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Consultants make hay while sun shines on SEZs
October, 17th 2006

The special economic zone (SEZ) boom has forced major consultancy firms to form a separate vertical to cater to SEZ consultancy needs.

There was a mad rush from SEZ developers to such firms seeking advice on getting approvals when there was a cap on the number of SEZs in the country at 150.

But after the government lifted the cap, the firms are now providing end-to-end solutions to SEZ developers.

From Ernst & Young to PWC and Feedback Ventures, several consultancy firms are betting big time on the Rs 1 lakh crore investment expected to go into SEZs by December 2007. Says Ernst and Young partner Ajit Krishnan: Many developers dont have the organisational ability to think big like Reliance. They also dont have the competence to micro-manage aspects like water, sewage and power.

For consultancy firms, it is challenging to bring the right set of expertise to such projects.

The major work is preparing the master-plan for SEZ projects by including key aspects like cost-efficiency and value-creation. The firms are also competing to woo the big names among the developers.

Besides, leading firms have been roped in by state governments to frame fool-proof and non-controversial land policies. These firms also help developers with the marketing pitch to lure big MNCs to set up shop in SEZs, Krishnan says, adding that his firm has given advice to 81 SEZs regarding obtaining approval and end-to-end consultancy to 15 SEZs.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Pvt Ltd executive director Vivek Mehra says: We have set up region-wise core groups as well as a national central core group to solve all the possible problems of SEZ developers, including the areas of finance, taxation, concept planning, designing of an SEZ and future strategy. The developers have realized that the work does not end with getting government clearance. The focus now is on operationalising SEZs.

We have given advice to many SEZ developers including Nokia, DLF, Dewan group and NIIT, he said.

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