`It has never been so good for the industry'
The announcement of L&T to invest a massive amount in Coimbatore for various manufacturing facilities is a real shot in the arm, writes G. Satyamurty
ALL IS WELL: A. Sridharan, Director, Covai Propertry Centre (India) Private Limited. - Photo: K. Ananthan
"THE COST of land has gone up; cost of materials has gone up; labour charges have gone up and the demand for houses is also going up. To sum up, we in the construction industry are laughing all the way to the bank," says A. Sridharan, Director, Covai Property Centre (India) Pvt Ltd.
He points out that it had never been so good for the construction sector in Coimbatore. "The boom is not only because of the anticipated entry of IT sector but also the excellent performance of the manufacturing sector that has been the lifeline of this region for long." Besides, the announcement of an industrial giant like L & T to invest a massive amount in Coimbatore for various manufacturing facilities is a real shot in the arm. The potential in Coimbatore region is tremendous. "Growth of the construction sector is an indicator of the growth of the economy as a whole". An important feature is that a number of buyers are from outside the city. This augurs well for the construction industry.
An army officer of 30-years standing, who turned a property developer eight years ago, Mr. Sridharan is brimming with confidence. "I am confident this boom will sustain and nobody will be able to stop the growth of Coimbatore for the next few years," he asserts. According to him, people are prepared to pay if there is quality.
Steering a company, which has projects involving a built-up area of four lakh sqft (completed and on hand) costing over Rs. 60 crores, he says that there is a "metamorphic change" in the construction scenario. For example, even the first phase of his "old age home" project -- "Soundaryam" -- has received "tremendous" response. All the 48 cottages (mostly two bed rooms and a few three bed rooms) measuring 850 sqft to 1,500 sqft in five types have been sold out. These cottages are constructed on 3.5 to 4 cents each on a 4.4 acre site near Perur.
The project has 24-hour security, a recreation centre, common kitchen, library, television, card room, open air theatre, and round-the-clock medical centre with a paramedic stationed at home itself.
"All our projects have a Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant, a sewage treatment plant and water is recycled. Besides, there is Siruvani water connection."
Phase Two of the same concept --- "Santhosham" --- is to come up with 51 cottages. This will be slighter larger in size and will be constructed on 5.5 to seven cents each on a 5.6 acre site.
"Once upon a time, old age home had a sort of stigma attached to it. Today it has become a social necessity. Old people can have it as their base and they can be independent and have a sort of a family to fall back on. The concept is wonderful and hence has tremendous response. Even in the second phase all have been sold out though we plan to launch it only in January next."
Another on-going project is "Madhuban" at Puliyakulam in the heart of the city. In total, it will have 26 apartments, including two bedroom and three bedroom flats and penthouses. The last will measure as much as 2,570 sqft to 2,615 sqft. The booking for the same is almost over. It is a high end product with all the attendant amenities and costs Rs. 28 lakhs at the minimum.
Such a phenomenal demand has given the company the required confidence to go in for another major project under the name "GEM Nirmaalayam" on 12 acres in Ganapathy area. It is an ambitious venture for 97 villas and 48 flats. The maximum plinth area of a villa is 2,965 sq.ft and the land area is 7.84 cents. Mr. Sridharan says that this project, which is to be launched on Sunday (Dec. 11), "can afford the luxury of being in the heart of the city but with facilities unmatched anywhere in Coimbatore." It works out to about Rs. 15 lakhs up to Rs. 18 lakhs for flats and the villas range from Rs. 26 lakhs to about Rs. 44 lakhs. "More than 65 per cent of these have also been already booked."
A sea change that has come about in the construction industry in Coimbatore, according to Mr. Sridharan, is that it has ceased to be a sector "which lacks transparency, credibility and commitment". "There might be a few black sheep here and there. But on the whole, if you do not have transparency, credibility and commitment, you cannot succeed now." He is certain that nobody could hereafter point fingers that this sector is a dumping ground for black money.
Hence, a major decision taken by his company is to acquire "quality certification - ISO 9001- by January next. This is right from management up to construction worker level". It has almost taken a year to get the systems evolved, especially with regard to training, commitment and controls. Besides, the company has gone in for total modernisation. All its offices are wired. Each of its projects has a separate team headed by a retired army officer.
He points out that this region has excellent workforce, good educational institutions, salubrious climate and excellent medical facilities. Hence, there is tremendous scope for further development. " But what it is badly in need of is proper infrastructure including good roads, power, water and waste management."
He is happy that the Government has now made amenities such as solar water heater, reserve osmosis plant, sewerage treatment and quake resistant structures mandatory. For example, in case of using one lakh litres a day for a project, he will be able to get back 90 per cent of it owing to recycling which could be used for various purposes.
He pleads for a good public-private partnership for creating a good infrastructure. Time may not be far off when the hosiery town of Tirupur might become an extension of Coimbatore city. For all this, what is required is a " proper vision" and a "new Coimbatore master plan".
Besides, the Directorate of Town and Country Planning should help the developers by granting early approval for their plans. "In Dubai, multi-storeyed complexes come up in six to eight months. In Bangalore, it takes just a month to get plan approval. But in Coimbatore, it takes one to one and a half years for plan approval. If this were to change, the construction sector will get a further boost."
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