GIFT City, Gujarat: A Revolution in India's Economy and Finance

Aug-07-2023Blog by – Mr. Dhruv AjmeraRead Time: 10 Min.Word Count: 2931
27GIFT City, Gujarat: A Revolution in India's Economy and Finance

GIFT City (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City) is India`s first international financial services center (IFSC) located in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. It was envisioned to become a global financial and technology hub, attracting investors, businesses, and professionals from across the world. I am excited to share the journey and potential of this vibrant city in transforming India`s economy and financial landscape.

I. Past of GIFT City:

A. Inception and Vision:

The inception of GIFT City dates back to the early 2000s when the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi, envisioned creating a world-class financial services center that would rival the leading global financial hubs. The vision was to establish a smart city that would offer state-of-the-art infrastructure, a conducive business environment, and a robust regulatory framework to attract international financial institutions, investors, and corporations.

GIFT City`s primary objective was to address the growing demand for a sophisticated financial ecosystem within India, reducing the dependence on international financial centers like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai. By creating an international financial services center in India, the country aimed to retain domestic financial businesses that were moving offshore due to regulatory constraints and explore new opportunities in global financial services.

B. Establishment as an IFSC:

In 2007, the Government of Gujarat took a significant step towards realizing the vision of GIFT City by laying the foundation stone for the project. It was declared as an International Financial Services Center (IFSC) under the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act, providing a designated area for conducting international financial transactions and services.

C. Infrastructure Development and Growth:

The infrastructure development of GIFT City commenced in phases, with meticulous planning and world-class amenities. The Gujarat International Finance Tec-City Company Limited (GIFTCL) was incorporated in 2007 as the nodal agency responsible for the development, management, and administration of GIFT City.

Over the years, GIFT City witnessed significant growth in terms of infrastructure and services. The city`s infrastructure was designed to be future-ready, with a focus on sustainability, green building practices, and smart city features. It boasts world-class office spaces, data centers, residential complexes, commercial zones, social infrastructure, and recreational areas.

The growth of GIFT City was bolstered by regulatory reforms and initiatives by the Indian government, such as the implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), the liberalization of foreign investment policies, and the introduction of supportive financial regulations.

Today, GIFT City stands as a testament to India`s ambition to be a leading player in the global financial services industry. It continues to evolve and expand, attracting more businesses, investment, and talent from around the world. The city`s success has positioned India as a competitive destination for international finance and has laid the foundation for a promising future as a leading smart city in India.

II. Present of GIFT City:


1. Introduction to SEZ IFSC
The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) International Financial Services Center (IFSC) zone within GIFT City is the flagship area of the city, designed to cater to international financial transactions and services. It operates as a separate jurisdiction with its own regulatory framework, distinct from the domestic financial markets in India. The SEZ IFSC zone aims to attract global financial players and investors by offering a world-class business environment and a range of financial services.

2. Tax Benefits and Incentives

GIFT City`s SEZ IFSC zone provides several tax benefits and incentives, making it an attractive destination for businesses and investors. Some of the key tax advantages include:

  • No Securities Transaction Tax (STT)

  • No Capital Gains Tax on securities transactions

  • No Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT)

  • Lower Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) rate

  • Exemption from Goods and Services Tax (GST) on specified services

  • Tax incentives for fund managers operating from GIFT City

These tax benefits significantly enhance the cost-effectiveness and competitiveness of financial services offered within the SEZ IFSC zone.

3. Products and Services Offered
The SEZ IFSC zone of GIFT City offers a wide array of financial products and services to cater to the diverse needs of global investors and corporations. Some of the key products and services include:

  • Wholesale Banking Services

  • Investment Banking and Advisory

  • Private Banking and Wealth Management

  • Insurance and Reinsurance Services

  • Global Custody Services

  • Fund Management and Asset Management

  • Commodity and Currency Derivatives

  • Trading of Equities, Bonds, and Derivatives

  • Fintech and IT Services for Financial Institutions

  • International Financial and Investment Services

B. Non-SEZ Zone:

1. Overview of Non-SEZ Zone

The Non-SEZ zone in GIFT City complements the SEZ IFSC zone and caters to non-financial businesses, including IT and technology companies, as well as other commercial enterprises. It is an essential part of GIFT City`s ecosystem, offering a diversified business environment and promoting integrated development.

