Monday, January 09, 2012

7 Incredible Cities in DMIC: Amitabh Kant seals first Japanese deal, faces challenges

Will Kant succeed in repeating his Incredible stories?
Amitabh Kant, a 1980 batch Kerala cadre IAS, is more a CEO than a typical additional secretary in a sarkari department. He is a CEO because he sets targets, draws time-line, nurtures a ‘can do’ temperament, manages his men from a stylish, corner room office and occasionally plays golf to keep the tempo on.
The architect of India’s two highly successful tourism campaigns, “God’s Own Country” and “Incredible India”, Kant now faces a bigger challenge: How to build seven brand new cities across 1483-km long industrial corridor between Delhi and Mumbai. After spending two years in office as the CEO of Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC) and changing many a ground rule, Kant has finally sealed the first deal. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda recently announced that Japan would invest $4.5 billion in this unique project that could refine India’s infrastructure with the smart deployment of advanced technology and green growth. What’s more, Japanese government would partner the project with a direct 26 percent participation in equity.
It seems the basic branding exercise of DMIC is over. While commenting on Kant’s book on brands, ad guru Piyush Pandey recently said: “Nothing builds brands better than passion. Amitabh Kant’s passion for both Brand India and Kerala is bubbling in every line and between the lines. The book proves that brands don’t just need a face, they also need a body, arms, legs and a very big heart.”
Can Kant repeat his Incredible story in DMIC? Kant has not lost his passion as yet, but DMIC is lot more complex. The global downturn has entered into a phase of recession and India’s much hyped-up growth story could turn out to be flawed, at least temporarily. After all, the project would need about $90 billion, and more. Also, the corridor spans over six states including Mayawati’s Uttar Pradesh and Narendra Modi’s Gujarat in addition to BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Congress-ruled Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra (with NCP). And land acquisition is becoming a trickier subject in each passing day.
But don’t forget Kant has had many successful innings as heads of large organizations. Back in late 1980s, Kant was MD of Kerala’s Fisheries Federation. He was then the MD of Malabar International Airport Development Society which was in fact the first Indian airport structured on the concept of user’s fee. A loan of Rs 150 crore which was mobilized to develop Calicut airport into an international airport was actually returned from the user’s fee. And the exercise was done much before Delhi and Mumbai understood such a model and used it in public private partnership projects. Finally, India Tourism Development Corporation’s turnaround saga from a Rs 40 crore loss-making enterprise to a profit of Rs108 crore was scripted by Kant as its chairman between 2002 and 2005.
Kant’s past success stories have the potential to make him nervous now.

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