31 March 2020

Interaction-Kunal Kumar (IAS), Municipal Commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation

Doing things which have never been tried before in India



Pune has always been in the forefront of India’s ‘Smart City Mission,’ such as being the first city to offer Municipal Bonds on the stock market to fund its Smart projects. In an exclusive interview to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES, KUNAL KUMAR (IAS), MUNICIPAL COMMISSIONER, PUNE MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, discusses their Smart initiatives, and the progress made so far.



Your assessment of Pune’s Smart City initiatives, how do you evaluate the progress so far. What are the major challenges?

It’s been very exciting time, since we embarked on Pune’s smart city journey. We established a dedicated SPV named Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited (PSCDCL) on 23rd March 2016, and have launched several projects to transform the city since then. We have achieved remarkable progress on some of our key innovative projects.

One of the projects in advanced stages of implementation is “Smart Elements.” This comprises of six elements including setting up of:

  • Integrated Command and Control Centre,
  • Setting up of 200+ Wi-Fi hotspots,
  • 50+ environment monitoring sensors,
  • 125+ public announcement systems,
  • 50+ emergency call boxes, and
  • 150+ variable messaging systems.

Similarly, we have launched a project to convert the street light from sodium vapor to LED and are also integrating to the Street Lighting Centre to manage these lights remotely

Beyond the IT projects, we have also focused on getting the infrastructure right. We have already launched our 24X7 water supply project to provide clean safe drinking water to all citizens of Pune. In order to fund the project, we launched Pune’s Municipal Bond which was listed on the BSE on 22nd June 2017, marking it as the largest municipal bond issue in the history of India.

One more accomplishment is our skill building program called the “Lighthouse,” to empower unprivileged youth for sustainable livelihood generation. Our goal is to launch a total of 15 Lighthouses by end 2019, with an annual enrolment target of 600 youth per Lighthouse (i.e. 9,000 youth per year). Two Lighthouses, one in Aundh and the other in Yerwada, are operational and  around 1200 youth have already enrolled for the program till date.

When it comes to challenges, given that smart city development is a relatively new initiative in the country and Pune is pioneering it, we have encountered quite a few challenges. Under the Smart City Mission, we are doing things which have never been tried before in India at such scale and come with its challenges. These primarily include challenges around getting the scope right, developing an understanding of the existing technologies, and contextualizing things done in different parts of the world to suit Indian requirements. In order to overcome these challenges, we have done extensive stakeholder consultation to understand the market landscape, both in terms of the best-in-class solutions available, and key players. This investment of time from our side has resulted in some of the best from across the world participate in the Smart City Effort of Pune. As an example, Google’s public wifi offering is the first of its kind initiative for an Indian city


Please share details about the recently rolled out subsidiary, Pune Idea Factory Foundation (PIFF), how will it foster growth of startups in the city.

The start-up ecosystem in India is expanding and maturing every year, offering much needed support to entrepreneurs. Among major start-up hubs in India, Pune enjoys a special place. Pune’s enviable reputation as a center for education, research, industry, manufacturing, and technology, has made it a cradle for innovation and entrepreneurship. Under the PSCDCL, the Pune Idea Factory Foundation (PIFF) has been set up as a non-profit organization dedicated to boosting the start-up ecosystem in Pune.

Its mission is to energize and strengthen the ecosystem by offering stakeholders different opportunities. The efforts include creating a strong pool of entrepreneurs supported by mentors, incubators and accelerators, and connecting them to investors and other sources of funding. PIFF will also support the ecosystem through different start-up events, bridging the gap between industry and educational institutions, and fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship in the city.

Based on a recent survey we conducted for 100 plus start-ups based in Pune, we realized that even though Pune is considered an attractive destination for entrepreneurs, several challenges faced in setting up a business and basic infrastructural inadequacies in the city can’t be ignored. Despite having the right DNA of a robust start-up ecosystem, Pune is not currently featured in top 20 global destinations for start-ups, and ranks only 4th in terms of funding amongst Indian cities. We plan to change this situation through PIFF and aim to become the most aspired start-up destination within India.


