India´s engines of economic growth - its cities - have taken centre stage. And with this, many countries world over have turned towards the country´s plan of developing 100 smart cities.
The world´s urban population is predicted to double by 2050 - which would mean adding the equivalent of seven New Delhi´s to the planet every single year. In India, the urban population is currently 31 per cent of the total population and it contributes over 60 per cent of India´s GDP. It is projected that urban India will contribute nearly 75 per cent of the national GDP in the next 15 years. That said, the need of the hour is to get smarter with churning new ways to manage complexity, increase efficiency, reduce expenses and improve quality of life.
In this background and buoyed by the sensational response with a hall jam-packed with industry leaders, the 2nd Sm@rt Cities Summit took off in India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on 17th February 2015. Organised by FIRST Sm@rt Cities Council, the two day summit aims at bringing all stakeholders under one roof for an impressive exchange of ideas with the theme being ´Smart Cities: From Concept to Reality´. Supported by Ministry of Urban Development and National Institute of Urban Affairs, the summit was set in motion amid policy makers, civic chiefs, industry leaders and smart cities captains from world over. In his welcome address, Pratap Padode, Chairman, FIRST Sm@rt Cities Council, set the tone for the day. He emphasised on the need for smart cities affirming, ´We don´t want the demographic dividend to be lost.´ This was followed by the keynote address by Philip Bane, Executive Director, Smart Cities Council, USA: ´We have to accept cities as they are, he said underlining that ´cities are similar, but not the same,´ further adding, ´India will contribute 75 per cent of GDP in the next 15 years and we have to look beyond the conventional use of resources. In Europe, ´The Humble Lampost´ project uses the lampost as a network tool for wifi, CCTV and uses motion sensor to save energy.´ Truly a case in point! Also, part of the inaugural session was Dinesh Goyal, Managing Director, SKIL Infra, who proposed the launch of greenfield smart cities in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode and greater built-up area for smart cities. The inaugural session also witnessed the unveiling of Smart Cities Summit handbook by FSCC and Ernst and Young.
The first session, ´Beyond Concept´ Towards Reality´ focused on the government´s plan for developing smart cities with focus on upgrading and updating current cities and addressing challenges in executing the smart vision. Moderator Jaijit Bhattacharya, Partner, KPMG, said on an opening note, ´The government and private developer have to come together, or else smart cities will be a daunting task.´ From the panelist, Shaishav Dharia, Director, Lodha Palava, said that several models will be merged and have a multiplying effect on the economy. He simply put his vision of developing smart cities: ´Efficient governance and service delivery, sustainable infrastructure and improving quality of life.´ To this, Martin Rama, Chief Economist for South Asia, World Bank, highlighted the need to focus on productivity as he affirmed, ´More compact cities will be a part of smart cities.´ And, Sachin Sharma, President, Wave City, added, ´The government should focus on retrofitting, and for Indian architects, they need to ensure that the smart city models can be made sustainable over time.´ Amid a powerful discussion, Jalaj Srivastava, Chairman, New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) shared a unique initiative from his experience: ´In Delhi, we have not spent a single penny to provide free-Wi-Fi in the Khan Market and Connaught Place areas. The focus should be more on available resources.´
The next session ´Urban Planning for Smart Cities in India´, focused on the technological innovations to support planning and execution of smart city projects. Here Jayesh Ranjan, Commissioner of Industries, Telangana, said that despite being developed as an IT city in the State, Cyberabad city has to be retrofitted. He highlighted that at present, the ´cycle to work´ initiative is being undertaken. To this, AK Jain, Architect & Town Planner, said that ´What is urban now, will become rural later. It is time to introspect and change.´ Other panelists included Ajay Pradhan, Managing Director, CH2M Hill; Margaret Boethig, Director, gmp architect (Germany); Ar Rajiv Khanna, Founding Principal and Director, RKAPL-India; and PN Rao, Founder Director, Urban Development Research Institute.
