Prioritising Infrastructure

Prioritising Infrastructure

Experts at the virtual conference on April 28 discussed business opportunities in the state, large-scale construction projects, innovative finance mechanisms, and more.

This year, the Maharashtra Government has outlined its budget plan to prioritise infrastructure in a big way, indicating its intention and agenda for development. There are several significant urban projects in the city of Mumbai alone, from the metro rail to the Mumbai Coastal Road, Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, Virar-Alibaug multimodal corridor, Mumbai Eastern Waterfront project and sewage treatment plants. Further, the mega Samruddhi Mahamarg project, a multimodal highway between Mumbai and Nagpur, has caught the fancy of many investors.

A virtual conference called Construction World Maharashtra, spearheaded by CW on April 28, addressed these and other projects in the offing for India’s richest state. Some of the biggest names from government and the public and private sectors discussed and provided insights on various aspects of this theme, from business opportunities and infrastructure finance to project status.

In his opening address, Suresh Prabhu, Member of Parliament and former Union Minister, Government of India, emphasised that construction is a sector that can boost the economy of India in a significant way. “The challenge of economic growth over the last few years has been seen all over the world,” he pointed out. “We need to find sectors in industry that create employment. And employment for all segments of society: the well-educated, the middle class and also those that offer manual labour as their contribution in the job market. Construction can offer each of these at the same time.”

What’s more, the sector offers demand for building materials such as cement and steel and, therefore, creates demand for manufacturing products. Architectural services, engineering services and EPC are other segments that can create jobs. “EPC has the potential to push India’s economy and, at the same time, create jobs,” said Prabhu. “And so, the twin benefits of creating jobs and adding to GDP can come from a single industry: construction.”

In addition, he congratulated CONSTRUCTION WORLD for doing such good work for the past so many years. Established in 1996, CW is India’s premier and largest circulated construction business magazine, covering projects, policies and people to topical concerns, trends, technology and products. This award-winning, flagship publication of Mumbai-headquartered ASAPP Info Global Group is circulated among architects and builders, material and equipment players, industry stakeholders, business leaders, policymakers and change-agents. The magazine’s website has over 180,000 unique visitors and around 4 million hits a month.

The virtual conference brought some of the world’s largest project developers, construction companies, investment banks and private equity firms together on the same platform.

Creating large-scale business opportunities in Maharashtra

This session delved into how large-scale business opportunities can be created in the state by encouraging large construction projects and innovative finance.

Moderated by Pratap Padode, Editor-in-Chief, CW, the distinguished panel for this session included Arun Nanda, Chairman, Mahindra Lifespaces Developers & Mahindra Holidays & Resorts; Ankur Gupta, President, KATERRA; Bharat Parekh, Executive Director, Infrastructure Research, CLSA; Anuj Puri, Chairman, Anarock Property Consultants; and Gurjot Bhatia, Managing Director, Project Management, CBRE India, Middle East and North Africa.

Education, logistics and manufacturing are the strengths of Maharashtra and these need to be rediscovered, agreed the panellists. From a construction perspective, they believed a lot more could be done at the policy level, especially the PPP domain. While much has already been done, this needs to be built on and areas of growth should not be confined to small portions but viewed from a more sustainable point of view. Also, small pockets of land areas in metros should be developed. With initiatives towards new and efficient technologies, infrastructure development in whichever way—whether it is affordable housing, roads or bridges—should take a quantum leap. Other areas of discussion included governance framework, making the state more investor-friendly and, most important, creating more employment opportunities to further boost the economy.

Mega project opportunities in Maharashtra

Discussing mega projects in the state, such as the Samruddhi Mahamarg, Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, Mumbai Coastal Road and Virar-Alibaug Corridor, this session dived into port redevelopment and future possibilities along the Mumbai Eastern Waterfront.

Moderated by Pradeep Udhas, Office Managing Partner - West, KPMG, India, the distinguished panel for this session included Jayant K Banthia, Former Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra; Dr Niranjan Hiranandani, Managing Director, Hiranandani Group; Vice Admiral IC Rao, PVSM, AVSM (Retd); Sarfaraz Momin, Founding Partner, StudioPOD, Mumbai; Chintan Patel, Partner, Real Estate Advisory - KPMG, India; and Ashish Puntambekar, Principal Planner, Construction World Maharashtra.

Three presentations were made at this session, two of which focused largely on the Mumbai Eastern Waterfront project. A 966.3-hectare waterfront is being transformed into a sea transport and tourism hub as a part of what is currently considered to be Maximum City’s most ambitious and biggest ongoing project, which is to come up from Sewri to Sassoon Docks. About 500 hectare of this property is available for development, 253 hectare of which is up for redevelopment. Of this, 193 hectare will see roads, gardens, recreational areas and open spaces. The plan is to build a Hi-Tech City on the remaining 60 hectare, which is expected to generate employment for about 3.4 lakh people, and to have an arcade for commercial and residential purposes as well as one people can walk through. Along with outlining the citizens’ vision plan for the project, the discussion delved into the facilities and amenities that the project will bring, besides the opportunity to make the city more liveable and attractive to international business.

Secured governance with innovative project financing

The discussion in this session revolved around project financing based on secured governance (urban equity withdrawal) as well as innovative finance mechanisms such as PPP and other asset monetisation plans.
Moderated by Suneet K Maheshwari, Managing Partner, Udvik Infrastructure Advisors LLP, the distinguished panel included Dr P Sekhar, Chairman, Global Smart City Panel; Shailesh Pathak, CEO, L&T IDPL; J Padmanabhan, Director, CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory; and Supratim Sarkar, EPV & Head Infrastructure, SBI Capital Market.

Secured governance and sustainable future planning are the need of the hour to help in the holistic development of infrastructure: physical and social, housing, and finance mechanisms. Highlighting the National Monetisation Pipeline and the huge inventory of assets, the session brought into focus Maharashtra’s core and non-core assets that have the potential to raise Rs 75,000 to Rs 1 lakh crore through asset monetisation. The panellists also discussed areas of focus for the public sector and reforms that can drive monetisation.

Indeed, the virtual conference, presented by CONSTRUCTION WORLD and supported by National Highway Builders Federation, India BIM Association and the Association of Welding Products Manufacturers, was a successful and insightful event.

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