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									                The Shamshabad Airport – A Jewel In India’s Infrastructure


                                                  Ramakrishna R Chitturi
                                                  Director,
                                                  International Trade Facilitation Center,
                                                  The Federation of Andhra Pradesh Chambers of
                                                  Commerce and Industry, Federation House,
                                                  POB # 14, Hyderabad, India.
                                                  Email: rrc.itfc@gmail.com


On March 14, 2008 Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, United Progressive Alliance that runs the
coalition government in India at the Centre inaugurated the Hyderabad‟s new international
airport, christened as “Rajiv Gandhi International Airport” at Shamshabad, about 25 kilometers
from Hyderabad‟s central business district exactly 3 years after she laid down the foundation
stone on March 14, 2005. The airport is the first public-private partnership in the Indian airport
infrastructure sector between GMR Infrastructure (63 percent), Malaysian Airports Holding
Berhad (11 percent), Airports Authority of India (13 percent) and government of Andhra Pradesh
(13 percent). It is built on a 5,495 acre site at a cost of US$ 530 million with the state-of-the art
facilities. The final cost of the project is estimated to touch US$ 3 billion.

SALIENT FEATURES
The airport has the longest taxiway in South Asia at 4,260 meters to accommodate code F
aircrafts including the world‟s largest A380; over 100,000 square meters terminal to handle 12
million passengers a year with an ultimate capacity to handle 40 million passengers per annum;
the tallest air traffic control (ATC) tower in the country at 75 meters and 12 contact and 30
remote stands for 42 aircraft parking. The green field airport, first of its kind in the country
incorporates the best facilities in Oslo, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The non-
polluting airport with „Leeds‟ Certificate for energy efficiency and environmental design – rare for
any airport (except the Boston airport in the US) with glass encased terminal which promises
natural light to the passengers is India‟s most modern, gleaming and hassle – free airport. The
retail area in the airport will have a contemporary ambience akin to a modern Duty Free and paid
shopping space. This is a unique and first of its kind model featuring a walk – through concept.
The modular design of the airport will allow incremental expansion of each area, without major
rebuilding or operational disruption.


AEROTROPOLIS
The new airport is not a mere addition to the country‟s airports. It is the country‟s first
aerotropolis, a new urban hub (modified airport village) that would house business parks, hotels,
shopping arcade, hospitals, residential quarters and entertainment areas. It would be developed
on the lines of aerotropolis at Inchaeon, Seoul (South Korea), Dubai, Munich and Hong Kong
international airports. An aerotropolis offers operational convenience for companies and
organizations to maximize the benefits, while cutting down on expenditure significantly.

Apollo Hospitals is setting up a 17-bedded emergency medical center. A 308 room business
hotel is being developed. The French based Accor Hotels and Resorts of Singapore will operate
the hotel as per international Novotel Brand standards. The real estate developers have taken up
housing projects catering to airport employees, techies and non-resident Indians.

THINGS TO UNFOLD


The new airport has many things to unfold - culture, travel, business and development. Speaking
at the inaugural function Sonia Gandhi said “Air connectivity has a vital role to play in



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accelerating the development of interior and backward regions where our cultural and historical
heritage lies unexplored and unvisited”. The government of Andhra Pradesh has plans to start 9
more airports. “With the increase in the number of airports, the export level of perishable goods
is also expected to go up”, asserted, Gandhi. “Air travel is no longer elitist and the entry of
private airlines has virtually opened up the skies” she added. Praful Patel, Union Civil Aviation
Minister present on the occasion said that the definition of airport has to be reframed as it is now
an economic tool for common mass.

AVIATION CLUB

Located strategically as geographical centre of India, Hyderabad is likely to become a major
domestic and international aviation hub. It is within a 2 hour flying time to all major cities in
India and a 4 hour from all major cities in the Middle East and South East Asia. “We not only
have the potential to become one of the major hubs in India but also a major hub for traffic
between East and West”, points out, chief operating officer of GMR Hyderabad International
Airport Limited (GHIAL) – the airport developers.

Therefore, the Shamshabad airport is well positioned to become a key aviation hub like Dubai
and Singapore. In 2004, there were over 50 airports in India , it is about 85 today and the
number is expected to grow further in the coming years. Currently, there are 11 international
airlines and 11 domestic airlines operating from Hyderabad flying to over 35 destinations. The
airport handles 150 flights a day and number is likely to reach 300-350 by the end of the current
financial year.

Several airlines are waiting to connect Hyderabad. The British Airways is to launch its first flight
from Heathrow on October 27, 2008. The Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, plans daily
flights from June 2008. Emirates and other airlines plan to increase frequency. GHIAL, expects at
least 30 percent increase in frequencies to Gulf, a key region considering the large number of
people from Andhra Pradesh employed there. The number of passengers is expected to go from
7 million to 8.4 million in the first year of operations. This would include 2.4 million international
passengers.

