Hailing from an agrarian family of West Godavari district, he is a first generation builder from his family. Having studied at the AU Centre in Kakinada, he moved to the Port City nearly two decades ago and has, as the managing partner of MK Builders and Developers, been involved in construction of various housing projects in the city over the past 17 years. In an interview with Manish of TOI, K Rama Krishna Rao, chairman of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (Credai)'s Visakhapatnam zone, takes a reality check on Vizag's realty scenario.
After bifurcation, has there been any growth in Vizag?
We are in a much better position now. Even though Vizag is not the capital, it is the biggest city in AP and has its own importance. New employment and migration to the city has yet to take place on a large scale, but in the coming years it will increase as the manufacturing and IT sector begin to grow in the city. The metro rail project is also going to give a boost to the city's infrastructure.
Which areas are the potential realty hotspots in the city?
Madhurawada, Vepagunta and Kurmannapalem are the areas of the future. Madhurawada is located between the Bhogapuram airport and Vizag city and due to plans of developing the metrol rail is going to be the hottest destination in Vizag. Vepagunta also holds tremendous promise due to the BRTS project and is finding its place among middle-income group employees. Kurmannapalem is growing due to demand from central government organisations such as Vizag Steel Plant, HPCL and pharma companies at Parawada.
For long, IT was touted to be the growth driver for Vizag but has failed to take off. Do you see this changing now?
Until AP was bifurcated, all the focus was on Hyderabad. But now times are changing and there is no doubt that IT still has the strength to drive markets in Vizag. Ours is already the biggest and most ideal city for IT and the government has also said that it will promote IT in Vizag, so it will develop much faster. Also, with two ports increasing their capacities, port-led development will be another driver for the city.
Apart from the metro rail that is being planned, what else do we need as part of infrastructure development?
When you consider infrastructure related to the housing sector, the most important aspect is connectivity. If connectivity is provided, then people will come to new areas. It's a good move by the central and state governments to plan for a new airport at Bhogapuram as it will bridge the gap between Vizag and Vizianagaram. The road connectivity will improve further and the proposed metro connection along with air connectivity will offer a big boost to infrastructure.
Will Vizag continue to witness an increase in prices of plots and flats?
The AP market as a whole and Vizag are completely different in the sense that Vizag always has witnessed a steady growth, unlike other cities in the state. Even after bifurcation, there was no increase in prices due to speculation unlike in Vijayawada, where too much hype was created, causing difficulty for builders as well as people. The prices in Vizag market will witness a steady growth.
Is housing getting out of the reach of the common man due to increasing land prices?
Land availability is an issue. If land is available, then housing can be provided to everybody. Nowadays, a salaried employee can't buy flats in the city due to which they are moving to suburbs like Madhurawada. Even in Madhurawada, we are not able to get flats for less than Rs 20 lakh. If that has to happen, then government has to provide land at affordable rates, which is not being done. Nearly 500 builders are successfully undertaking projects in joint venture mode with private land owners. But, the same thing is not happening with government. If the government gives land, then it can resolve the issue of housing without spending anything. The same thing is being done in Malaysia, where the government gives specification to builders and construction is taken up. Why can't it be replicated here?
What is the burning issue being faced by builders in the city?
Raw materials and availability of skilled labour. The main problem we are facing is with sand, which is very difficult to procure. The DRDA office last month had stopped issuing sand for about 20 days and even now we are facing some problems with sand. Why is it happening? We are not against government giving sand reaches to Dwcra groups, but transportation shouldn't be linked to it as it is a 24-hour activity. Government has to make it easy for even common people to purchase sand. Skilled labour is another nation-wide problem. Government has identified that skill development is needed and realized that training has to be given to upgrade skills. Builders will pay a worker only when he turns up for work at the site otherwise we won't be in a position to do so. So if a worker goes for training, why will we pay? Government has to fill this gap so that worker gets some remuneration as an incentive for the training he undergoes.
Many of the apartments in Madhurawada are still vacant. Is it a case of excess supply?
In Madhurawada, the minimum infrastructure needed for people to live has not been created. Builders have constructed apartments, but there is no road and in some cases even streetlights are not there, which have to be provided by civic bodies. People are afraid to go there, because minimum social infrastructure such as departmental stores or city bus services or hospitals are not there.
Several big realty players are making investments in Vizag. Is it an advantage to the city?
Once big players come, it gives a nationwide focus to the city. Until now only local players were there, but the arrival big players goes to prove that Vizag has immense