Business Today

Building the Backbone

How India is creating infrastructure for the future.
Team BT        Print Edition: August 13, 2017
Building the Backbone
Illustration: Raj Verma

Infrastructure is one area where India has perennially lagged. However, over the past few years, there has been a concerted effort by the government to ensure sustained development, be it in expressways, highways, rural roads, ports, power, railways and airports.

Some of that was visible in the last Budget, when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated Rs 3.96 lakh crore for infrastructure, much higher than the Rs 2.2 lakh crore given in 2016/17. Some of the increase is due to the integration of the railway budget with the Union Budget.

The focus on infrastructure has enabled growth of a host of industries that feed into the sector. A classic case is that of metro rail networks. As metro rail projects got commissioned in more cities - eight at present - global majors like Alstom and Bombardier set up manufacturing facilities in the country to meet the demand for equipment and railway cars. Siemens and Alstom are also in the race to build a plant for electric railway coaches. Another area that should see sustained growth over the next few years is investment in technology around building smart cities. The government's Smart Cities project has moved into the implementation phase in some cities.

Some Indian infrastructure majors such as GMR, GVK and Lanco Infratech have had to scale down operations as their debt burden grew. Yet, there is a new crop of companies betting heavily on the infrastructure sector. The package in the following pages brings you five such players and what they are doing.

While that is work in progress, the aviation sector has seen immense growth with the entry of low-cost carriers. The focus now is on driving air traffic to smaller airports under the UDAN Scheme. Our special report delves into the challenges for the scheme and how it will take a lot of effort to take flying to the masses. We also discuss the problems being faced by thermal power players due to competition from solar power and the massive task that the government has undertaken to feed power from renewable sources into the national grid. There is also a report on how the smart cities project is faring.

One thing is for sure. The action in infrastructure is not going to taper anytime soon.

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