S O N I PAT- K U N D L I AN­OTHER GUR­GAON IN THE MAK­ING?

The real es­tate mar­ket in Soni­pat-Kundli can get into fast gear only if a con­certed ef­fort is made to de­velop in­fra­struc­ture there, says Van­dana Ram­nani

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE -

Lo­cated on NH1, Soni­pat (also spelt as Sonepat) is barely a 20-minute drive from Delhi’s west­ern border near Narela. When builders first sat on the draw­ing board to chart the city’s fu­ture way back in 2004, they bet heav­ily on the pop­u­la­tion of north Delhi, hop­ing they would fol­low in the foot­steps of as­tute in­vestors in east Delhi, who had put their money on Noida and Ghazi­abad. Also, just as south Delhi had banked on Gur­gaon, they as­sumed that those who had missed the bus in Ro­hini and ad­join­ing ar­eas would choose Soni­pat. An im­por­tant point, how­ever, was not fac­tored in. The two main drivers of de­vel­op­ment – con­nec­tiv­ity and a thriv­ing econ­omy – were miss­ing in Soni­pat.

Lit­tle did they re­alise that a city or town’s growth story could not solely de­pend on the suc­cess of small man­u­fac­tur­ing en­ter­prises there. The suc­cess of At­las cy­cles that cat­a­pulted Soni­pat to fame, way back in the 1950s, was not enough. For peo­ple to move in, for the area to wit­ness a bull run in prop­erty prices as seen in some pock­ets of Gur­gaon and Noida, a stronger trig­ger was re­quired. The slow pace of progress on pro­posed in­fra­struc­ture projects such as the KMP Ex­press­way, con­nec­tiv­ity with Delhi and lack of IT/ITeS com­pa­nies in the re­gion only pro­longed the growth story. The oc­cu­pancy level in the ex­ist­ing projects was dis­mally low and till date hov­ers around 25% if not less.

The lay­ing of foun­da­tion stones at the Ra­jiv Gandhi Ed­u­ca­tion City, spread over 2000 acres, in Kundli last year and its con­struc­tion is the first salvo. Soni­pat is now be­ing pro­jected as a higher ed­u­ca­tion hub. Chief min­is­ter Bhupin­der Singh Hooda has said that his gov­ern­ment plans to de­velop many more cities like Gur­gaon and that Soni­pat is to be the state’s fu­ture city. He has also said that once the Delhi Metro reached Narela, the Haryana gov­ern­ment will pro­pose its ex­ten­sion up to KundliSoni­pat. On the Kundli Mane­sar Pal­wal (KMP) Ex­press­way, he says he hopes work on it will “start as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The ques­tion is, can th­ese an­nounce­ments help the city re­cover lost ground? Can th­ese de­vel­op­ments en­able Soni­pat to grow at a pace sim­i­lar to Gur­gaon and Noida? The prop­erty mar­ket in Soni­pat has not taken off with the ini­tially an­tic­i­pated speed due to de­lay in pro­posed in­fra­struc­ture projects. Over­all, the re­gion lacks crit­i­cal mass in terms of pop­u­la­tion, and it has yet to emerge as a pre­ferred of­fice des­ti­na­tion for IT/ITeS or­gan­i­sa­tions, says San­thosh Ku­mar, CEO - op­er­a­tions, Jones Lang LaSalle In­dia.

On of­fer­ing fi­nan­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties, the KundliSoni­pat belt has of­fered mod­er­ate-to-good re­turns on in­vest­ment in ab­so­lute terms, though not as good as Noida and Gur­gaon. The av­er­age plot price to­day is in ex­cess of R25,000 per sq yard com­pared to just R5000 per sq yard a few years ago when projects were be­ing first launched here, he says.

On an av­er­age, there has been 30-40% ap­pre­ci­a­tion in apart­ment rates since 2007- 2008, im­ply­ing that the an­nual prop­erty ap­pre­ci­a­tion rate in the Kundli re­gion has been in the range of 6% to 10%. Prop­erty in Noida and Gur­gaon have more than dou­bled in the same pe­riod, he adds. We see a lot of up­side in the KundliSoni­pat re­gion. It of­fers a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to those seek­ing hous­ing in the mid­seg­ment. We are plan­ning to launch in­de­pen­dent floors and shop-cum-of­fice spa­ces in the area as we feel the pro­file of peo­ple com­ing to the area will im­prove as in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­ops

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