Mahindra Jaipur SEZ overtakes elder sibling Chennai on company count
Seeks Multi-Product SEZ Nod, Plans To Develop Social Zones To Match Southern Sister's MNC Might, Product Depth
When JCB decided on Pink City for its third plant in India in 2013 and was running down a list of locations offered by Rajasthan government, Mahindra World City Jaipur (MWCJ) also came up as one of the options. By then, the integrated city, commonly known as Mahindra SEZ, had already brought on board pedigree brands like Infosys, Deutsche Bank and MetLife among others.
“We had a look at the MWCJ. But the officials there suggested we go to Mahindra World City Chennai (MWCC) to get a feel of the reality of the vision conceived for Jaipur.Our survey team did visit the facility and came back very impressed. That's how we settled for MWCJ,“ recalls Vipin Sondhi, managing director and CEO of JCB India, which has so far invested Rs 630 crore in the plant.
Today , with 68 companies (both operational and signedup), the Jaipur SEZ has now overtaken Chennai's count of 64 even though it started developing the park four years after its southern counterpart did.But numbers could be misleading as the size of investments, number of jobs and the multifarious impact of MNCs in Chennai far outweigh those in Jaipur. The fact that Chennai was already a destination and was building on its potential in sectors like automobiles, IT and apparel gave it the advantage that Jaipur never had. In the tourist town, MWCJ itself had to drive the industrial ecosystem.
But for the Jaipur project that had to weather in its nascent days the challenges of global recession starting 2008 and minimum alternate tax (MAT) and DDT levied on SEZs, the current customer base has now given it the long awaited beachhead to undertake the next stage of development that includes building residential and social infrastructure.
“It's really heartening that now we have more companies in Jaipur than in Chennai although the profile of the customers and the quantum of their investments are different. But the SEZ has a healthy mix of high-breed and promising local companies. This has provided us a vantage point to plan for the non-industrial areas that includes residential and social infrastructure. We have already done primary and secondary surveys to crystallize a strategy that will be announced soon,“ said Sangeeta Prasad, CEO, Integrated Cities and Industrial Clusters at Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd.
In the past few years, the rush of companies has almost used up its domestic tariff area (DTA) spread over 500 acre. Being double the size of Chennai facility and the 3000acre Jaipur SEZ diverted 500 acre more to DTA from the 946 acre dedicated for social zone for meeting the increased demand. Also the expectation that once its multi-product SEZ application is approved, the attractiveness will go up manifold. MWCJ, which is Asia's first project to receive C40 stage-2 certification for being climate positive, has three sector-specific SEZs along with a DTA like in Chennai.
“Our stance is that SEZ is good but if we can come up with a solution like multi-product SEZ, it will expand our customer outreach. Jaipur facility will be practically one of the very few in the country to offer such a product and help us build more social infrastructure,“ said Prasad.
When Chennai SEZ opened for business, it had lot of tailwind going for it as the economy was on a tear and the appetite for SEZ was at its peak. The fact that it could completely lease out the SEZ area covering 850 acre out of 1550 acre is a testimony to that. Currently , the domestic tariff area and residential zones are on the last leg of expansion with some 40-odd acres left. And on display is the reality of the integrated city the Mahindra group conceptualized making a departure from the popular trend of single-product industrial clusters during the heydays of the SEZ movement. After creating livelihood opportunities by attracting companies and the SEZ has already built residential blocks along with social infrastructure like Mahindra World City School, a hospital, retail facilities, playgrounds, etc.
Infosys, which was the first to set up its unit in MWCC, today employs 16000 people. “The MWCC has lived up to its promise. After setting up the Infosys unit in 2005, we have scaled up the headcount to 16,000.The speed of growth has also added pressure on transportation. We are now urging the MWCC to efforts to increase the number of coaches of the trains connecting the SEZ,“ said Ramdas Kamath, executive vice-president, Infosys.
While the Chennai experience may have encouraged companies like Infosys, Wipro and TTK Healthcare to set up new units in Jaipur, the incumbents here have also given a thumbs-up to the SEZ by expanding their operations. Prasad said most of the new leases done last year came from existing customers. Shirish Jain, executive vice-president of Nitpro, the global leader in knitting needle manufacturing, said they have taken 5000 sq mtr more land here to diversify into new verticals like home décor and fashion accessories.