2. Key Developments and Businesses

The Non-SEZ zone has witnessed significant development and houses a mix of commercial, IT, and technology-related businesses. Companies from various industries, including IT services, software development, research and development, and back-office operations, have set up their establishments in this zone.

III. Benefits of GIFT City:

A. Strategic Location and Connectivity: GIFT City is strategically located from the working capital city of Gujarat ( Ahmedabad ) by a 30 minute drive. It is located only 20 minutes away from the Gandhinagar station. In order to reach GIFT city one can easily take connectivity from Mumbai via the newly launched Vande Bharat Express.

B. Robust Infrastructure and Amenities: World class infrastructure is in the process of being built in the GIFT city. Since the city development is only 50 years old a lot of amenities are yet to be setup.

C. Global Regulatory Framework: GIFT city is on the line of creating financial giants like Singapore within India itself and therefore its regulatory framework is on the same International guidelines.

D. Talented Workforce and Pool of Professionals: Currently residences are being made in the GIFT city, however majority of the workforce travels from Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad via private vehicles or company provided shuttle services. The city is in the process of setting up more schools thereby encouraging families to move within the GIFT city.

IV. Perils and Challenges:

A. Regulatory Compliance and Framework: The endeavor in GIFT city is to provide a simple framework w.r.t to taxation, compliance and regulations. It will only solve the purpose if the same is strictly adhered to and not complicated going forward. Any tinkling with the tax structure shall make it unviable.

B. Talent Retention and Skill Development: Daily commuting and lack of residential settlements can pose a challenge in order to retain quality employees. 

V. Products and Services Offered in GIFT City:

A. Financial Services:

1. Banking

GIFT City`s SEZ IFSC zone hosts several domestic and international banks that provide a wide range of banking services. These services include corporate banking, trade finance, project finance, syndicated loans, foreign exchange transactions, and treasury operations. The banks in GIFT City cater to both domestic and global clients, offering efficient and seamless cross-border banking solutions.

2. Insurance

The insurance sector in GIFT City offers various insurance and reinsurance services to global clients. It includes life insurance, general insurance, marine insurance, property insurance, and liability insurance. GIFT City`s regulatory framework allows insurance companies to operate with ease and serve the diverse needs of international customers, contributing to India`s emergence as a prominent insurance hub.

3. Asset Management

GIFT City is a hub for asset management companies, providing investment management services for both domestic and international clients. These asset management firms offer a wide range of investment products, including mutual funds, alternative investment funds (AIFs), portfolio management services (PMS), and real estate investment trusts (REITs). The presence of asset management companies enhances India`s position as a preferred destination for investment management in the Asia-Pacific region.

B. Capital Market Services:

1. Stock Exchanges
GIFT City is home to India`s leading stock exchanges, including the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).They have set up their own exchanges within the GIFT city which allows them to trade in financial instruments which are listed on them. Recently, the SGX Nifty itself has migrated from Singapore and moved to GIFT city. The move was very well received by all market participants. Recently it crossed a trading turnover of USD 8.5 Billion on a single day.

2. Clearing and Settlement

The clearing and settlement services in GIFT City ensure the smooth and efficient settlement of trades conducted on the stock exchanges. These services are provided by clearing corporations and clearinghouses, which manage risk and guarantee the settlement of trades. The presence of robust clearing and settlement mechanisms enhances investor confidence and fosters a transparent trading environment.

3. Depositories

The clearing and settlement services in GIFT City ensure the smooth and efficient settlement of trades conducted on the stock exchanges. These services are provided by clearing corporations and clearinghouses, which manage risk and guarantee the settlement of trades. The presence of robust clearing and settlement mechanisms enhances investor confidence and fosters a transparent trading environment.

