Friday 14 September 2012

Gulf NRI groups plan big investments in Kerala

With the start of the ‘Emerging Kerala 2012’ investment meet in Kochi on Wednesday, non-resident Indian business groups from the UAE and Saudi Arabia have announced plans to make major investments in the healthcare, education and hospitality industries of the southern Indian state of Kerala.

The Dubai-based Fathima Healthcare Group is planning to build a Rs5 billion NRI city with a trade centre, five-star hotels and other amneties. 

Dr K P Hussain,  chairman of Fathima Healthcare Group, said he is ready to invest Rs50 million in Air Kerala, the new airline planned by Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL).

“NRI Investors like me wish to see an investment-friendly atmosphere in the state. The current developments in Kerala are creating fear among possible investors,” Dr Hussain.  

He said the state government should have done its homework well at least six months in advance to avoid some of the current confusion.  Many investors from the Gulf were unable to make it to the ‘Emerging Kerala 2012’ investment meet as the 2,500 seats had already been booked by the big NRI business groups from around the world. 

 “We expect safety of our investments and unconditional support from the people and government of Kerala,” he Hussain added. 

The Fathima group has healthcare facilities in the various emirates of UAE, Oman and Qatar. It also provides group medical insurance to low income workers and employees of UAE-based companies.

Saudi Arabia-based Al Abeer Medical Group announced at a press conference in Dubai the launching of a Rs8 billion ‘Educity’ targeting NRI students.

Muhmmed Alungal, chairman and MD, and Jabir Valiyakath, CEO, both of Al Abeer group, said the educity is planned on 70 acres of land in Malappuram district. They also said tuition fee for NRI students will be lower than that of existing educational institutions in Kerala.

The Abeer group is also planning a specialty hospital to promote medical tourism from the Middle East and Europe. 

Al Abeer Group has 13 branches in Saudi Arabia. It also runs a 100-bed hospital in Kerala’s  Malappuram district.

Doubts about Air Kerala

Meanwhile, Keralite expatriates have doubts about the Air Kerala project since it will depend on raising Rs2 billion from NRIs.

“When Air Arabia flights from UAE to Kerala were started, it was expected that air fares would come down. Now the air fare charged by Air Arabia is sometimes more than that of mainstream airlines,” said Kabeer, an Indian expatriate in UAE. “What is the guarantee that Air Kerala will be affordable to us?”

 “When Air India, Indian Airlines and Air India Express were active, other airlines could not hike fares. But now these airlines are negligible players and the market rate is dictated by private and foreign carriers,” said another Indian expatriate.
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