Local Urban Spaces with Global Outlook: Nikhil Gandhi

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Nikhil Gandhi, Group President, SKIL Infrastructure Limited

In our Smart City, we want to present the best of business, living, learning, recreation, health and environmental conditions to the citizens, says Nikhil Gandhi, Group President, SKIL Infrastructure Limited, in an interview with Kartik Sharma and Sneha Mejari of Elets News Network (ENN)

Smart City has created a lot of buzz in the country today and the Government of India is keenly working on it. How do you view the concept of Smart Cities?

Smart City is one of the most powerful policy tools as far as our country is concerned. If even 20 to 25 Smart Cities are raised, it will add two percent to the GDP. The meaning of a Smart City has to be understood in totality, including in terms of development perspective. If a Picasso painting is given to you, and you are asked to re draw it, you cannot do it. Similarly it becomes difficult to convert an existing city into a Smart City. Even to extend a road or a bridge, we face thousands of problems. Hence the meaning of Smart City needs to be understood in totality that it is a Greenfield development.

I visited a place called Songdo 15 years ago, which was a barren land then, and Jerry Heings spoke to me about building a Smart City there. It was the first time I heard the concept of Smart City. After 14 years, when I visited the place again, I was surprised to see the magnificent development that had taken place. After discussing with various stakeholders like Singapore Company called JTC and German company called Siemens, I suggested my friends in the government that we should also have Global Cities with Smart Solutions. According to me, Smart Cities mean cities creating new jobs, creating new infrastructures, etc. Creating such Smart Cities will also help the neighbouring tier I and II cities become vibrant.

What according to you are Smart Solutions?

Smart solution is connected with smart security. For an example, if you are staying in South Mumbai, in a top class apartment and you leave for office, you are not sure whether your family is safe. The concept of smart security does not exist. So, we plan to provide a one-touch machine which will solve problems like this. These very one- touch solutions are smart solutions that help you when you are on the go. Our group has a legacy of building the first world class sea port, first world class railway, roads and SEZs, and the largest world class infrastructure to build submarines and warships as well. We will do the same while building a Smart City.

Brief us about the concept of ¡Orange Smart City©, which is your Smart City project.

We are planning to build a world class Smart City spread over 200 thousand acres of land, which is already in our possession, and it is located very close to New Mumbai. This land is close to a port and airport and hence convenient. I am glad that the policy is in place and a serious intent on the part of the government is in place, so we are about to close a world class partner for the same project. This is a project which will create a path for many others to follow.

How different is it for a Government to build a Smart City and a private player to do it?

I am a migrant to the city. When I migrated to the city, the population was nearly four million and now it is 19 million. People want to migrate to Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, etc., in search of better opportunities, which is lacking in their own cities. So, now we need to build new cities to decongest the existing cities and also to make them vibrant. The more the merrier. The biggest issue is acquisition of land. The policy of Smart City is out, the vision of the Prime minister is clear and so is the vision of the Chief Minister, but now we have to implement it. Somebody has to start. We are one among them and I am sure there will be many. I am happy to experience as powerful a concept as Smart City in my life time.

When I came here, the population was nearly four million and now it is 19 million. People want to migrate to Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, etc. Now we need to build new cities to decongest the existing cities and also to make them vibrant

What do you think about foreign players showing interest in the Indian Smart Cities projects?

It is nothing unusual. The people who have developed a Smart City or are working on a Smart City or those who are users of Smart City or a contractor in some Smart City project have their experiences. Each stakeholder brings in a lot of experience. Such people coming on board alone will make the idea of Smart Cities a reality. I presume that the government should monitor such developments and leverage it for own benefit. The interest that the foreign delegation is taking in India is a good sign for India as well as the development of the concept of Smart City.

How important is the technology in the development of Smart Cities?

Technology is the only medium, which can make the concept of Smart City possible. We are talking to Israel because they have a phenomenal understanding of the infrastructure. So, we have taken all sides on board and will keep all technology providers in focus. While doing this, we should also understand that just making a world-class city is not enough, running them is more crucial.

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