C. IT and Technology Services:

1. Fintech

GIFT City is emerging as a prominent fintech hub, attracting innovative fintech companies that offer cutting-edge solutions for financial services. These fintech firms provide services like digital payment solutions, blockchain technology applications, robo-advisory platforms, peer-to-peer lending platforms, and mobile banking solutions. The integration of fintech in GIFT City enhances the efficiency and accessibility of financial services.

2. Data Analytics

Data analytics companies in GIFT City analyze vast volumes of financial data to provide valuable insights and intelligence to financial institutions and businesses. These services aid in risk assessment, investment decision-making, fraud detection, customer profiling, and compliance management. Data analytics plays a crucial role in enhancing the effectiveness and competitiveness of financial services offered within GIFT City.

3. Cybersecurity

Given the critical nature of financial services, cybersecurity is of paramount importance in GIFT City. Cybersecurity firms provide robust and advanced solutions to protect financial institutions and businesses from cyber threats and attacks. These services ensure the safety and integrity of financial transactions and client data, contributing to the overall trust and reliability of GIFT City`s financial ecosystem.

VI. Opportunities for Indians, NRIs, and FPIs:

A. Investment and Fund Management

GIFT City`s SEZ IFSC zone offers significant opportunities for Indian individuals, NRIs, and foreign investors to invest and manage funds efficiently. Indian residents can take advantage of the various investment products offered, including mutual funds, alternative investment funds (AIFs), and portfolio management services (PMS). The tax benefits available in the SEZ IFSC zone enhance the potential returns on investments.

NRIs and foreign investors can also explore investment options tailored to their requirements, such as investing in Indian securities, commodities, and currency derivatives. The ease of doing business in GIFT City and the availability of expert fund managers create an attractive investment ecosystem for NRIs and foreign investors looking to participate in the Indian financial markets.

B. Access to Global Markets

GIFT City acts as a gateway for Indian individuals, NRIs, and businesses to access global markets seamlessly. Through the stock exchanges in GIFT City, investors can trade in international equities, commodities, and currency futures. The availability of global depositories allows investors to hold and trade in international securities.

For Indian companies and businesses, GIFT City provides a platform to raise funds and issue global depository receipts (GDRs) and foreign currency bonds. This access to global markets enables diversification of investments and broadens opportunities for growth and expansion.

C. Wealth and Asset Management

GIFT City`s SEZ IFSC zone hosts a plethora of wealth and asset management firms that cater to the diverse needs of Indian HNIs (High Net Worth Individuals), NRIs, and global investors. These firms offer personalized and sophisticated wealth management solutions, including estate planning, tax optimization, and portfolio diversification.

NRIs and foreign investors can leverage wealth management services to efficiently manage their global assets and navigate cross-border tax and compliance complexities. The presence of wealth and asset management expertise in GIFT City facilitates the preservation and growth of wealth for Indian and global clients.

D. Employment and Career Growth:

GIFT City`s development as a financial and technology hub has created numerous employment opportunities for Indians and professionals from around the world. The presence of global banks, financial institutions, fintech companies, and other businesses has led to a demand for skilled and experienced professionals.

Indian talent in the finance, technology, legal, and compliance domains has ample opportunities to build rewarding careers in GIFT City. For NRIs and foreign professionals, GIFT City offers a unique platform to contribute their expertise to the growth of India`s financial services sector.

VII. The Future of GIFT City:

A. Growth Trajectory and Expansion Plans:

GIFT City has already demonstrated impressive growth since its inception, and its future trajectory promises to be even more remarkable. The city`s development is planned in phases, with ongoing and upcoming projects focused on expanding its infrastructure and services. The growth trajectory of GIFT City includes the establishment of additional commercial and residential zones, IT parks, and state-of-the-art financial institutions.

As GIFT City continues to attract global players, more companies are likely to set up their offices and operations within its confines, further enhancing its position as a leading financial and technology hub in India and the Asia-Pacific region.

