Quintessential Finnish log houses could soon dot India's western Himalayas if a tie-up with a 350-million euro ski resort being built there by American billionaire Alfred Ford fructifies.
"We had initially planned to source the log houses from the US but no company could meet our initial demand for 350 structures for our first phase. Then we were introduced to a Finnish company that could more than meet our demand," explained Himalayan Ski Village (HSV) managing director John Sims of the proposed tie-up with Kuusamo Log Houses.
HSV aims to create world-class infrastructure at Manali in Himachal Pradesh to position it amongst the world's best tourism destinations.
Kuusamo Log Houses is located in Kuusamo municipality in the Lapland area of northern Finland, within the Arctic Circle. Finland's fourth largest producer of log houses, the 20-year-old company last year delivered upwards of 400 structures in various configurations to post a turnover of 10 million euros.
The company offers a range of multi-room single and double floor holiday homes, as also detached villas.
"We use the finest Scandinavian pine grown inside the Arctic Circle for our houses," Harri Makela, sales and marketing manager of Kuusamo Log Houses, told a visiting IANS correspondent.
"The cold climatic conditions result in timber that is very hard, very solid, with high net weight and mechanical endurance. It has low water absorption and has high heat insulation qualities," he added.
This also translates into lower heating costs, Makela pointed out.
Forests cover 61 per cent of Finland's land area and contain 2,176 billion cubic metres of timber. Some 60 billion cubic metres are cut and an equivalent number of saplings are planted every year.
Kuusamo Log Houses now plans to send a team to Manali to take the project forward.
HSV's Finnish connection came about quite by accident following a meeting in New Delhi between Sims and Seppo Keranen, who heads FINPRO, the Finnish Trade Office in India.
Keranen is also the Finnish commercial counsellor in India. Keranen quickly brought on board Naturpolis, the semi-government Nordic Business Centre located at Kuusamo, as also a number of other Finnish companies.
All this led to the creation of FINEC or Finnish Ecological Construction for India that will focus on developing ski and leisure resorts in India, explained Ville Skinnari, the Naturpolis director for business development.
"We will be holding a 'matchmaking' seminar in India in October to put the final elements in place and formally launch FINEC in December," Skinnari added.
The HSV project includes the development of luxury hotels, chalets, suites, conference facilities, an entertainment centre, restaurants and retail options. Access to the mountain area for skiing, trekking and other adventure activities will be provided by a network of gondolas and chairlifts.
The project aims to employ more than 3,500 people when fully developed and HSV will hire more than 70 per cent of them from the villages around Manali.
The Himachal Pradesh government has cleared HSV's detailed project report (DPR) and this will now go to the Pollution Control Board (PCB) and the ministry of environment and forests for final approvals. Construction of the resort is likely to begin towards the end of the year.