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Smart City

Building A Smart India

Building A Smart India
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You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

About 25-30 people will migrate every minute to major Indian cities from rural areas in search of better livelihood and better lifestyles. With this momentum, about 843 million people are expected to live in urban areas by 2050. Now given that we have limited space, unless we create islands like China, India needs to figure out exactly where these people will be accommodated.

While there are certain initiatives, like Smart City Mission lined-up by Prime Minister Modi, cities should be built keeping in mind that 44% of India’s consuming class is expected to be residing in 21 high growth affluence clusters by 2025 and these migrates  will  contribute 75% of India’s GDP by 2030. So, we need these people to have a good life while being able to generate revenue from creating and sustaining such cities.  

Dikshu Kukreja, of C P Kukreja Associates, a Delhi based multi-disciplinary Architecture and Engineering Firm with 40 years of experience, believes that Architectural Entrepreneurship is going to play a huge role here, as it can make a great difference by creating large-scale development opportunities, as well as, bringing in international business collaborations into the practice through globally significant projects.

In conversation with Mr. Kukreja, Entrepreneur India tries to understand how to build a smart India.

What Architectural entrepreneurship can do?

I believe Architectural Entrepreneurship is a significantly developing business, not only in India, but all over Asia, in particular. As the Real Estate Market is booming high, a lion’s share of the Asian economy depends on the growth and development of cities. In this context, I believe Architectural Entrepreneurship is going to play an important role, as it can make a great difference by creating large-scale development opportunities, as well as, bringing in international business collaborations into the practice through globally significant projects.

India is one of the fastest growing nations in the world and most Indian cities have already being noted for their gradually growing cosmopolitan experience, which is changing demands and aspirations of people and in its turn the notion of urban development. Architectural Entrepreneurship through its ability to involve multiple businesses in a larger urban development process enhances economic escalation through global projects- these are creating a lot of job opportunities for different professionals across multiple disciplines thereby dominating the entire Entrepreneurial Market.

As a result of such economical dynamics, Architectural Entrepreneurship are gradually indulging in multi-disciplinary as well as multi-professional ventures to support the contemporary urban development process. CP Kukreja Architects, from initiation have always respected multi-disciplinary insights to their works. My father CP Kukreja strongly believed that the future habitat will be a construct of the best professionals from multiple disciples.

How is your business helping build a new India?

India is gradually becoming one of the rapidly developing centres in Asia, for which urban development processes and dynamics in the country has become of spectacular interest to the entire world. International businesses and endeavours are largely preferring to collaborate and contribute in the Indian Market, as a result of which the latter is largely influencing financial and infrastructural growth in the Global Real Estate Market. CP Kukreja Architects always believed that the future Indian urbanscape will be a composite construct of professionals from all over the world as a result of which it has always experimented on national and international projects and collaborated with professionals from all parts of the world.

Today, as India is racing towards smart urbanization, CP Kukreja Architects proudly leads the way in both national and international design standards, as one of the most significant firms extensively innovating processes and techniques of smart and sustainable development. The six decade long experiment started by Architect CP Kukreja to blend man-made and natural environments through architecture is being considered as one of the most important factor called ‘Environmental Sustainability’ in designing smart cities today Such a feat yet again establishes Mr. Kukreja’s faith in the fact that “Architecture is not only about creating great designs, it largely deals with envisioning our future Environment.”

What have been some major innovations in the urban sector?

There has been a lot of innovation as far as Smart Urbanization is considered in the global context. Some of the major new appearances are rapidly increasing preference of smart urban ‘apps’ (like the ‘smart-cab’ applications viz Uber, Ola, Radio-taxi), the wide use of ‘smart-maps’ as mobile GPS-systems in movement and transportation, smart-communication and sharing systems of urban data. Among the above-said the latter has also largely contributed and brought revolution to design processes and systems in Indian cities like integrated city-planning model (ICPM) and Building Information Modelling (BIM).

