In what comes as good news for the defense ecosystem, an area of focus for the Narendra Modi government, the country’s first defence park is ready for inauguration at Ottappalam in Palakkad district of Kerala. Located on the Kochi-Coimbatore industrial corridor, the 60-acre park with state-of-the-art infrastructure is intended exclusively for the manufacturing of defense equipment for the armed forces, as also markets abroad.
The Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA), the nodal agency for the project, has completed infrastructure development and civil works at the park. Says Santosh Koshy Thomas, managing director, KINFRA, “we are looking at leading companies such as BEML, HAL, and BEL as anchor investors.” Of the 60-acre premises, 47.50 acres would be allotted to companies. “The defense park is primarily aimed at MSMEs. We have held talks with them and some hundred entities have shown interest. We are confident that several small and micro enterprises will set The focus on MSMEs is expected to push self-reliance in defense manufacturing which the Union government has been promoting. The defense sector is presently dominated by public sector undertakings, with limited contribution from MSMEs. As a result, as much as 70% of the defense requirements have to be met through exports.
The location of the park near the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, with easy connectivity by road, rail, and air are being held up as an added attraction — the Kochi international airport and the Coimbatore airport are less than two hours away by road. The total project cost including expenditure on land acquisition is estimated at Rs 191 crore. Out of this, Rs 50 crore is a grant under the Modified Industrial Infrastructure Upgradation (MIIU) Scheme of the Union government and the balance investment of Rs 141 crore is being made by the government of Kerala (KINFRA).
As part of infrastructure creation, KINFRA has constructed a common utility center, warehouses, standard design factory, administrative building, service yard, car parking, etc. which would now be leased out. “The park has 3,28,630 sq feet of common facility center and 19,000 sq ft of the warehouse facility,” Thomas highlights. The lease period for land has been set at 30 years and can be extended to 90 years. The lease period for the built-up space is 10 years and can be extended by another 30 years. Of the lease premium, 10% has to be deposited within 30 days, with the remaining amount having to be paid in five years. To attract investors, KINFRA is exempting companies that set up units from payment of registration fees and stamp duty.
Thomas says the state government is determined to position the park as a center of competence for world-class defense manufacturing, in keeping with the ‘make-in-India’ initiative of the Centre. It would be a hub for multi-pronged activities that include R&D, manufacturing, and testing of equipment. Its focus areas would include components of rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, defense navigation products, components of tactical vehicles, submarine building, components of warships, defense IT systems and solutions, avionics, tactical communication system, space robotics maintenance, micro-satellite, etc. up units in the defense park,” he adds.