SmartCity Kochi project not shelved, says CEO

SmartCity Kochi project, the planned IT township in the Indian state of Kerala to be developed by SmartCity, a subsidiary of Tecom Investments, has not been shelved, the head of SmartCity has said.

SmartCity Kochi is a joint venture between SmartCity and the Government of Kerala, spread on an area of 246 acres.

“The project has not been shelved. However, there are a lot of documentation and formalities that have to be finished before we start the project. For example, since the project is planned to be a Special Economic Zone [SEZ], SmartCity has to fulfill various criteria. Once we meet these criteria we’ll be able to get an SEZ status,” Fareed Abdulrahman, CEO, SmartCity, Dubai, told Emirates 24|7.

However, he said there are many issues that need to be sorted out.

“For instance, there is the issue of SEZ. As part of the agreement between SmartCity and the Government of Kerala signed on May 13, 2007, there has to be only one SEZ in the project, but later it was rejected and we were told that we’ve to split one SEZ into two or three SEZs,” he said.

Additionally, Abdulrahman said there is the issue of freehold land rights that was made clear in the framework agreement, but now the authorities are in denial mode of providing the freehold rights to us.

There are other issues as well such as stamp duty exemption, shifting of the PWD (public works department) road that has to be shifted so that we can apply for an SEZ status, since SEZ land has to be devoid of any construction or structure.

However, Abdulrahman added: “Negotiations are underway between us and the Government of Kerala to remove the hurdles and start the project. We have put forward a number of suggestions and proposals to the authorities in Kerala on how to move ahead towards resolving these issues, but we’re yet to receive a positive response. From our side, the responses have been positive and we remain committed to the project.”

SmartCity is a global network of self-sustained townships for knowledge-based industries based on the model of Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Dubai Knowledge Village. Currently, SmartCity’s projects are SmartCity Malta and SmartCity Kochi. Phase I of SmartCity Malta was launched on October 10.

“Soon we’re going to start the Phase II of the project after the tender process gets over and after we get a few permits,” Abdulrahman said.

In Kochi, he said, SmartCity has so far invested in land acquisition, master-planning and the design of the project.

“Additionally, we’ve finished the fencing of the entire project land and are also marketing the project even though the project has not started,” he added.

Asked when does he believe the project will take off, he said: “As far as we’re concerned, we expect that by the first half of next year the project has to start. We are of the belief that India has a lot of potential and we don’t believe there are any choices left before us.”

“We’re committed to finish off one SmartCity project, deliver it, and then move to building another such project in other Indian cities,” he added.

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