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16 Jan, 2006

New Hyderabad Convention Centre Hosts Indian Diaspora Caucus

Hyderabad, India: The convening here of the 4 th annual overseas Indian diaspora caucus between Jan 7-9 also marked the opening of the Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC), claimed to be the first of its kind in South Asia.

It also launched the first of roughly US$4 billion worth of real estate projects to be developed in India by Dubai-based Emaar Properties as it pursues alternative investment outlets for money that is slowly exiting Europe and the United States.

Claimed to be India’s largest and technologically most advanced convention facility, the HICC was built in a record 11 months following the selection of Hyderabad as the host city of the Indian diaspora convention, known as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD).

The owning company, Cyberabad Convention Centre Private Limited, is a 74:26 joint venture between Emaar Properties and the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corp Ltd., (APIIC), a subsidiary of the Andhra Pradesh state government.

Being partially owned by the state helped cut through the bureaucratic red-tape well known for holding up projects in India.

The total US$66 million investment includes the HICC, which cost US$39 million and the Novotel Hyderabad (US$27 million), a 300-room hotel next to the convention centre.

The entire complex is managed by Accor, an arrangement similar to that in Dubai, where Accor manages two hotels under the Novotel and Ibis brands next to the Dubai International Exhibition and Convention complex developed by Emaar.

HICC has a 4,000-seat capacity, expandable to 6,500 seats. It boasts six language interpretation booths, in-built power back-up generation, 1,000+ car-park, 18 breakout rooms, 6 meeting rooms, 6 board rooms and 4 offices across 3 levels, a business centre and internet lounge.

It can be reconfigured for sports events, theatre arts, concerts, rallies and activities requiring huge spaces. An 18-hole golf course is due to be finished later this year, with the first nine holes ready by April.

Its location within Hyderabad’s Hitech City, home to large national and international technology companies, including the largest Microsoft office outside the United States, gives it ready access to year-round business.

National and international conferences already booked include Gitez 2006 this month, BioAsia in February and the Asian Development Bank’s 39 th AGM in May.

The centre’s GM, Philip Logan, described it as a boutique convention facility which, inspite of being dwarfed in size by the giant convention centres of Frankfurt and Singapore, would nevertheless “help transform Hyderabad into an events and conferences hub of India.”

Describing Hyderabad as “Shanghai 20 years ago”, Mr Logan said the city was “absolutely in the middle of an enormous pool of conventions. I was stunned by the level of business available here.”

Traditionally known for its monuments, cuisine and pearls, Hyderabad has re-invented itself into an important hub for technology, pharmaceutical and IT corporations as well as global call centres.

It lies at the geographical centre of trucking routes between north and south India and has direct air links of under four hours with Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Dubai. These will grow further when a new airport now under construction is completed.

Mr Logan said many companies in the Hitech city had more than 2,000 employees, but if the CEO of any of them wanted to deliver an address to all his employees under one roof, there was no facility to do so — “until now,” short of using an open-air ground.

He acknowledged that the city did have a shortage of quality hotels, which leads to outrageous prices being charged in relation to the quality of product delivered. Although new hotels are coming up, Mr Logan said he did not think this factor would be a “deal breaker”.

Expected to trigger an explosion of competing convention centres across India, the HICC was designed by RMJM, which also did the Dubai Convention Centre. Chandavarkar & Thacker Architects were the resident designers in India, and the construction company was Larsen & Tourbo Limited.

Dr. Nader Mohammed, Executive Director, Operations, Emaar Properties, said the HICC is part of Emaar’s plans to diversify its real estate portfolio across India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Morocco.

In India, Emaar Properties has invested US$500 million to form a 50:50 joint venture with Delhi-based MGF to develop hotels, townships and commercial properties worth US$4 billion all across India.

The Dubai-based Public Joint Stock Company claims to be the world’s No. 1 real estate firm with a market cap of over US$40 billion. Its 41,000 shareholders include the Government of Dubai.

It is especially focussing on the retail sector with investments of over US$ 5 billion planned to develop approximately 100 malls in South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. Around 50 of these malls will be in Indian cities at an estimated cost of US$40 million per mall.

Among the many projects under way in Dubai, its most ambitious is the Burj Dubai, projected to be the world’s tallest tower when completed in 2008.

Emaar also has teamed up with Giorgio Armani S.p.A to build and manage 10 Armani hotels and resorts worldwide; an Armani hotel will feature in the Burj Dubai and at least one is planned in either Mumbai or Delhi.

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