GIFT City is one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in the Indian infrastructure space and is being designed as a hub for the global finance services industry, writes Janaki Krishnamoorthi.Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City ), a multi-service SEZ (Special Economic Zone) with dedicated center for financial services is under development in Gujarat. First of its kind in India and to be developed on par with other such international centres, it will have an International Financial Services Centre (IFSC), IT/ITeS services, export oriented services in a multi services SEZ, while area outside SEZ will house domestic financial services along with residential, entertainment and social facilities supported by State-of-the-art infrastructure.A green field development, GIFT city, is being built at a total investment of around Rs 78,000 crores. Spread across 886 acres, it will have 75 high-rise buildings including a 400 m high tower, world class information communication technology with tier 4 Data Centers, India’s largest exhibition complex , a training center for skill development in financial and IT/ITeS sectors, a hotel, a club, golf course, international and CBSE school, a hospital etc.“Being the first IFSC in the country it will go a long way in facilitating foreign exchange earnings, creating employment and most importantly, making global capital available at competitive rates. GIFT also has the potential to generate around 0.5 million of direct jobs and equal number of indirect jobs” avers Ramakant Jha , Director-in-charge, Gujarat International Finance Tec-City Co. Ltd. (GIFTCL)But the multi focus development has invited criticism from several quarters charging the government of moving away from its main objective of setting up a financial centre. Jha however refutes the charges : “ Our focus is on financial services but no financial transaction can take place without IT/technology support . Further existing SEZ rules do not allow for a dedicated financial SEZ. Hence we had to opt for multi-product SEZ”GIFT City will have several unique features like the District Cooling System, being introduced first time in India for any commercial use, which will reduce energy, noise, vibrations, maintenance cost, and improve air quality; an Automated Water Collection System, which will maximize resource recovery and minimize impact on environment ; an artificial water body Samruddhi Sarovar. Gift city is also expected to be a zero accident and zero discharge city, with Water and Sewerage Treatment Plants.Though GIFTCL was set up in 2007 as a Joint Venture between Gujarat Urban Development Company Limited and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited, the ground work on the project began only in 2011. Of the 886 acres of land earmarked for the project, 673 acres have been acquired. MoUs (Memorandum Of Association) worth Rs. 11,700/crores were signed during Vibrant Gujarat Global Investment Summit 2011 with seven agencies. The project being executed in phases will take another ten to twelve years to be completed. As of now first phase of development is underway. “It is a very new concept where one developer takes care of all the developments including infrastructure . This is the first of its kind in terms of bringing the infrastructure upfront that too of international standards” points out Jha “ We will have infrastructure facilities that will reduce the operating costs. For instance the District Cooling System that will reduce the energy bills by 30 to 40 percent . contributing to the bottom line of those doing business in the city”Naturally a project of this magnitude has its own challenges. Explains Jha : “Infrastructure projects require longer time to break-even. It requires upfront investment and higher initial capital. During the initial years investment in infrastructure may not produce the desired results in terms of bringing the occupants to the centre. Since GIFT is a green-field project, achieving threshold critical mass which will self-propel the centre is also going to be a challenge”No doubt, GIFT City, when fully developed will be an exceptional gift to the nation.