we are confident Dubai companies will be actively involved in the development of the 20m to 30m high bridge above the existing Maradu-Thevara bridge and the development of residential and commercial buildings.”

The official said the Kerala chief minister’s office had approved the Sky City proposal.

Once the feasibility study is completed a memorandum of understanding would be signed by the two governments setting out details of the project’s structure and financing.

“The Government of Kerala will have to grant rights to build over the existing bridge and the Coastal Zone Authority will have to approve the project.”

The proposed development would have supermarkets, community halls, entertainment centres, restaurants, hotels, garment and jewellery shops, car showrooms, offices and business centres.

The plan also involves provisions for amusement centres, healthcare facilities, water sports, an oceanarium and a theme park.

The state government is working with Tecom to develop Kochi SmartCity, an information technology infrastructure project.


Kerala: Inflow of foreign tourists increases by 19.43 per cent

The inflow of foreign tourists to Kerala increased by 19.43 per cent in 2007 compared to the previous year, making tourism one of the fastest growing sectors in the State, according to Kerala Governor R.L. Bhatia.

In his address to the State legislature on Wednesday, he said that 4,43,594 foreign tourists visited the State in 2007. Tourism generated a revenue of Rs.9,126 crore for the State in 2006.

He said the Tourism Department would shortly come out with a ‘White Paper on Responsible Tourism’ to guide the government’s future policy initiatives in the sector. The government proposed to develop adventure tourism as a special attraction in the State. A hospitality management institute would be set up in Kozhikode and a ‘Board of Tourism Studies’ would be created shortly to improve the academic content of tourism and hospitality studies.

Smart City project

The Smart City project, formally launched in November last year, was expected to generate employment for 90,000 people in the IT sector. The government proposed to develop other IT cities/knowledge cities also in other parts of the State in view of the State’s emerging status as an IT investment destination, Mr. Bhatia said.

In the industries sector, the government’s approach was to convert the public sector units into profitable ones, rather than close down the loss-making ones. The State public sector Transformers and Electricals Kerala Limited had entered into a contract with the National Thermal Power Corporation for a joint venture. BrahMos Aerospace, a company under the Defence Ministry, had taken over the State public sector Kerala High-Tec Industries Limited. Indian Railways would similarly start a bogie manufacturing unit at Steel Industries Limited Kerala at Cherthala, he said.

Titanium sponge

The Governor said that discussions were in progress for a collaborative venture with a Russian firm for setting up a facility for the manufacture of around 10,000 tonnes of titanium sponge annually.


Turning hate into love, the ‘smart’ way

Smart City. The very name of the project used to irk the LDF combine as a whole.

The aversion V S Achuthanandan, the then Opposition leader, had towards the massive infrastructure development project for information technology was well known to everybody.

Even the former IT secretary dared not include the Smart City project in his maiden presentation of the IT roadmap before the Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan.

However, months later, when the criticism against the lackadaisical approach of the government towards the Smart City proposal went up, the LDF government woke from its slumber and asked the officials to talk with the investors.

The state government officials held talks with the representatives of the Dubai Internet City, the promoters of the Smart City project.

Still, V S Achuthanandan claimed he did not change in his belief that the promoters of the mammoth project proposed in Kochi are best known for real-estate business.

They don’t have any impressive expertise in running IT businesses.

However, the LDF government was committed to bring development to the State and would attract investors who are willing to go by the strict norms set by the government, they said.

By the time, several other claims of the LDF, when they were in the opposition, against the investors disappeared and the same promoters were showcased as the direct envoys from the Dubai Government.

After several rounds of negotiations between the government representatives and the Dubai-based firm, most of the contentious issues were buried alive.

In a bid to win an old political bet, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and his technology attendants spend more time and energy in proving the UDF agreement wrong before the public, than making any substantial changes that might have made the project agreement more beneficial to the State.

The 99-year lease and full rights over the Infopark stood tall among the other victories the LDF government won for Kerala.

But little was said about the last minute changes in the final agreement .

As per the latest agreement, the TECOM shall make only “best efforts to make 90,000 job opportunities”.

Let’s pray for all success to the TECOM initiative, though the company is yet to come out with a masterplan for the Rs 1500 crore project.


Chequered dreams of God's own country Kerala

Kerala’s belated attempts to prominently position itself in the global IT map have been generously sprinkled with troubles and hiccups.

Controversies and scams have become staple diet of the state. And it makes no surprise to see new contracts and controversies and shady deals come together in the same package.

The ambitious Smart City project, inked recently by the state government with the Dubai Internet City (DIC), too had its share of controversies.

The project has a chequered history of more than three years. When the previous Oommen Chandy-led UDF government originally envisaged the project, there were allegations that the main aim of the deal was to help real estate mafia.

There was strong opposition by the then Left-led opposition against the agreement, which envisaged selling 236 acres of land for a mere Rs 26 crores and to give DIC full ownership over the land.