The city has become an important economic centre in India. The number of IT companies with
headquarters in Hyderabad has earned it the reputation of India‟s second Silicon Valley.        The
city is also a major centre for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. With the huge world
class airport in hand the city is likely to grow further as a major business centre. After all, any
business man interested to invest in a city will look for good connectivity.

CARGO HUB
The airport is also expected to become a cargo hub in South-East Asia. “The airports are no
more used only for passenger transportation but also for the cargo moment as well” stated Sonia
Gandhi. A large world class cargo terminal for processing of cargo and mail and cold chain
infrastructure at the airport would help the farmers of the state to export their produce and
increase their income. It is estimated that 100,000 metric tons of cargo can be handled initially
from the existing level of 40,000 metric tons to reach 1 million metric tons later. The world
class infrastructure of cargo handling at the airport will boost the economic and industrial activity
in the state. Anticipating a rapid growth in freighter market, Secunderabad based flyington
freighters decided to expand their activity with the purchase of new aircrafts exclusively to
handle cargo. DHL has announced that the new airport would be its cargo hub.

ECONOMIC IMPACT
According to Professor John D. Kasarda, Director of the US based Frank Kawkins Kenan Institute
of Private Enterprise who coined the word “aerotropolis” , airports would do what seaports,
railways and highways did in the past, resulting in the phenomenal growth of business locations.



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Professor Kasarda‟s research on how airports affected growth in major cities revealed that spines
and clusters of airport-linked business would form along airport transportation corridors in a
radius of 25 kilometers. “There will be significant economic impact up to 90 kilometers”, he
observed.



SPURT IN EXPORTS OF SMALL UNITS

A recent study of Dun & Bradstreet, the world‟s leading source of global business information,
knowledge and insight titled “Emerging SMEs: Hyderabad 2008” revealed that 35 percent of small
and medium companies from the engineering sector are exporting and their most preferred
export market is Asia excluding Middle East. In the pharmaceutical segment around 54 percent of
such companies are exporting and their export market is Asia excluding Middle East followed by
the United States. 22 percent of the small companies producing allopathic medicines earned
more than 50 percent of their sales from exports. With the proposal on the anvil to increase the
cargo tonnage from the new airport, there would be a definite spurt in the growth of exports
from small units.

INVESTMENT AND DEVELOPMENT
The airport is expected to act as magnet to stimulate new investment around the airport in the
areas of information technology, information technology enabled services, biotechnology and
semiconductor and give further impetus to the development of the city. Plans are afoot to set up
India‟s first chip manufacturing facility in the vicinity of the new airport. This cluster, likely to
come up with an investment of US $ 7 billion over the next decade shall house units
manufacturing solar cells and solar energy systems with significant employment potential.

Hyderabad has emerged as India‟s leading centre for higher education and health care and the
airport would help the region to consolidate and move ahead in these areas as well. The mega
infrastructure projects like world class Outer Ring Road, the Elevated Expressway and the
proposed Metro Railway are expected to give greater impetus to the development of the city.

BEGUMPET AIRPORT
Ministry of Civil Aviation, government of India notified the commencement of operations at
Shamshabad airport from March 23, 2008. The Ministry also confirmed that the existing
Begumpet airport at Hyderabad would no longer be available for civil aviation operations.
Lufthansa flight LH753 from Frankfurt touched down Shamshabad runway on March 23, 2008, to
become the first flight to commence its civil aviation operations from the new airport, while the
last flight to take off from the Begumpet airport was Thai Airways International flight TG330 to
Bangkok on March 22, 2008

Civil aviation operations at Begumpet airport were closed in pursuance of clause 5.5 of the
concession agreement between the government of India and GHIAL on December 20, 2004
according to which there would be no airport in a 150 kilometer radius of Shamshabad.
Nevertheless, “why can‟t Hyderabad have two airports?” is the significant question many pose.
For an appropriate answer, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Andhra Pradesh High
Court. Many cities in the developed world – New York, Los Angles, London and even in the
developing world – Nairobi in Kenya have more than one airport, growth in air travel, availability
of functional infrastructure with reasonable residual life are some of the moot issues raised in the
PIL in favor of two airports.

TEETHING PROBLEMS

The new airport is not, free from teething problems. There are organizational, mechanical and
technical problems generally usual to new international airports. As of now road connectivity to


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the airport, is a major irritant. But, a crucial 8-Lane Expressway connecting the new airport to the
city named after late Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao under whose premiership Indian economy
underwent a significant transformation who hailed from the state is under completion. It would
take a few months and until its completion there would be discomfort to the travelers but their
patience would be well paid.

CONCLUSION
The new airport at Shamshabad is a model public-private partnership project that will set
benchmark for future initiates in infrastructure development. It will promote the brand image of
Hyderabad like Kuala Lumpur with its international airport. In fact, airports add value to the
cities. They become world class cities with world class airports. Hyderabad by no means is an
exception. The airport is set to position Hyderabad as a prominent player in the global aviation
map contributing to the prosperity, development and economic well being of the region.


NOTE: The author accords general permission to readers – students, scholars,
researchers and public to freely utilize and quote the contents of this article.




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