If the world is a stage and we all are players then Vijay G. Kalantri has played his roles pretty well. He is a person to reckon with. A many-faceted personality, Kalantri is not only the CMD of Dighi Port Limited but also heads several trade associations including All India Association of Industries and Indo-Mauritius Chamber of Commerce.
Today as the Dighi Port sets to become an advantage for Maharashtra, the man who made it happen talks to Amlan H. Chowdhury on issues relating to the business of ports and the emergence of India as an economic powerhouse.
A first generation entrepreneur, Kalantri started at a very early age. He is a self-made man and his success story would be an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs who can dream big.
Kalantri heads the Balalji Group of Companies incorporated in 1985. The Group has made its mark in a wide array of activities encompassing Textiles, Trading, IT, Telecom, Project Advisory, Financial Services and Infrastructure Projects. Its Flagship Company Balaji Infra Projects Ltd. (BIPL) is a leading infrastructure developer with interests in Ports, Rail, Road, SEZ, Power and other diverse infrastructure projects.
Question: What’s special about the Dighi Port?
Answer: Dighi Port is the first Greenfield port in Maharashtra to receive the environmental clearance and approval apart from all other requisite and formal approval by the Board of Approval of the Union Ministry of Commerce. It is a significant expansion of existing facilities to create an all weather deep draught direct berthing port at Dighi and Agarardanda in Maharashtra. Dighi Port will offer bulk, break bulk, liquid, LPG / LNG and container cargo. It will also offer all supportive infrastructure, utilities and communications facilities, connectivity and stack yards, warehouses, state of the art cargo handling equipment, pilotage and navigation capabilities as well as administrative and operations buildings, all designed to ensure faster turnaround of vessels.
When will it become fully operational?
Dighi Port plans to commission all five berths by 2011 and expects to have rail and road infrastructure in place by 2012. The entire project envisages an investment of Rs 3,000 crore. Once the port becomes operational, its total capacity would be around 30 million tons per year. It has already tied up with clients for around 10-12 million tones. The Balaji Infra Projects Ltd is developing this port under the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer business model. It will have a concession period of 50 years.
Question: Dighi is a non-major port. What is the future of Minor Ports in India?
Answer: The capacity of non-major ports in India is likely to jump to 580 million tons by the end of the 11th Five Year Plan: 2012. The National Maritime Development Programme envisages an investment of Rs. 5,163 crore for the development of non-major or minor ports across the country. India has a long coastline spanning 7600 km forming one of the biggest peninsulas in the world. There are 12 major ports and 187 minor (non-major) ports. The gap between the cargo volumes handled by major ports and minor ports is narrowing fast, with the latter's share ‘skyrocketing' in the last decade. PPP is the main strategy to develop minor or non-major ports. The non-major ports are developing very fast. To exemplify, we find that in 1999, major ports contributed nearly 95 per cent of India's total cargo handling, while the minor ports' share was only 5 per cent. But the scenario changed within a decade. In 2009 minor ports' increased their share dramatically to around 35 per cent while major ports' share dropped to nearly 65 per cent. By 2013-14, Dighi port will be able to generate a revenue of Rs. 500 crores.
Question: Ports are yet to be fully developed in Maharashtra. What is your take on that?
Answer: Yes! I am in full agreement with you. Though Maharashtra has massive potentiality in the area of port development, not much has been done in regard to the development of ports and infrastructure. Maharashtra, you see, has a vast coastline of 720 km and extensive hinterland. The two major ports of the state are Mumbai Port and Jawaharlal Nehru Port. But they operate under the Central Government. When you look into this, you find that the issue of development of ports always remained a back-bencher in the priority of the state government. When you look at the scenario of coal requirements of Maharashtra (power generation of thermal power and other industrial uses), you would find that the state requires 12 million tons of coal every year. Out of this, nearly 8-million tons of coal handling for this state is being done by the ports located outside Maharashtra. Since the direct berthing facility for the coal cargo is virtually absent in Maharashtra, the state needs to develop ports and infrastructure to avail of this opportunity of handling the coal cargo. The coal cargo, currently, is offloaded in Gujarat and then dispatched to Maharashtra through railways. Same is the case with fertilizer raw materials like sulphur and food grains.
What brought you to the port-business? Why Maharashtra and not Gujarat?
Answer: Well! Well! I entered into the port-business as a first generation entrepreneur. When Maharashtra government opened up the port sector to private sector in 1996, I took a plunge into this business. I selected Dighi for developing a port there so that it could contribute to the growth of Maharashtra. The dawn of PPP-model greatly induced me to enter into this business. As to the last part of your question, I was born and brought up in Mumbai. Well! I am a Mumbaikar in the real sense of the term. I could have gone to Gujarat to develop a port there, but my sense of belongingness to Maharashtra prompted me to opt of Dighi. I want Dighi to become the gateway to Maharashtra! Dighi has sufficient land that could be developed in a scientific way to develop 15 to 20 berths. When it comes into being, the berths will be able to handle 70-million tons annually. The state government has already permitted to develop five in the first phase.
Question: How do you view the prospects of developing SEZ/FTWZ at Dighi?
Answer: This is a very important question! The old and traditional ports of Maharashtra hardly offer scopes for the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and Free Trade Warehousing Zones (FTWZ). Dighi, however, offers a huge potentiality in this regard. Since Dighi offers multiple facilities and benefits, the scope of setting up SEZ’s and FTWZ’s brightens up. You see, the multi-industry SEZ at Dighi, spread over an area of nearly 2000 acres, could be a boon for the boost of trade and commerce in and around Dighi. This, you know, is going to be the largest “port-based SEZ” in Maharashtra. The FTWZ, coming up at Dighi, will catalyze the areas economic and industrial growth. What is most heartening, several big corporate companies including POSCO, JP Cements, have already expressed their willingness to come to this FTWZ. The SEZ and FTWZ have the potentiality to generate a revenue of Rs. 1500 crore to Rs. 2000 crores annually.