Jan. 4--KOCHI -- The queen of the Arabian Sea is now a hot destination for real estate giants. What is unique to Kochi is, the city has attracted almost every domestic property developer worth its salt, and a slew of foreign companies, mostly from the Middle East.
Leading real estate developers like DLF, Sobha Developers, Ansals, Purvankara, Confident Group, Oceanus, Unitech, Nitesh Estates, Housing Development and Infrastructure (HDIL), Prestige Group, Emaar MGF and Parsvanath Developers have all descended upon Kochi, the financial and industrial capital of Kerala, during the last 6-8 months with a cumulative investment of over $2.5 billion. Prominent among the Middle East-based business groups that have forayed into Kochi are KGA Group of Kuwait, EMKE Group of Abu Dhabi and Indroyal. Some of them are also investing in the hospitality sector to set up luxury hotels chains.
Property prices in the city have appreciated by around 60 percent in 2007. During the past six months, half-a-dozen developers have announced their plans to enter Kochi; many have already acquired huge parcels of land. "Property development and real estate activities have overshadowed the state's booming tourism sector. This boom witnessed the emergence of many developers and projects," an industry observer and a former builder said.
Recently, HDIL purchased a 70-acre plot from the government-owned HMT and announced its plans to set up an IT park at Kalamassery, near Kochi. HDIL is also setting up a Cybercity in the HMT land, which will have IT space, hospitality, retail and entertainment projects. The total investment in the project is estimated to be around Rs 2,000 crore.
According to Kerala Builders Forum chairman George E George: "Till a decade ago, real estate activity of each city was driven by local builders." The bigger players acquired the financial muscle to launch multi-city operations after they raised resources through public issue route. "Even then, many of them missed the bus in Bangalore and Chennai as the rates peaked before their entry," he said. "I think they have spotted the opportunity in Kochi and are moving in early," he added.
Sobha Developers is setting up the largest township in Maradu, Kochi, called the Sobha Hitech City. Maradu is a high-potential suburb of Kochi with commercial projects, 5-star hotels, shopping malls and IT projects. The total investment in the project is estimated at around Rs 5,000 crore. Nitesh Shetty,CMD of Bangalore-based real estate firm Nitesh Estates, said the Kochi skyline has changed dramatically over the last few years and today it is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. "The city offers grand investment opportunities for real estate mainly due to reasons such as large NRI population who want to buy homes in Kochi and increasing IT jobs in the city," he said. His company recently acquired around 5 acres of land in Kakkanad near Kochi.
Similarly, in 2006, India's real estate giant DLF purchased 3.78 acres in Kochi from the state government for Rs 78 crore. The DLF Group is planning to build a shopping mall, a multiplex and a 250-room deluxe hotel in Kochi. "Cochin is poised for a quantum leap. The commissioning of Vallarpadom international container terminal and numerous IT parks will make Kochi the preferred destination for highly-paid executives," a senior HDIL official said.
Though builders have been focusing on Kochi, the supply is still grossly inadequate when compared to the potential demand, according to builders. For example, in Kakkanad, the city's IT destination, the Infopark alone will create close to 30,000 to 40,000 jobs in the next 3 years. But the supply by all builders put together would be just 10,000 to 12,000 apartments by 2010. Apart from this, the Smart City Project is expected to provide nearly 90,000 IT jobs in the next one decade. Several private developers are also developing IT parks in Kakkanad and nearby areas.
By Rajesh Unnikrishnan and S Sanandakumar
Friday, June 27, 2008
Posted by Vijaychandran Veerachandran at 11:43 AM