The entire masterplan of MET Smart City is ready in advance
What was the thought process behind coming up with such a unique model township? It was around 2005 when we discussed exploring a large SEZ that can meet the new infrastructure requirement of the country. But many things happened thereafter, as quite a few SEZ benefits were withdrawn, difficulty in acquiring land from the government, and so on. We contended on what we had already purchased and planned to develop the 8,000 acre of land. Due to SEZ having its own set of problems, we expanded the scope to an integrated industrial township. We term it as an integrated industrial greenfield smart city that will become a self-sustaining town of its own having 1 lakh population by the end of this decade. What is the current status of the project? The project was ideated in 2006 with an initial plan to develop a large SEZ. However, due to some unsolicited issues, in 2010 we intentionally scaled down and expanded the scope from being just an SEZ to an integrated industrial city led by domestic tariff area and social infrastructure. Since then we are developing it as an industrially focussed integrated smart city. Today, it has reached a stage where out of the project plan area of 8,000 acre owned by us, 2,500 acre of land is being developed in the first phase. We are proud to share the fact that approximately 1,300 acre of land has already been snapped up by 400+ companies out of which 25 units are operational and another 50 units are under construction. Around 25,000 people are already working in MET City amongst various companies, and the employment number is increasing by the day, as more and more companies are getting operational. Apart from industrial land, we have also sold more than 1,500 residential plots to make MET City a truly inclusive city with plug-n-play infrastructure. As of date, MET City has seen an estimated US$ 1.2 billion investment and is shaping up the future of the region in economic development and employment generation. What were the initial challenges faced by you once the project was green flagged? How did you overcome it? Acquisition of land was amongst the first and foremost challenge for us. Fortunately for us, we had highly supportive management, as we paid a handsome price for the land to the farmers. It was around 10 times the market price at that time. But the bigger challenge was holding the land and the aspirations of the people. We voluntarily announced a sustenance allowance called annuity for the farmers. We are paying them INR 30,000 per acre per year, with an increase of INR 1,000 per annum for 33 years. We are the only company in India who have such a voluntary announcement. The challenge was to maintain a healthy relationship with more than 6,000 farmer families who were eventually happy with our offerings. Establishing the trunk infrastructure was another big challenge for us. Our parent company Reliance Industries did not wait for the investment to flow in, it rather invested its own money in the external infrastructure with the clear policy of infrastructure preceding investments. These were some of the initiatives we took and overcame the sustainability challenge of basic infrastructure needs. What smarter interventions have been planned to make this a world-class infrastructure development project? There are a few important elements that make this a smart project. For any industrial enterprise to be successful, power plays a crucial role. For this smart city project, we have taken a direct connection of a dual circuit transmission line from the national grid itself. Out of the dual source transmission lines, one is already operational while the other is under planning. We have further established a GIS-based 220 KV Substation that has the potential to supply 320 MVA power which is enough for around 3,000 acre of land. The entire electrical infrastructure has been laid underground, based on smart city concepts like RMU and CCS, instead of open transformers. While we laid the cables, we did not bury them, instead, we made proper trenches for the cables so that future maintenance becomes easy. Similarly, for water, we are not dependent on the local government supply. We have taken allocation of surface water source from NCR canal of 50 million litres per day (MLD) of water. We have further established our own water treatment plant (WTP) consisting of the most modern technologies wherein the membrane base filtration system is there which is imported from Asahi, Japan. We also have commissioned an 18 km trunk water pipeline for water conveyance. The quality of the water distributed is so pure that people can directly drink it from the tap. The current regulations provide a certain percentage of renewable energy to be used, but we have installed three times of the minimum requirement. These are some of our sustainability efforts that made this project achieve Gold rating certification from IGBC. However, we are further working out on achieving some more points and we aim to attain a Platinum rating for this epic project. Currently, this is the only industrial township in the northern region that has been gold-rated by IGBC, and once we achieve a platinum rating, then perhaps it could be the only industrial project of its kind in the country with platinum rating. While you provide an integrated solution to any industry, is there any mapping done for providing the industrial units as against the residential area? Before establishing this township, we studied the development of a couple of SIDCs, typically known as industrial estates. It was found that most of the large industrial estates developed by various SIDCs took a long time to succeed, with the primary reason being the lack of social infrastructure. If one is developing an industrial township around 20-30 km away from the main town, and if the social infrastructure development is not provided to the people living in that township then the sustenance of the project will always be affected. Considering this study, the masterplan was made in such a way that industrial plots are on one side, and the residential plots are on the other side. In the residential plots, we are mostly providing affordable homes