- 12 Oct 2017
Development evangelist Ajay Prasad on giving back to his home town, with the upcoming mega infrastructure project Taurus Downtown Technopark
It’s called karma. Long ago Ajay Prasad, then a strategy consultant at a real estate management firm, social development blogger and torch-bearer of the Trivandrum Development Front (TDF), a citizen-led initiative to push the capital city’s development agenda, told me, that I should interview him on his big plans for Thiruvananthapuram, his home town. I brushed it off as an idealistic youngster’s dreams.
At present, Ajay, Country Managing Director, India, at Taurus Investment Holdings, is the man behind the much talked about Taurus Downtown Technopark, that is set to come up in Technopark Phase III. When completed, the ₹1,500 crore project is set to snazz up the scene with it’s swanky office spaces, shopping mall, restaurants, a 11-screen multiplex and a hotel, among others.
Today, it’s rather difficult to pin Ajay down for a interview, busy as he is flying around the world on work, Singapore one day, Sao Paolo the next and Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is now based, the third! When we do catch up with him — in Munich, Germany, where he is on a ‘workcation’ — it’s endearing to hear that same spark for his home town alive and kicking. “I am a Trivandrumite first and foremost, having spent the first 22 years of my life here,” says Ajay.
The talkative, flamboyant 37-year-old is a former student of St Thomas Residential School and graduate in electronic engineering from the College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram. He also has an MBA from Indian Institute of Management – Calcutta and a masters in real estate development from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ajay is already quite well-known among netizens for his blog, tvmrising.in, where he used to write detailed posts about everything and anything infrastructure- and development-related to the city, from ‘Why Vizhinjam makes all the sense in the world’ to the cinematic extravaganza that is the International Film Festival of Kerala.
Ajay insists that his passion for all things Thiruvananthapuram is not only what tipped the scales in favour of the city, when Taurus Investment Holdings, a Boston-based global private equity firm, decided to kick start its first project in India. “The capital city has a strong service sector-oriented economic base, a lot of skilled workers and relatively well developed infrastructure,” explains Ajay.
Thiruvananthapuram, he goes on to explain, has many features that make it a sought-after destination by employers, millennials and investors. “Cities like Thiruvananthapuram, Austin in Texas and Munich are strongly based on the knowledge economy, with great educational and research institutions, lots of smart, young people and an established ecosystem of service-oriented industries such as technology, life sciences, media, tourism, health care, education and the Government. Thiruvananthapuram has over a dozen truly world-class research institutions, and scores of colleges from where thousands of undergraduates and graduates in a wide variety of subjects emerge every year and it ranks up there with Bangalore and Pune in this regard. Also, the city offers a much higher quality of life than congested metros,” he says.
That said, he admits that the city was not an easy sell to potential investors. “Truth be told, very few smaller cities in India are on the map of most decision makers outside the country. The investment industry has a herd mentality and it is always an uphill battle to convince anyone to risk investing outside the top five or six cities in the country,” he explains, adding that even in mega IT/ITes companies the only notable exceptions are Infosys and TCS, both of which have large campuses in Thiruvananthapuram.
Apparently, the lack of high quality business and social infrastructure in Tier II cities hampers the expansion of multi-nationals into these places. “We are looking to address this gap with our project. There has been very little to no destination marketing of Thiruvananthapuram and this has made it a exhausting task to build awareness and interest in the mind of potential occupiers of office space. But then, we love challenges!”
With the acquisition of the around 20 acres of land for the project in the coming month, Taurus will have achieved a major milestone.
Ajay says he’s relishing the bumpy road ahead. “While we have already completed the concept design and master plan for the project and also ticked off some of the key approvals needed to commence development, the devil is often found hidden in the details. Building five million sq.ft. is never a simple task anywhere, be it in the capital city, Istanbul or New York. Developing the largest single phase development in Kerala will definitely present a challenge,” he says, signing off as the coos of his one-year-old daughter, Ava, capture his attention.
Ajay is married to Viji Krishnan, a management professional. The couple enjoy travelling and watching movies and are huge fans of Game of Thrones.
Ajay’s fondest wish is to “be a part of the Star Wars and Marvel cinematic universe.”
He is also into reading and enjoys sci-fi, thrillers and non-fiction relating to military history, engineering and contemporary geopolitics.
Ever since moving to Boston six years ago, he’s become a fan of the American NFL team New England Patriots