B. Synergy with Government Initiatives (e.g., Make in India, Digital India):

GIFT City aligns seamlessly with various government initiatives, including Make in India and Digital India. The city`s development fosters domestic manufacturing, particularly in the technology and fintech sectors, contributing to the overall growth of the Indian economy.

C. Role in Attracting Foreign Investments:

GIFT City`s SEZ IFSC zone plays a crucial role in attracting foreign investments into India. The tax incentives and regulatory advantages offered in the SEZ IFSC zone make it an appealing destination for foreign financial institutions, businesses, and investors seeking to access the Indian market and leverage India`s growth potential.

D. Collaboration with International Financial Centers:

GIFT City envisions collaboration with other international financial centers to foster global partnerships and boost India`s position in the international financial landscape. Through collaborations and partnerships with other global financial hubs, GIFT City can facilitate cross-border investments, trading, and financial services.

By engaging with international financial centers, GIFT City can enhance its credibility and establish itself as a preferred destination for global businesses and investors seeking a foothold in the Indian market and beyond.

E. Integration of Technology and Innovation:

GIFT City is committed to integrating technology and fostering innovation to stay at the forefront of the global financial services industry. The city`s focus on fintech and data analytics enables the deployment of cutting-edge solutions for financial transactions, risk management, and customer experience.

Embracing emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and machine learning will drive operational efficiency, enhance security, and enable seamless cross-border transactions in GIFT City.

The future of GIFT City is bright and promising, with a robust growth trajectory driven by its expansion plans and strategic alignment with government initiatives. As GIFT City continues to attract foreign investments and collaborate with international financial centers, it will strengthen India`s position as a global financial powerhouse.

The city`s integration of technology and commitment to innovation will revolutionize financial services and create a dynamic ecosystem for businesses and investors. As GIFT City evolves, it will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping India`s economy and furthering its reputation as a leading smart city and a global financial and technology hub.

VIII. GIFT City as a Leading Smart City in India:

A. Urban Planning and Smart Infrastructure:

GIFT City`s development as a smart city is characterized by meticulous urban planning and the creation of smart infrastructure. The city`s layout is designed to optimize space utilization, reduce congestion, and enhance accessibility. Well-planned road networks, pedestrian-friendly walkways, and dedicated cycling lanes promote sustainable transportation.

Smart infrastructure includes the deployment of advanced technologies for efficient energy management, waste disposal, and water conservation. Additionally, GIFT City incorporates smart buildings equipped with energy-efficient systems, automated lighting, and integrated surveillance and security systems.

B. Digitization and E-Governance:

Digitization and e-governance are at the core of GIFT City`s smart city vision. The city leverages technology to streamline administrative processes, reduce paperwork, and enhance efficiency. E-governance initiatives enable citizens, businesses, and investors to access government services online, simplifying procedures and reducing bureaucratic delays.

GIFT City`s digital infrastructure ensures real-time connectivity and communication, allowing seamless interactions between residents, businesses, and government authorities. Digital platforms and mobile applications provide a range of services, from utility bill payments to online permit applications, making GIFT City a model for efficient and transparent governance.

C. Integration of IoT and AI Technologies:

GIFT City embraces the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to enhance the city`s efficiency and services. IoT sensors are deployed throughout the city to collect data on traffic flow, air quality, waste management, and energy consumption. This data is analyzed using AI algorithms to make data-driven decisions for optimizing urban services and improving overall quality of life.

Smart traffic management systems, powered by AI, enable real-time monitoring and dynamic traffic flow adjustments, minimizing congestion and improving transportation. AI-powered surveillance systems enhance security by detecting and preventing potential threats.

IX. Conclusion:

In conclusion, GIFT City is a visionary project that has the potential to revolutionize India`s economy and finance sector. It`s SEZ IFSC and non-SEZ zones offer an array of benefits, products, and services for Indian, NRI, and FPI investors. With strategic planning and continued growth, GIFT City is set to become a leading smart city in India, fostering innovation, and driving India`s position as a global financial powerhouse. As an SEZ consultant based in GIFT City, I am thrilled to witness and be a part of this transformative journey.

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