to all. Apart from this, we got approved separate guidelines from the government for dormitory living. Our current frontage of the 2,500-acre land is around 12 km on the state highway and right in the middle, we have provided a couple of plots for the workers to live in the dormitory. This is perhaps the only township wherein the workers’ accommodation has been provided right near the factory area. It is planned in such a way that the workers can avail the village facilities as well, as the plot is closer to the village, and being a sustainable living, we co-exist with the villagers. What is the applicability of the township act in this project? If we seek some concessions from the government, they will always be under attack later. Our policy is not to seek any concessions, and we work within the existing policy framework. This policy framework currently allows the establishment of an industrial township, wherein a certain percentage of land can be used for industrial, residential, and commercial purposes. Although we are procuring licenses in phases, we have made the entire masterplan ready in advance. We take licenses in such a way that the industrial area remains in one place and the residential on the other place. Even though they are together, yet they are separated. We have not taken over any local body or panchayat, and it continues to function the usual way. We have taken over the place just as an area development project, without any property tax levied upon us. For the entire colony, we have laid JioFiber right from the initial phase, as it has helped immensely in the security systems and online monitoring of the project. We are in the process of establishing an Integrated Control & Command Centre that will help us in the smooth running of operations. Our entire network has been ported on GIS so that any issues at any time can be dedicatedly adhered to. In such a large township, it becomes a task to identify the underground infrastructure, but in our smart township, the entire network is mapped with GIS. Current occupancy of brands... Today, we have around 15 companies of major brands from seven different countries associated with us. Out of these 15 companies, 10 are already operational. The major clients are listed below in alphabetical order: Allcargo Logistics Ltd Amber Group Autoliv, Sweden Bodytech Med Inc, Korea Denso Inc, Japan Dinamic Oil, Italy FM Logistic, France Jio & Reliance Retail Indospace Industrial & Logistics Parks Iberia, UK Nihon Kohden, Japan Panasonic, Japan Tsuzuki, Japan What competitive edges do the business brands avail through this township? Apart from the economics, any industrialist looks out for close vicinity to raw material resources, market, and services availability like water and power while establishing his factory. And fortunately, within our township development, we are close to everything except mining. Within 400 km radius of our township, the population is around 60 million people covering Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan states. Most importantly, any international investor would relish the opportunity of reaching his factory within one hour from the international airport and is place of stay. That is the connectivity that we provide to our business brands. To top it all, as the location falls under the ‘C’ category of Haryana, there are huge fiscal benefits that our customers can avail for their investments. We intentionally chose a location that was nearby to the developed regions, yet completely undeveloped. And these benefits are now being utilised by our investors for their business. These all make a strong competitive advantage for our investors. Apart from all the above, plug-n-play infrastructure and integrated masterplan help companies a faster go-to-market and ease of operations. Are there any plans set in place for the social development of the villages and their people? Such a large project spread across 22 villages cannot survive without the involvement of local communities. While we officially have not been included within CSR provisions due to lack of eligibility, right from day one we are carrying out many activities for the locals in terms of health, education, women empowerment, infrastructure development, etc. Every year we do spend more than INR 20 to 30 million on these activities, and that is the reason we have a faithful and supportive relationship with these communities. Overall, we have a peaceful and cordial relationship with the villagers. Just to share an instance, for the past four years we are providing special coaching programs to young children for admission in a local government school namely Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya. The government intake of students in this school for class six onwards is 60 students per year, out of which in the first year the student count from our villages was seven. The following year there were 12 students, and 19 students were enrolled for the subsequent year from the villages where training was undertaken by us. However, in the current year, 32 students got admission to the school. Interestingly, there are 264 villages in the entire Jhajjar district, out of which 32 students got admission from seven villages where training was undertaken by us, and only 28 students are from across the rest of the 257 villages. It was intriguing to see that last year 19 students shifted from private schools to government schools just to avail our coaching experience, and one of the student’s father is the project head at our company. We always think of the well-being of the people at large. What would the next phase of the project comprise? There is still a lot of work to be done on the social infrastructure aspect. We have currently provided land for a police station, banks, post offices, and small retail shops, and Reliance Mart is also being planned in the region. But still, we intend to do a lot more for the social infrastructure. In terms of the next phase, we have identified around 2,700 acre of land, connected to the current 2,500 acre. It will mainly be developed in three phases of approximately 900 acre each. We will start the execution of the initial phase of this plan in the next couple of months.