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TATA EYES AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN AFRICA…TARGETS NIGERIA, KENYA

By NBF News
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Tata Housing is keen on making an entry into the African market during 2012-13 as part of a vision to offer affordable homes globally.

'Africa is the next big thing waiting to happen with its huge middle-class population and we at Tata Housing will look at this option in the future. The concern there is political stability but if this is sorted out, the sky is the limit,' Mr Brotin Banerjee, Managing Director and CEO, told Business Line.

Though no business plan has been put in place yet, the company believes that Kenya and Nigeria, with their huge Indian population, promise plenty. Africa is also being seen as the next big growth story of the future after the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies.

'Tata Housing will constantly look at opportunities overseas for affordable housing. We have already made a beginning in the Maldives where there is a huge housing shortage in certain areas,' Banerjee said.

Terming this a visionary (PPP) document, Mr Banerjee said Tata Housing would build 500 homes (at cost) for middle-class residents in the capital, Male. In return, the company will get to sell commercial space below the building at market price. 'We get 15-20 per cent space which we can choose between free-for-sale flats to the people or retail at a market price,' he added.

What has been a big source of strength to the company is the overall attitude of the Maldives government in promoting the project. As Mr Banerjee put it, the government-private partnership model is the best way forward (at least in key parts of Asia) to tackle the housing shortage. 'Let the conditions be in place and there will be good developers queuing up for such projects,' he said.

For this fiscal, Tata Housing has set itself a target of having multiple housing projects in at least two countries in the SAARC region. 'I am hopeful about the potential in Sri Lanka which, in the near future, could even pose a challenge to India from the viewpoint of growth in percentage terms,' Banerjee said.

Tata Housing has earmarked Rs 3,000 crore (about $651m) for its projects this fiscal which will include the Maldives and Sri Lanka forays. This could revise upwards once the Africa blueprint is in place for 2012-13. India will, of course, remain top priority given that demand for affordable housing here continues unabated.

'The key is to globalise profitably without compromising on values or the nation's interest. We survived the slowdown in 2008-09 since we did not invest the entire capital in land but in relationships and got into joint developments. This could be done in projects overseas too given that the Tatas are such a big global brand,' Banerjee said.