Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Infosys campus updates.

As piling progresses at a hectic pace at the Infosys Trivandrum campus, the final design renderings have become available. This 165,000 sq.ft. block will be part of the first Phase of the 1.5 million sq.ft. campus.

The first phase will be ready towards the end of 2008, and the entire campus within three years.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tune in to Radio Mirchi, Big FM and Sun FM....

Trivandrum is the only city in Kerala to host the likes of Radio Mirchi and Big FM, India's biggest FM players. Sun FM, member of the Sun Network, the biggest media conglomerate in the South, and Club FM, of the Mathurbhumi group are also set to be on air in Ananthapuri.

They have started test transmissions. Tune in and listen to how the air waves are sizzling.

Radio Mirchi - 98.3 MHz

Big FM - 92.7 MHz

Sun FM - 93.5 MHz

And for those of you who are out of our lovely city, Arun has posted some clips on his blog.

Tune in folks!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

It is Aliiiiive!

Stepping a bit away from the lovely city of Ananthapuri, let me use this post to mark a seemingly obscure piece of news, which may seem academic at best and ghoulish at worst now, but may later be as significant as the midnight of August 15, 1947 or the announcement of the Theory of Relativity.

Simply put, a team of scientists in the US has managed to create the first completely synthetic genome. Goobledegook?! Well they have essentially created the DNA of a bacterium (okay, they haven't gotten around to creating Monica Bellucci's.....yet!) from simple chemicals. Although they copied the DNA blueprint of an existing organism, the technology can, in theory, create a completely new blueprint - a brand new living thing. Inventing that's quite something. As ethically controversial as the existance of God or abortion, it is nonetheless a landmark for science.

It may be nowhere as exciting as a mad-scientist running around yelling, "It is aliiiiiiveee!" (a la Frankenstein), but together with nanotechnology and quantum computing, this and other key streams of biotechnology will make the 21st century as different or more so from the 20th, as the 20th is from the 1st century BC!


A few more weeks have passed, and the stream of good news is growing stronger. Here are a few key highlights:

- The Developers' Conclave for Technocity and Technopark Phase III was held at Technopark yesterday. Most of India's top developers attended the discussion on Kerala's top IT project - Emaar MGF, Unitech, Raheja Group, Parsavnath, GMR, IVRCL, Embassy, L&T and so on. Even as a much-touted "IT City" came a cropper elsewhere as its shady background unraveled, Technocity seems to have drawn the attention of the who's who.

- Work started in full swing on the Infosys Campus.

- Approvals were received for the International Convention Centre Complex at Aakulam being developed by the Raheja Group. Work will start within a month.

- The Union Government has cleared the location at Vithura for the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, a world-class institute of higher learning along the lines of the IISc. The classes will start this Academic Year itself at the sprawling College of Engineering campus.

The IISER comes on the heels of the IIST as the second world-class education and research institute to be established in Trivandrum in recent days.

With institutions like VSSC, NIST, SCTIMST, CDAC, RGCB, TGBRI and others already present in and around the city, Trivandrum is now breathing down the neck of the likes of Bangalore and Pune for the title of the knowledge capital of India. When there are 10,000 researchers, academicians and students in one city, it is not hard to see why this is so!

- New apartments announced by Oceanus and SRK around Technopark. Oceanus Bliss is a super-luxury apartment project which is expected to scale new heights in pricing.

- A mall being developed by Nikunjam Group at Overbridge and another at Medical College by a private builders.

- A 42 acre township is being developed near Kumarapuram by the Total group at a cost of over Rs 750 Crores.

Stay tuned for a lot more in the next few days, especially so since the bids for Vizhinjam will be opened on the 31st!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Looking back at 2007.....(Part I)

As 2007 rolled in, we had taken stock of the previous year and predicted a list of what we could look forward to. In an ideal world, that wish list would have come true in its entirety, but in the real world, there are seldom Santas to fill the Christmas sock. So how did we do?

The 2007 list is reproduced below (in italics), with the current status immediately below in blue letters.

.....and what we can Look Forward to in 2007:

- Handover of Technopark Phase III land to real estate majors like Rahejas, L&T etc and IT majors like PCS, IBM, Satyam etc

The handover is yet to happen, but the land acquisition is finally in progress and should be complete in another month or so. An investor's conference has been called on Jan 24th to discuss the development of Phase III and Phase IV (Technocity) with leading international and national developers.

The Rs 6000 Crore Technocity, Kerala's biggest IT project, is expected to be in development by April 2008.

- Commencement of work on the 1.5 million sft, 12,000 seater Infosys campus.

* Yep, well on its way to completion.

- Commencement of work on the TCS Development Centre

* Not yet. The 1.1 million sq.ft is awaiting EIA approval and is expected to start work in another 2-3 months' time.

- Completion of Leela Infopark and IBS campus

* Yes, Phase I of the IBS Campus was inaugurated in September while structural work on the Leela building is complete and finishing is proceeding briskly. The first Phase of the Tata Elxsi campus has also become operational.

