What is a Smart City ?

October 20, 2016



Deepak Premnarayen, President, Indian Merchants Chamber, Chairman FirstRand Bank India/ Non-Executive Director, FirstRand Global Board South Africa, expands on his idea of smart cities for India.


Excerpts from an interview :

Chandigarh, Nagpur and Pondicherry have been chosen by the French for adoption as they want to focus on these cities in India to develop them into smart cities. What do you think are the attractiveness of these cities? Would you say they are relatively better placed in terms of their infrastructure as compared to other cities in India? 

Cities are chosen based on the survey and contest which included parameters like extent of citizens’ engagement and participation, strategic planning for the city, vision and goals, amongst others.

Each of the above cities is unique. Chandigarh has a French connection as it was designed by Le Corbusier – a French architect who worked on a new city in 1960s. It was and is a model city in terms of layout, the scope of expansion to absorb growth, its strong regional economic base. Nagpur is another city, has tremendous scope and opportunities of expansion for domestic and industrial requirements. Pondicherry – being an ex- French colony and historical connections – also comes under the above charterstics to be developed as a smart city.

Cities, if they have to become smart, have to be compact structures which support innovation in public transportation, use of smart technologies to manage power, infrastructure, and public safety, recycle water and manage work places with quality of life being enjoyable.

China, which saw huge growth rates continuously over two decades, relied on making its cities smart to bear the burden of industrialisation and consequently of urbanisation, which is the key to growth

If India is to grow at impressive rates, there have to be a local model of development where there has to be a shift from agriculture to industrialisation, which has to be supported by new employment opportunities, rise in consumer demand, and related spending and adoption of new smart technologies to support smart cities.

The cities which have been chosen so far to be developed as smart cities, have a comparative advantage of being better placed with respect to civic amenities, high disposable incomes and opportunities for trade. Also, commerce and industrialisation opportunities are promising, all which are important points in favour of smart cities.


What is the definition of a smart city in the Indian context? Is there a particular model that India needs to look up to, like a French model or a model from any other part of the world? 

Cities in India have to be planned as innovative industrial cities which create jobs, which raise the quality of living, which integrates cultural ethos and social fibre to make cities vibrant. In Indian context the smart city has three connotations:

  • Green Field Smart City – where every initiative is taken afresh – right from planning, execution, technology, regulation and financing – all happening at a new level, with new ideas, and bringing new innovations.
  • Redevelopment – where an old structure or set up in an existing geographical area or segment is built afresh. The most critical areas is undertaken for refurbishing. This model has limitation in terms of human resettlement and the extent of services that need to be redeveloped. In this the though innovative and modern contemporary technology is launched, the canvas is small.
  • Retro fitment is a mechanism, where only a portion of the segment needs change. This is a piece meal type of a “smartness” being brought into a small segment of the city. The scope of introducing retro fitment – is vast and since it is less time consuming and working on limited budgets, many cities could be looking at this option.

India needs a fine combination of all the three “models “ depending on the extent and scope of demand for change. For example, seven new cities are planned along the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor, as Smart cities. These could be developed on model of Green Field Smart City project, which offers an unlimited scope to implement new ideas in civic services – such as adoption of technology in managing novel transport arrangements, uninterrupted water supply, newer sanitation offerings, recycling of water and solid waste management, e governance, involving citizens engagements and ensuring their safety – amongst others. As many of the Indian cities are having historical lineages, redevelopment and retro fitment could also be the complementary solutions


What is it that is required to be done in India in order to achieve a standard of development and civic amenities that is so nicely done in the developed countries?
Innovative financing methods need to be looked at. As most of the corporations and municipalities have very limited resources of generating revenues themselves, they depend on the grant of state governments, which themselves are under heavy financial strain and deficits. This is a limiting factor for them to experiment with new technologies in civic administration and services as a contemporary with other sister cities across the global. Thus innovative ideas of PPP, venture capital financing, launching of municipal bonds or even Smart City Bonds could be considered.

Secondly the Municipal corporations have to be corporatized with a structure which is less bureaucratic and more performance oriented. The head of a Smart City can be a CEO brought in from the market with market driven experience in administering – both on managerial and technology capabilities.

Thirdly- Performance and Ranking Index could be developed for the Smart City / municipal corporations to attract investment, attract service providers and attract citizens to be part of this city. The rating criteria would be marked on the basis of in diverse parameters such a quality factor of air and water, employment opportunities, civic amenities, quality of infrastructure etc.

3 Comments on “What is a Smart City ?” Post your comment

  1. Smart City Jaipur on November 27th, 2016 1:49 am
  2. BHERU LAL REGAR on December 13th, 2017 7:55 pm

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  3. BHERU LAL REGAR on December 13th, 2017 7:58 pm

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