On the 13th of March, SCMS Cochin School of Business hosted a Finesse 2015 themed “Infrastructure Financing – The Key to Sustainable Growth”. The relevance of a National Conference on Infrastructure, given its significance for economic growth that our country is aiming for, was definitely huge. Students at the institute got a taste of that as the conference invited big names from the field. They had come together on a platform to share ideas on how to deal with challenges to the growth of infrastructure, which is the backbone of a burgeoning economy.
The day’s proceedings began with the rousing welcome speech delivered by Dr. Filomina. P. George, Director, SCMS Cochin. She set the tone for the conference and emphasized its significance for today’s times. Mr. Elias George IAS., MD KMRL, then delivered the inaugural address, while Mr. V.G Mathew, MD, CEO SIB was at hand to offer the keynote address. The session was presided over by Patron of Finesse, Mr. Venugopal C. Govind, Senior Managing Partner, Varma & Varma.
Mr. Elias George focused on the Kochi Metro and described how it could be an accident waiting to happen. He also talked about the difficulties in finding funding for infrastructure projects and putting it to good use. His insightful session ended with him highlighting the role of women and technology in the growth of infrastructure. Mr. Matthew enlightened the gathering about the role of commercial banks in the funding of infrastructure projects. He offered the students a peek into how banks look at infrastructure, while describing different reasons for projects failing in the country.
There were several high points during the Presidential address delivered by Mr. Govind. According to him, “The major concern in infrastructure projects is a lack of initiative in taking sophisticated risks. In spite of the rising opportunities, there are numerous challenges faced by the infrastructure sector due to a lack of innovation in building and financing models.” From the role of the budget to different stakeholders, he talked about various factors that impact infrastructure. Ms. Nithya Rani closed the informative session with a Vote of Thanks.
It was then time for the always enthusiastic and invigorating panel discussions, with the first one focusing on the topic “Role of Banks and Financial Institutions in Infrastructure Funding”. Mr. Santhosh S, Associate Professor of the institute, opened the session for the eminent speakers, which included Mr. Abraham Thariyan, Ex Executive Director, SIB and Mr. Giby Mathew, M.D, Celebrus Capital Ltd. Mr. Santosh explained different concepts like project viability and asset liability mismatch while talking about the need for a wider role for the insurance and pension fund sectors.
Mr. Thariyan carried the discussion forward by talking about the gap between the requirement of project finance and the actual finance allotted. He focused on providing examples from the recent budget, and he suggested that banks be given more long term funds for financial feasibility. Mr. Mathew shed light on the significance of exit routes facilitated by the government, which allow the funding institutions to get out of a project. He also highlighted the role of capital market funding in infrastructure and suggested amendments in regulations for financial institutions to get better results.
The second session on the “Role of institutional Facilitators in Infrastructure Funding” was moderated by Mr. A V Jose, Associate Professor, SCMS Cochin, and it had leading names like Mr. Jyothikumar, Executive Director, KSIDC and Mr. Jaikrishnan G, Director, Management Consultancy, KPMG on the panel. Mr. Jose talked about the link between infrastructure and economic development, and how the former contributes towards the latter. He also opened the discussion on institutional facilitators for the speakers to follow up on.
According to Mr. JyothiKumar, “Financial institutions are involved mainly in three areas of a project: development, financing and facilitation.” His insight included the modalities of projects, which was highly informative for the students in the gathering. Mr. Jaikrishnan believed, “All parties involved in infrastructure development should be in a position to gain. Infrastructure financing should address two aspects: getting the right skills and integrating community sentiments.” The valedictory session, with a presentation by Mr. Arihant Jain, Student Representative of Finesse, ended the proceedings for the hugely productive conference.