By Smita Deshmukh
Ask any die-hard south Mumbai and western suburb resident about Navi Mumbai, and the answer would be that it's a bunch of tall buildings without character, an area for low-cost housing; and that is generally a place which is way too far.
But in 2016, the reality is not quite that simple. The place is buzzing with youth, and its character is very cosmopolitan. The city is characterised by top notch hospitals, educational institutions, an IT hub, a massive exhibition centre, malls, big railway stations, wide roads and unrestricted power and water supply.
Consider this – L&T is building India’s biggest commercial complex in Nerul, Café Coffee Day's branch at Inorbit Mall in Navi Mumbai has the second highest business after the one at Carter road in Bandra, Mont Blanc does its biggest business in this region through its store in Inorbit mall, and so does Tanishq. There are around 300 high-end cars (price range between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore) moving around and the number is rising. According to official figures, Navi Mumbai has a literacy rate of 98 per cent, an average income of Rs 25,000 per month; and 64 per cent households own vehicles.
Navi Mumbai today is becoming a pan-India phenomenon. The reason - the biggest infrastructure boom in the entire country, which is happening at a cost of around Rs 53,000 crore. This infrastructure boom is expected to create over 8.7 lakh jobs. This includes the new airport, the expansion of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, a metro project, affordable housing, highway expansions and the crucial Navi Mumbai Airport Influenced Notified Area (NAINA) – all spread over 1,200 hectares.
Land availability and an aggressive CIDCO (City and Industrial Development Corporation) are both pushing growth in Navi Mumbai. Even as the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) cleared the much-delayed Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, under its smart city mission, the town planning authority is developing Panvel, Kharghar, Ulwe, Dronagiri, Kalamboli, Kamothe and a Greenfield project Pushpak Nagar.
Development here is relatively new, well-planned and has taken place sector wise, unlike most other cities, which have an intermix of old, new and re-developed buildings. A drive across any sector in the city showcases it as a city characterised by a newness, a soft blend of modernity and an overall well planned approach. The level of development, of course varies across sectors – some being posh, others being less affluent. However, the presence of an upwardly mobile community and a vibrating economy full of new opportunities can be clearly felt.
“Youngsters from all over India with a growing income are moving to Navi Mumbai. They don’t need to stay in South Mumbai or even western suburbs, as every possible need is being fulfilled here,” says Devang Trivedi, former president, Builders Association of Navi Mumbai (BANM). Trivedi also pointed out that Navi Mumbai has been ranked 3rd among 476 cities surveyed for cleanliness as a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.
High-end connectivity can ensure that a Navi Mumbai resident would be able to reach any part of Mumbai within 30 minutes, and this is a game changer. Youngsters here would have the option to go to South Mumbai or go to Lonavala (both 40 minutes away) for a drink!
“Navi Mumbai is a city whose time has come. With Mumbai bursting at its seams, with its creaking infrastructure, traffic chaos, high pollution levels, sprawling slums, very limited open space, lack of affordability, and so on, Navi Mumbai comes as a breath of fresh air. It has planned development, wide roads, modern infrastructure, huge open spaces and recreation areas. Above all, with four modes of transport – excellent rail network with world class stations, broad, well paved, tree-lined roads with dozens of flyovers and interchanges, and the upcoming air and water transport infrastructure, distance here can be calculated in minutes, not in hours as in other Indian metros. What New Jersey is to New York, what Downtown is to Dubai – Navi Mumbai will be to Mumbai – it’s where people would like to settle and have a great life,” says Sunil Bajaj, realty consultant in the Mumbai – Navi Mumbai – Pune belt.
Interestingly, with crores pouring in, CIDCO recently formed a vigilance department as part of its transparency framework. “We welcome the move, in fact, we are partnering with CIDCO to put in checks and balances,” stated Trivedi.
With its own economic centres and social fabric (lounges, gold course and its own Central Park in Kharghar), the city is acting as a powerful magnet for entrepreneurship and employment opportunities and due to this it may turn out to be an excellent case for ‘reverse migration’.
With India's top real estate giants already in the city building everything from middle to high end housing and commercial complexes, the real estate prices are still affordable compared to the island city. Propert prices in Nerul range between Rs 6-15,000 sq ft, in Kharghar between Rs 6,000 - 8,000, in Ulwe and Panvel at Rs 4,000 to 7,000 each, and in Karghar between Rs 5,000-8,000.
The state government is also pushing Navi Mumbai big time, as it recently took a decision to make the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) a financial services hub. A big chunk of the 6,600-acre parcel of industrial land in Navi Mumbai will be now converted into the region’s International Business and Finance Centre (IBFC) that would create 5 lakh new jobs.
The IBFC has been planned as there are now land constraints to expand the Bandra-Kurla Complex. Seven times the size of BKC, this IBFC will be situated around Mahape.
"We are already seeing people from the central suburbs moving here. South Mumbai has no land and is very congested. The shift is inevitable and is already happening. In next 5 years, Navi Mumbai will reach its potential, attracting professionals from all over India," added Trivedi.