An in-depth analysis of the Union Budget and the way forward for Smart Cities in India
CommonFloor.com, India’s leading realty portal, recently hosted its flagship event, The Boardroom Discussion, shedding light on two key topics – ‘Union Budget 2015-16: An In-depth Analysis’ and ‘Smart Cities – The Way Forward’.
The event, held at their corporate office in Bengaluru was a grand success with active participation by stalwarts from real estate, research and consulting institutes. The event reached a high with each panellist bringing thought-provoking ideas to the table.
Spearheading the discussion, Sumit Jain, CEO and Co-Founder, CommonFloor.com highlighted the need of incentives for affordable housing and the way forward for creating smart cities. “While the smart city concept in itself is a novel thought, but the real challenge lies in its implementation. To start with, the budget failed to address this key topic and how the government intends to push forward its vision for 100 smart cities.”
Commenting further on the Union Budget 2015-16, he added, “Overall, the Budget was a balanced one with more of long-term vision and undertone. It restores confidence on the India growth story and more importantly within India Inc. But, as far as real estate is concerned, it was a mixed bag. On the positive side, it aims to build a strong foundation for housing growth across the country. While on the negative side, the long-pending Industry Status demand has been quashed again. Moreover, the government also failed to roll-out key initiatives or measures that would help bring back consumers into the market.”
Following this, eminent speakers displayed positive outlook on the ‘overall budget’ which in a way is more “pro-investment rather than expenditure oriented.” However, from the real estate perspective, they felt that the budget didn’t meet their expectations as it failed to dwell on the low hanging fruits which were of paramount importance in bringing back consumers in to the market. Some of these common issues included ‘Industry Status,’ incentives to boost Affordable Housing, relaxation in taxes, land reforms, amongst others.
Further, elaborating on one of the positive impact of the Union Budget for the Realty sector, Praveen Kumar, COO – Commercial & Retail, BREN Corporation stated, “Rental income passing through REITs was a silver lining which will primarily benefit commercial players. Unlike earlier, there was at least some clarity given by the government towards REITs. ”
But later he opined that “the Budget was a complete let down for the realty sector which has already been reeling under tremendous pressure over the last one year. Expectations were very high with the sector hoping for some drastic initiatives by the government.”
Elaborating on the idea of smart cities and how different it will be from that of existing cities in the country, Nirup Jayanth of Jurong Consultants (India) Pvt. Ltd. said, “The first stage is enablement, wherein the city needs to understand the several problems it faces through the use of technology such as censors and measuring devices, etc. to gather requisite information. In this, tech giants such as CISCO, Siemens, etc will have a major role to play.
Second stage involves understanding and analysing the gathered information followed by the third stage which involves responding to the information by using technology and thus becoming smart.”
Taking a different stance on the topic, Sanjay Ramanujam, CEO, BCIL said, “Step one is to evolve a set of matrix that can be used because leaving it subjective will increase the fuzziness. Further, there is a dire need to evolve a minimum set of definitions in various areas such as energy, water and waste as the idea of smart is to efficiently manage public resources using information technology.”
Deliberating on the major roadblocks for the smart city project, representatives of IIHS opined that, “in the context of Smart Cities, the process of creating Master Plan, which is of utmost importance, is yet to be clarified.”
Taking it further, Irshad Ahmed, President, Irshad Property Matters, said, “the whole concept of Smart Cities is a novel and well-intended move by the government. However, it requires equal involvement of all key stakeholders in the sector at large.”
Emphasizing on the much talked-about topic of Affordable Housing, P.K Mishra, VP-Procurement, Salarpuria Sattva Group said, “Just building homes would not suffice, there has to be adequate supporting infrastructure for holistic growth. And the government needs to address basic issues such as water, roads, power etc.”