With a presentation by Sabrina Coccia, International Expert (Paris) on ´Smart Cities, why strategy comes first?´ The next session focused on ICT infrastructure and the need to integrate a city to make it smarter. Moderated by Vikas Aggarwal, Director, Ernst & Young, the other panelists included Aamer Azeemi, Managing Director, Cisco; Dr Sumit Chowdhury, founder, GAIA Smart Cities; and Pradipta Sen, President, Emerson.
The second day kicked off with Vince Berkhout, Director, Aecom highlighting the importance of this year´s theme ´From Concept to Reality´. He said, ´Smart City development will have different focal points at various stages. Private industry will pick up opportunities for smart city, with the government pitching 80-85 per cent investment for private players.´ An interesting focus of the session raised a critical question - Is corporate India ready to support the aspirations of political India? To this, Shailesh Pathak, Executive Director, Bhartiya Group, stated, ´Indians don´t lack engineering skill, but political will.´ He added that private players are looked at as an ATM machine. And, while there is no problem at the federal or State government level, there is no clarity on who can be contacted at the city level.´ In this direction, challenges were highlighted and solutions to overcome the same were discussed. Furthermore, smart technologies come with a price tag, and in that context, financing of smart cities is one big unanswered issue in India. In this direction, the next session, moderated by Kavan Mukhtayar, Sr Partner, Frost and Sullivan, focused on the various finance models available for smartening up the existing cities. He said, ´Finance is always available. In the stock market, India is looked upon as a new growth story.´
To this, NDS Chari, Director, SREI + BNP Paribas, added, ´Problems need to be discussed from the start: From day one, make financial institutions your partner.´ Other speakers including Palash Srivastava, Director, PPPI & Programmes, IDFC; KK Gupta, Director, Resurgent India Ltd; Rajeev Mukhija, CGM, IIFCL; and Ravi Poddar, Director, CRISIL, highlighted the need for a transparent procurement process, liberal procedures along with investment from the government for research projects. Furthermore, in the face of smart transformation, utilities hold the key to smart savings as energy is required for just about everything that is operational in the city. Session moderator Shuvendu Bose, Ernst and Young, initiated the discussion on how renewable energy can be integrated in the smart grid. He highlighted the drawback for India, ´We are not able to highlight the power generated. The challenge is not just financial, but also technical.´ He further stressed on the need to identify the right kind of storage for power along with an ideal energy generation process. To this, L Nagahari Krishna, Director, Danfoss, added the need to establish a relation between energy and GDP. For instance, if you achieve an ´X´ number of GDP for one unit energy used, then a city will be called smart. And, Amol Sawant, Business Analyst, ISGF, highlighted the need for integration in a sustainable manner: ´The users of smart cities can be energy producers through solar rooftops.´ Other experts who contributed to the session included Satish Kejriwal, Principal Consultant, Tech Mahindra and Aseem Goyal, Head-New Business & Strategic Project, Panasonic. Among other things, the Summit also focused on Smart Utilities. This would include 24 x 7 uninterrupted supply of electricity and water along with effective waste management for citizens and industries operating within the city. The session also focused on smart power grids and street lights, smart utilities for innovative cities and public emergency and city services for emergencies and securities. Moderated by Vineeta Shetty, The SmartCitizen Org, other speakers included, Prabhajit Kumar Sarkar, VP, India Power Corporation; TR Rao, Chairman & CEO, STEPS Energy; Pawan Mathur, Director, Itron; Jasdev Soni, Principal Consultant, Infosys; Mehanaz Ansari, USTDA Representative, Trade Finance Centre Embassy of USA; and Rahul Chhabra, VP, NSWAI.
With this came to an end the successful two days Summit - organised at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi - that was coupled with intense discussions, ideations and proposed solutions. About 200 participants - from India and world over - took home with them insights and opportunities in this much talked about and smart emerging segment. Although building a smart future is not a challenge-free activity, the Summit witnessed participants with a strong ´will´ and on that note, the way forward is evident.