World Trade Centre (WTC) Association CEO Eric R Dahl says that it will take 14-15 months to come up with seven towers in New York city in place of twin towers destroyed on 9/11, eleven years back. He tells Dilasha Seth and Indivjal Dhasmana that WTCs are underrepresented in India. There are two WTCs--one in Mumbai and another in Bangalore. Two more are coming up in Manesar (Haryana), which has partially started, and the other one in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh. In total, there would be eleven WTCs in India, which will also be underrepresentation, he says. Edited interview:
The infamous crashing down of the twin towers in New York happened on 9/11, 2001. How did your organisation deal with that?
It was eleven years ago. That incident was not related to us. The building was targeted. But it was not something we could control. The new building is opening in 15-18 months, and the new WTC will start operations in 2014.
How will the building shape up?
New WTC is going to be more important than the old WTC because there is so much memories related to this event. It is going to be an incredible destination. It is going to be number one destination in the United States. Instead of twin towers, it will have seven towers. You have the base of the two buildings which is a memorial. Around the memorial, there will be seven towers. The tower number one will be the tallest and then they go down in sizes. The number seven will be the smallest. And seven different architects from seven different nations designed the buildings.
In India, you are expanding to Manesar and Greater Noida in the National Capital Region (NCR), besides your present offices in Mumbai and Bangalore. What are the plans like?
There are two projects--one is Spire Edge in Manesar, and the other is Spire Tech which is in greater Noida. Both have been designated as the WTCs. Spire Edge, that is WTC, Manesar is 1.6 million square feet for mixed use developement where in we are having office of 1.3 million square feet, then residential, retail and service apartments of all put together of 0.3 million square feet. WTC, Noida is 2.5 million square feet for mixed use development.
How is the association distributed country-wise?
We have 130 WTCs all across the globe. In the United States, we have the highest number of offices-- around 60, in China 36.
What are the plans for India?
We have a big potential to open more WTCs for India. It is an important market. In fact, India and China are high growth economies. It's a function of cities reaching a certain stage in development where the demand for international trade becomes larger enough to satisfy having a building and joining our global network.
You are already in Bombay and Bangalore. But why are you coming to these two places so late?
We have licenses in NCR. We also have licenses in Chennai, Kolkata, and are in various stages of completion.
In near future, how many WTCs India will have?
Eleven, including Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Goa. We are also in dicussion with other cities.
What do you see when you give a status of WTC to a building in a city?
Its a combination of factors. We look at our global network. We identify areas where we are underrepresented. I think we are underrepresented in India. In general, we are positive to India.
Will eleven offices will also be underrepresentation?
I think potential is much greater.
WTCs are built by developers, you don't own them. So where does your role come in?
In total, we have a membership of one million companies in our network and 300 WTCs. So members are in a network that can be accessed. We want to attract tenants looking for international trade and our support. Could be small businesses. They come to these buildings where there are advisory capacities in the building that can help them get permit, papers, they arrange trips to various countries.
Since the aim of your organisation is to promote international trade, have you made any assessment of global economy amid crises in the Euro zone and faltering US economy?
We work in all parts. If times are difficut, there is a reason to be part of this family and network. In difficult times, people are attracted to us. In the boom as well, they are attracted. It is irrelevant in terms of cycle.
Will WTCs in India help increase India's exports?
Definitely. We can put foreign companies interested in India to right businesses in India.
When protectionist tone is adopted in US presidential elections against outsourcing, did your organisation call for a restraint or lobby for open trade?
We are apolitical. We do not lobby. What we do is to support our members. So, if members are experiencing difficulties, we try to support and help them overcome difficulties to a certain extent. But it is not to the extent of going to the government and asking for change in policies. we are a non-profit organisation.
What do your members outside India tell you about hurdles in the way of starting a business or doing a business in India?
They are looking for specific support. They can come to us for certain kinds of support. We cannot change tariffs, they know it. We help in terms of trade education, we can educate them as to what they need to do in terms of trade to be successful, documentation, advise in investment in certain markets. Indirectly we do help them. For example, local WTCs here would be integrated with local government. So, recently I met political representatives in the city of Mumbai and they have excellent relationship with WTC. So, if WTC in Mumbai is complaining about things, it will reach their ear. They will understand this.