These allow to formulate architectural designs and urban designs of cities as a ‘shared process’ among professionals who may belong to different disciplines, different work-cultures and may even be based in different locations and still connected through internet and other computer softwares, which allow them to collectively share data and provide design solutions towards making a composite design framework.  The same is now being tried among mass population of India, through making smart data and sharing it with the common population, where each and every individual, gets the opportunity to contribute, share design ideas and become a part of the urban design process of Indian cities. Such a smart-urbanization is being visualized as a ‘People-centric’ approach to Urban Design which is first of its kind in India and first to be experimented over a large population like that of Indian cities, to which the whole world is now looking forward.

How do you think startups are contributing towards urbanization and how far have they been successful in doing so?

I think startups really reflect the spirit and enthusiasm towards innovation in the Indian urban context. It is a very positive sign to see how young minds are gradually taking up challenges and converting them into opportunities for the greater good of the mass population through creation of entrepreneurship that redefines smart urbanization. In this regard, Flipkart, Oyo-rooms, Uber Cabs, etc. have been notably successful and revolutionized the way we look, experience, live and move about in our cities. Startups are today bringing significant difference to market economy through mass creation of jobs, sales and business opportunity with the entire world, thereby making the process of Indian urbanization a global endeavour. I think the whole concept is set to bring a great spectacle of urban revolution that the whole world is waiting to see, and I am more than happy that such a thing is emerging out of Indian cities.

Startups like Pom Pom are doing great for urban society. What should be their approach and what can they do differently?

The great thing about these startups are that they are largely inspired by the indigenous culture (like Pom Pom has redefined the persona of the ‘kabadiwalla’ or the local Indian trash-buyer) and yet very much futuristic in their approach, as they are making it an easy-handling user-friendly method of recycling urban waste. However, such systems should look forward to be all-inclusive and involve all people of the society, especially the uneducated economically backward population who really needs job opportunities. Such startups can build great environments of commerce through involving different businesses and a range of socio-economic classes thereby creating grounds for empowerment of the mass into building Smart Indian Landscapes.

Any tips for beginners who want to enter the Indian startup ecosystem?

I am absolutely looking forward to great creative ideas from beginners in such entrepreneurship. I believe they are culturing highly innovative methods to reinvent urbanization in Indian cities and we have a lot to learn from them. My suggestion to them is that they should always be experimental in nature as they always are and try to think ‘out of the box’. I see them as the greatest force challenging the status-quo and taking India to the world stage as far as futuristic concepts on commerce and urbanization are concerned.

What would be an ideal city and how will India get there?

The ‘Ideal’ city has always differed from the ‘Real’ city and would always remain so, as all urban transformations cannot be perfectly forecasted in nature and degree. But even if the ‘perfectly ideal’ city remains unachieved, it is definitely possible to attain a ‘nearly ideal’ city. Having said so, it is hence understood, that there needs to be a philosophy for urban development which is largely flexible and hence respects the rapidly fluctuating dynamics of urban transformations. India, especially, being a country of rapid environmental and climatic variations, economic fluctuations and socio-cultural diversity, needs flexibility in its Urban planning policies.

Unfortunately, majority of policies and guidelines of urban development in maximum Indian cities lack flexibility, which lead to creation of unsustainable urban landscapes that are rigid and unaccommodating to socio-political, environmental and economic changes.

In such a context, ‘Responsive Architecture’, which allows the man-made urbanscape to spontaneously adjust to the dynamics of transformation, is gradually becoming a pressing need of the hour. The Smart Indian City of the future is hence envisioned to be like a living organism that is auto-responsive and intelligently adjusts itself to rapidly changing needs of the society. In doing so, there is an urgent need to translate the dynamics of urban transformations and its different causative factors through documentation and preparation of smart databases (like data of changing population, densities, transport networks, social and physical infrastructure, land-uses, FAR, land-prices, climatic factors, etc.). This, when fed into smart digital systems, can be converted into smart digital analysis like smart-maps and graphics that can be shared on internet for the mass population to respond accordingly. In doing so, the entire city becomes a digitally aware smart entity that responds flexibly through engineered intelligence to urban dynamics of transformation. Such a system is likely to affect the entire planning framework leaving no room for speculation and making the policy-structures dynamic and auto-responsive. Such a system is also likely bring revolution in planning as it would involve opinion of a mass population in deciding future trajectory of urbanization in any Indian city.

Edition: December 2016

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