It was also agreed to transfer the 62-acres of government-owned Infopark in Kochi to the DIC. The agreement didn’t allow any more IT ventures sponsored by the state government in Kochi, where the Smart City project was to come up.

All these were staunchly opposed by the then opposition leader V S Achuthanandan, who now as the chief minister clinched the deal last year, making the DIC agree to 246 acres of land at a cost of Rs.1.06 billion (Rs.106 crores) on lease for 99 years.

Then came the Merchinston scandal, involving the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which bought 81.50 acres of land in Thiruvananthapuram for an ambitious Indian Institute of Space Technology (IIST). It raged into a major controversy after the state government issued a notice to ISRO for “unauthorized purchase of ecologically fragile land”. The controversy is still raging on.

And the latest land scam, involving the state’s IT dreams is a proposed cyber city at Kalamassery in Ernakulam district.

Mumbai-based real estate company Housing Development Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL) purchased 70 acres of land from public sector Hindustan Machines Tools (HMT) at Kalamassery for building a Rs 4000-crore cyber city on a price much below the market rate.

Controversy arose after none other than the chief minister kept away from the foundation stone laying ceremony of the cyber city on January 19 after media reported anomalies on allocation of land to HDIL.

When asked, Achuthanandan went on record saying that neither he nor the state IT department had any idea of the project. Incidentally, the chief minister holds the IT portfolio.

The issue has put the state industries minister Elamaram Karim and revenue minister K P Rajendran in the dock, as they were the ones who gave the nod when revenue officials raised objections to the land deal.

Karim, who earlier maintained that the government had held discussions with the unions and management and that the deal was ‘impeccable’ in its entirety, had to backtrack it later, expressing readiness for a ‘review’ of the land transaction process.

He said that if the HDIL had been favored in any way that will be revoked. This is following the intervention of the Kerala High Court, which admitted a public interest litigation seeking CBI probe into the deal.

Those opposing the deal say that it was to favor the HDIL, as the realtor was allowed to do something other than ‘industrial’ and that it had no history of building IT parks anywhere in the country.

That there was something fishy about the whole affair can be gauged from the allegation that the ad for the sale of the 70 acres of land was given to two national English dailies having scant circulation in Kerala.

The ad was not given in any local dailies. It is argued that HMT had no authority to sell the land, as it was part of 878 acres of land allotted to the public sector unit free of cost for starting industrial ventures. The issue, as it stands now, is being examined by a committee of secretaries headed by the chief secretary.

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HDIL Cyber City Foundation laid in Kochi

Kerala Industry Minister Elamaram Kareem laid the foundation stone for the Rs 40-bn ‘Housing Development Infrastructure Limited Cyber City’ here yesterday even as Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan (pictured) kept off the occasion of the “most important” private sector investment in the state.

Much is being read into the absence of the chief minister, especially in the wake of the allegation that Hindustan Machine Tools did not have the mandate to sell “lease-held” land to another party.

However, district collector Mohammed Haneesh clarified that HMT had full right on the land since it hadn’t been a leasehold property. The State Government had given 100 acres unconditionally to the central PSU in 2000.

Brushing aside innuendos, Kareem said the project aimed at generating 60,000 direct and 150,000 indirect employment opportunities in the IT/ITES sectors.

He was upbeat, citing the raft of investments coming to the state, so far a laggard among the rest of the Indian States. Among projects on the anvil are Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority’s SmartCity, Shobha Hi-Tech City, both in Kochi, and an integrated industrial complex to be set up by Malaysian company SIDP, in Kozhikode.

Thiruvananthapuram-based Kerala Hi-Tech Industries Ltd (KELTEC) had been taken over by BRAHMOS, which would facilitate the first defence production unit in Kerala. Another important development was the Petronet LNG Terminal project, which would be completed by 2011, providing the much-needed supplies for domestic and industrial use.

HDIL Chairman Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan said the Cyber City would be Kerala’s first integrated IT township, comprising IT/ITES companies, residential apartments and villas, schools, shopping malls, a multiplex, a club house, serviced apartments and a star hotel.

Kochi has been ranked as the second most favoured IT/ITES destination by National Association of Software and Service Companies. Top IT companies from the country and abroad planned to set up offices at Kochi here in the next three to five years.

Besides generating employment for the local youth, the project would yield more than Rs4.25bn for the state government by way of stamp and registration duty and employee welfare and village tax.

Wadhawan said a German desalination water plant and power backup systems would be put up as part of the cyber city. “We do not want Kochi to go the Bangalore way, where the original city and culture have been virtually killed by the IT industry,” he said.

HDIL director Ashok Gupta said 70 per cent of the cyber city would be earmarked for IT/ITES, while the balance would be used for other purposes. HDIL is one of the largest real estate development companies in India with a market capitalisation of nearly Rs250bn ($5bn).

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