UAE firm with funds from royal family take up Dharavi revamp project

Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai
Feb 18, 2019 08:22 AM IST

A UAE firm, with two Indians and two of Indian origin, will undertake a ₹28,500-crore facelift of India’s largest slum.

The ambitious Dharavi Revamp project, envisaged 15 years ago and which aims to turn India’s largest slum into a plush township, will now be redeveloped by Seclink Technology Corporation (STC) and be funded by the Royal family of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The STC is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which will get Rs28,500 crore in funds, to revamp 600 acres.(Hindustan Times)
The STC is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which will get Rs28,500 crore in funds, to revamp 600 acres.(Hindustan Times)

The STC is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which will get 28,500 crore in funds to revamp 600 acres. There are indications that the bhoomipujan of this project will take place by next month if everything proceeds according to plan.

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The Seclink Group was founded in 2017 and is based in UAE. The Dharavi revamp is one of the biggest urban renewal projects being executed by STC.

The STC comprises four individuals, two Indians and two of Indian origin, who will be planning and executing the project—Nilang Shah, Rajesh Ramchandran, Jignesh Sanghvi and Hiten Shah. A senior company executive, who did not want to be named, spoke to HT at length and said, “The Abu Dhabi Royal family are backing the project and have committed to the funding.”

Nilang Shah, chairman of STC, holds a MBA degree and is an independent investor based in UAE. Nilang has successfully executed Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) projects and a build-and-transfer model for funding large-scale realty projects in Dubai, India, Africa and China. Rajesh Ramchandran, CEO of STC, is known for high-profile raising of funds for infra projects and has held senior positions in Siemens and Citibank NA. Jignesh Sanghvi has served as executive director of Sunteck Realty, group CEO of Relcon Infraprojects Limited and is the currently the chairman of Krisha Infrasol. He has completed 30 key infrastructure projects with Mumbai Port Trust. The fourth partner is Hiten Shah, who is a CA by profession and is the promoter of I Equity Group. He will be responsible for finance, legal and strategy of the project. He has been in ICICI and his company has carried out funding of large infrastructure projects in India and UAE to the tune of $4.2 billion.

They were not available for comments despite several attempts.

The senior company executive said one of the major advantages of this group is its financial position. “In this realty slowdown era, we have the required funds in place and need not go in the market to raise them,” said the executive. He said that apart from the physical infrastructure, they will beef up the social infrastructure — schools, colleges and hospitals — to ensure the needs of locals are taken care of.

The STC had bagged this project in the tendering process as it quoted 7,200 crore, outbidding its competitor Adani Infrastructure, who bid at 4,539 crore. The plan envisages giving 350 square-feet carpet area homes along with a handsome corpus to the existing residents. In addition, STC will first construct rehabilitation towers in a 10- acre empty plot and then shift the first batch of 1,200 residents there. After that, the commercial businesses will be shifted followed by the construction of sale towers. The STC plans to complete the whole project within nine years. In case of sale towers, STC plans to tie up with various builders, who will be given the liberty to sell them.

According to the Seclink plan, in the project spread across 600 acres, 200 acres will be used for rehabilitating slum dwellers and commercial units, 100 acres will be earmarked for a large garden and the remaining 300 acres will be for constructing sale buildings and commercial complexes. According to the plan, the rehabilitation portion would be along the Sion and Mahim side and the commercial sale buildings would come up adjacent to the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC). There would also be a 100-acre garden.

According to both residents and real-estate experts, the Dharavi project is a challenging one and just having money is not enough. “There is no doubt that Seclink should be commended for raising such a huge amount in such a depressed market, but then other issues need to be tackled. There would be a large resistance from the existing traders to shift to a formalised economy as today they hardly pay any taxes or comply with the rules, which is not possible after revamp,” said Pankaj Kapoor, CEO, Liases Foras, a real-estate research firm.

Raju Kode, president, Dharavi Bacaho Samitee, said there is no enthusiasm among residents as they are tired of frequent false promises. “For the past 15 years, we have only been hearing promises that we will get new houses and the whole area will be turned into a plush township. Nothing has materialised until now. The state government has never bothered to interact with us or apprise us of the schemes,” said Kode. He warned that the project will not become successful until the people are taken into confidence.

The Dharavi revamp project, floated first on February 4, 2004, has been besieged with problems. The main issue was eligibility as it was found that most residents were ineligible for new houses and the constant flip-flops drove many builders away.

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