"As of now an investment of Rs 10,500 crore has already been committed for GIFT City.""

GIFT (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City), an ambitious pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is India’s first international financial services centre and seeks to compete with global financial hubs like London, New York, Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong. The city has made considerable headway with several domestic and global companies setting shop here. In a tete-a-tete interview with Manali Jaggi of BW SmartCities, Ajay Pandey, MD & Group CEO, GIFT talks about the progress made on the projects in the city and the Government’s impetus to this visionary venture.

As the Gift city campus was envisaged for job crea-tion, how many jobs do you plan to create in the next couple of years, direct and indirect? What is your Y-O-Y target?

GIFT City has made significant progress in creating both direct and indirect jobs. Approximately two years ago there were just 300 people employed at GIFT and today there are close to 8000 jobs created at GIFT City. We expect total employment at GIFT City to cross 9,000 by March 2018. Thereafter we estimate it to grow double every year.

What is the progress so far on the projects in the city? What is the total investment outlay for them?

GIFT City is India’s first operational smart city and only International Financial Services Centre. GIFT City’s Master Plan is for the 886 acres of land area is expected to have approximately ~110 buildings with ~62 Million sq ft of Built-Up Area (BUA), of which around 67% is the commercial , 22% is earmarked for residential and 11% is for social facilities. Currently ~2 million sq ft of commercial space is operational, and another 3 million sq ft is under development. As of now an investment of Rs 10,500 crore has already been committed for GIFT City. The city has an integrated development model which has been spread out in three phases. Each phase is designed as integrated sustainable development, for example, the first phase itself includes development of office space, residential, school, hotel, club etc.

Leading developers such as Hiranandani Group, Prestige Group, Brigade Group, ATS Savvy, World Trade Centre etc. have opted to participate in GIFT’s journey by developing the land packages offered to them. Large corporates namely State Bank of India, LIC, Reliance Capital etc. are also developing their office and residential buildings at GIFT City. 

In the wake of Maharashtra Government planning to set up an international financial services centre (IFSC) in Mumbai, do you think the idea of two IFSCs will be feasible in a country like India? Can two IFSCs co-exist in India too?

The GIFT IFSC has been developed under the policy guidelines of Government of India hence, this question should be directed to them.

What kind of regulatory tweaks do you demand from the Government to bring GIFT at par with other well-established centres worldwide?

Industry through their headquarters and associations have engaged the respective authorities to enable regulatory change that suits best for their businesses. GIFT is a beneficiary of that result. GIFT has benefited by a competitive tax regime and conducive regulatory framework which has provided an impetus to this visionary project. We look forward to the support from the industry to continue to drive the necessary changes in taxation, regulations and creating a vibrant business platform at GIFT IFSC.

What kind of steps are you taking to attract FPIs in the country when they can go to well-established markets like Dubai and Singapore?

To boost Ease of Doing Business for FPI, SEBI has allowed Foreign Portfolio Investors already registered with Indian regulators to trade on Indian bourses operating in GIFT IFSC. In addition, FPIs have been allowed to trade in commodity derivatives on IFSC bourses, this is an India’s first. GIFT IFSC provides benefits like nil Securities Transaction Tax (STT) and nil Commodity Transaction Tax (CTT). IFSC exchanges operate around 22 hours a day which cater to most of the global market. Apart from these benefits, SEBI allows already registered Foreign Portfolio Investors to operate in IFSC without any additional documentation. We believe with the large product portfolio, low cost of transaction, ease of doing business and large business opportunities, GIFT IFSC would become preferred destination for FPIs.

Do you think the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail project could lead to GIFT losing its competitive edge as the rise in connectivity may result in commercial activities getting centralised to the larger centre?

On the contrary, I think, it will help GIFT CITY by providing easy and affordable connectivity option between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. 

The Government in the Union Budget 2018 has announced to establish a unified authority for regulating all financial services in IFSCs in India, which has been your long standing demand. Your comments on this and other budgetary announcements?

The Union Budget 2018 is a growth oriented budget. The announcement of setting up of Unified Regulator and the exemption in the short-term capital gain tax for IFSC in India would help India achieve its full potential in the Global Financial markets. This would help GIFT IFSC to compete on equal footing with the global financial centres. Government of India’s initiative duly supported by all existing regulators would go a long way in establishing GIFT IFSC as a Global Financial Hub.

From an inclusion point of view, do these kind of insta-cities prove to be equitable for society at large? Since, GIFT city is surrounded by rural hinterland, what are you doing to provide enough jobs for those living around the city?

GIFT is India’s first operational smart city and Inter-national Financial Services Centre, GIFT City is a socially inclusive project. Developed as a Greenfield project, the City’s objective is to generate employment. The aim is to create half a million direct jobs and half a million indirect jobs both from services sector. This is first-of-its-kind in India and there are boundless opportunities for all – from support staff to the top management. Apart for hi-tech office buildings, residential complexes, entertainment arenas, the City also has one-of-its-kind aspirational and affordable housing project that will be operational soon for the support staff working in the group. The development of GIFT City has 40% open and green spaces, having green focus- all the buildings will be lead certified along with unique infrastructure like Automated Waste Collection System (AWCS), District Cooling System (DCS) etc. which are environment friendly.