“I can already see that Kochi in the time to come will create as much business buzz nationally and globally as Bangalore and Hyderabad have done in recent years.” This was the remark made by the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he came to the city for the Global Investors Meet (GIM) in 2003.
And if dreams were horses, Kochi would well have been another Singapore as promised by the GIM, nine summers ago.
Apart from the Rs 500-crore IT park mooted by the UAE-based MK group, which later turned to be the SmartCity Kochi, the city was promised at least a dozen major projects.
The Mumbai-based World Link group was planning to make the Thanthonnithuruthu Island to a tourist spot, keeping Santorini Island in Greece as the model. They also drew inspiration from Sentosa Island in Singapore, where a backwater tunnel would link the mainland with the picnic spot.
Projects worth Rs 100-crore each were presented by two companies from South Korea. One was for the ship repair facility at Puthuvypu by Chanwoo Corporation Seoul with KINFRA and the other was from Sigma Corporation Seoul.
A fresh concept in 2003, the idea of ‘film, fun and food’ under one roof was planned. An MoU was signed by City Gold Entertainment Ahmedabad for Rs 25 crore for a family entertainment centre at Marine Drive .
A Rs 4-crore garment unit by Leela Group at CSEZ, Kakkanad, was looking at offering employment to at least 2,000 persons.
In its second unit outside US, Sutherland Global Group promised to give jobs to 2,500 professionals in Kochi. A four-zone eco township, a commercial complex worth `20 crore, Marina by Reliance at Boat Jetty for `50 crore were in the list.
There was an MoU signed with Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation for a shipping service, Al Salam, from Dubai and Muscat for Rs 30 crore for one year.
But all projects, except the IT park, remained a pipe dream and GIM turned out to be an unrealistic exercise echoing a popular one-liner from a Malayalam film, ‘what a beautiful dream, unrealisable!”