GIFT City: From Dream to Reality

Note: A group of students and researchers toured cities in India and China in January as part of the National Science Foundation Partnership in International Research and Education (PIRE) grant.  Learn more about the Winter School 2016. The students share their observations on this blog.

Blog post by Shai Fogelson, University of Minnesota, written 1/7/2016

Today we got to visit GIFT City located about forty minutes outside the city of Ahmedabad. In the days prior, we learned that GIFT City is being built to be an international financial hub for India. It would be modeled after the financial district in New York City or the Pudong District in Shanghai. I will be honest; I was a bit shocked when we pulled up to GIFT City. Essentially all there was were two giant gleaming skyscrapers surrounded by dust and some greenery doing its best to stay alive. It looked like someone had taken two towers and plopped them down randomly in deserted landscape.

From the top floor of one of the buildings we were able to get a great view of the vast empty space called GIFT City (picture on the left). Amazingly we were then taken to see a model showing what GIFT City is supposed to become. The impressive model (picture on the right) contained many buildings, some even taller than the towers we had been in. There were residential buildings, transit systems, parks and a giant river bordering the entire city. The reason I didn’t remember seeing the large body of water from the tower was because it is currently just a dry river bed.

I left GIFT City being a bit skeptical that they would be able to transform the current landscape into this incredible model of a massive, urban, international financial center. Much of what we saw seemed like wishful thinking.  However, any dream starts from nothing and I was impressed with the planning and dedication that had already gone into making GIFT City a reality. Over the next five years, GIFT City is supposed to grow substantially as they bring in new investors and companies wanting to have a foothold in this financial center. If the City truly becomes what it is intended to, then it is supposed to save India billions of dollars that it is currently losing from not having their own international financial hub. I would love to come back in five years and see the progress that has been made. It would be pretty incredible to have witnessed a dream become a reality.

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