- Start of work on the 4-laning of NH-47, starting with the IT Corridor

* Not yet. The impasse between the State and Centre on allowing BOT projects caused a year's delay. Now that GoK has finally relented to the inevitable, the work is expected to start in late-2008.

- Award of tender for the Vizhinjam Project and start of civil work on the $ 1 billion megaproject

* The big one, and still pending. January 31st is the date now. Fingers crossed!

- Construction of long-distance bus terminal at Eanchakkal and upgradation of the Thampanoor terminal

* Both are pending as the quest continues to identify who takes these projects up. The only consolation is that both have found mention in the JNURM list and so should take off soon.

- Completion of Phase II development of Kochuveli railway terminal and start of work on upgradation of Trivandrum Central to a world-class station

* Both projects are underway, albeit at a slower pace than expected. The main tender for upgradation of Trivandrum Central on a PPP basis is expected to be handed out sometime in the middle of 2008.

- Start of new services by International and Domestic Airlines like Saudi Arabian, Etihad, Spiceject, Kingfisher, Go-Air, Indigo, Air-One etc

* Etihad and Kingfisher are here, along with a couple of other new airlines. The rest are still awaiting DGCA clearance, which is expected as soon as the current upgradations to the existing terminal complex are completed.

Meanwhile, the work on the New International Terminal at the Chackai is well on its way to completion in September 2008. The Second Phase of the Terminal will be completed concurrently, as AAI has tendered it out on a urgent basis due to the exploding passenger traffic.

Tenders have also gone out for the Air India MRO complex which is slated for completion in 10 months.

- Entry of top real estate players like Rahejas, DLF, Unitech, Ascendas, Emaar, Pantaloons and more and retail giants like Shoppers' Stop, Reliance, Westside etc into the Trivandrum market.

* Except for Ascendas, everyone else is in town. Stay tuned for more news of their projects.

- Opening of the five star luxury Taj hotel at Vazhuthacaud

* Not yet, finishing work is nearing completion. Extensive remodelling to meet the requirements of Taj has added nearly 18 months to the completion time of the project. The five-star luxury hotel is now expected to open in April 2008.

- High Court Bench in Trivandrum.

* With stout resistance from the entrenched lawyers and Judges of the Court, who show no sign of acceding to logic and agreeing to a Bench in Trivandrum, where the High Court really belongs, the issue is deadlocked. The Government has shown a rare sign of resoluteness by declining to sanction additional Judges until there is agreement to set up a Bench in Trivandrum. Despite the inescapable fact that most of the cases coming before the High Court being those related to the State Govt., the ridiculous state of affairs when the Court is located 200 Km from the State Capital continues.

So, 2007 was a mixed bag for Trivandrum and its citizenery, and for Kerala as a whole. While there was some progress in terms of developments in the IT sector and the Airport, most of the other initiatives still await salvation.

However, the end of the year and the beginning of 2008 have been brighter. As the Technocity and Technopark Phase III projects finally get into implementation mode, the tender date of Vizhinjam approaches and the agreement for the City Roads Project is renewed, things are looking up for all of us. Fingers and toes crossed of course!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Happy New Year

The New Year party at the Taj Green Cove was a real blast, and the dance floor pounded into the wee hours of the morning. But that is no excuse for being silent for so long into the New Year. Well, if there is something of the likeness of an excuse, it is that I wanted to start off 2008 with good news. And good news it is, galore, for my first post of the year.

Firstly, DLF-Hilton has officially made its presence felt in Trivandrum by putting its tag to a large property on the NH-47 Bypass, close of the Infosys Campus. No prizes for guessing that a super-luxury hotel is soon going to grown on this prime plot. And India's largest developer - DLF - is planning to develop multiple properties in the capital city. The arrival of DLF is in line with the growing flow of major developers southwards to Ananthapuri as they realise where the real market lies. DLF has been preceded by the likes of Oceanus, Unitech, Confident, SRK and Prestige. And many more are landing up.

While work on the 1.5 million sq.ft Infosys campus had been pending for a while awaiting environmental clearance, the latter has finally be granted and work has kicked off. Construction equipment is flowing into what will be the largest IT campus in Kerala. The work is being executed by the Consolidated Construction Consortium Ltd., which has replaced Sobha Developers who seem to have fallen out of favour.

After protracted efforts from all sides, the Kerala Cabinet cleared the compensation package for the first 203 acres of the mammoth 500 acre Technocity project. With this the way is clear for the implementation of the Rs 6000 Crore mega-project, the largest in Kerala. The international consultants for the project are expected to start the tendering process in the next two weeks, and major international and national developers are already in the fray. (Read the news report)

And reflecting all this, a report released yesterday by international property management agency, Knight Frank, ranked Trivandrum as the top city in India among Emerging Growth Centres on five parameters - real estate, people, business environment, physical and social infrastructure. Trivandrum got top scores on all the parameters.

Stay tuned for more, lots more!