Please elaborate on the priorities of the PSCDCL.

PSCDCL has been formed to deliver upon the Smart City Proposal for the city of Pune. As we were developing the Smart City Proposal, we realized that transport and mobility, water and sewage and solid waste management are the key challenges of the citizens. The priority of PSCDCL remains to resolve these challenges faced by the citizens of Pune.

It is important to note that these are just the basic problems of the people of Pune. In addition to this, our belief is to become a great city, Pune would also need to invest in boosting the economy and creating jobs as well as ensure sustainable development. Pune Idea Factory Foundation (PIFF) as mentioned before is already working on the start-ups ecosystem and boosting the economy. For sustainable development, we have already launched several projects including improving our street light system (with objective of reducing electricity consumption by 50-60 per cent), Non-Revenue Water reduction to 15 per cent-- from 30 per cent, as a part of our 24x7 project.

In addition to that, we are also conceptualizing projects on solar roof-top to ensure a portion of the energy requirement of ABD can be fulfilled through renewable energy


How do you plan to bridge the funding gap for your Smart projects.

Ensuring adequate funding for various projects identified under the Smart City Plan is critical to ensuring the impact and success. Currently we are looking at an overall cost of around Rs.3000 crore over a period of 5 years.  Apart from the funding of Rs.1000 crore under the Smart City Mission, we are actively planning to leverage other sources of funding. For example, land monetisation, and implementing value capture models for the infrastructure proposed to be created will be a priority. Creating a framework for private investors to participate in smart city projects is also a major thrust area through structuring Public Private Participation projects. Other sources of funding identified include convergence of Central and State Government scheme funds, CSR funds etc. While the above address funding requirements, right sizing of the projects will also be prioritised through project structuring and value engineering to match available funds with project requirements.


What is the scope of the five-year MoU with Global Compact Network India (GCNI), what has been the progress so far ?

Global Compact Network India (GCNI) is a very important partner for us. The objective of the MoU is to provide PSCDCL with a Framework of Governance through Statutory and Regulatory Compliance Management, and Procurement Management Solutions, as well as Public Private Partnership Module, to develop Pune as a world class city in a transparent and accountable manner. 

As a part of the engagement, GCNI is helping Pune develop a framework for the management of its PPP project. In addition to this, GCNI is leveraging its partner network to provide a compliance tool on governance and procurement for PSCDCL.


What inputs have you got so far from the ‘Make your City Smart competition.’

Citizen engagement has been one of the key highlights of the Pune’s Smart City Program. We got more than 3.5 million inputs during our Smart City Proposal Phase as we continue to believe that extensive citizen engagement is also required in the implementation phase.  “Make your Smart City Campaign” was another such opportunity for us to engage with the citizens and make the development progress inclusive. As part of this, we focused on streets of Pune and the Project was called “Re-imaging Singhad Road.” The contest was launched on 25th June 2016 and Punekars were invited to send their proposals for the same. The competition aspired to seek citizen feedback and active involvement in the design of streets as public spaces thereby generating a broad consensus and community pride. We got 50+ inputs out of which 10 were shortlisted by a panel of experts. The 10 shortlisted proposals were then invited to present their design in front of a jury panel consisting of eminent professionals with experience in Street design on 5th August 2016. Out of the 10, the top 3 were selected and have been recognized by the PSCDCL and PMC.


How do India’s Smart Cities compare to Global Standards.

Indian cities still have a long way to go to become the best in the world, to achieve its real potential. Having said so, at the same point of time we have to recognize that a lot of Indian cities are rapidly moving in that direction. For example, Pune was one of the 6 finalists for the City Award, at the prestigious Smart City Expo World Congress held in Barcelona in November, 2016. We were competing with some of the best in the world including the city of Seoul, Moscow and New York, clearly symbolizing the remarkable change in the way people perceive Indian cities. The city has also been selected under 100 Resilient Cities program funded by the Rockefeller foundation, to help Pune become more equipped to tackle shocks and stresses.



Pune’s Smart Commissioner
Kunal Kumar (IAS), is presently the Municipal Commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation. An electrical engineering graduate from IIT Roorkee, he has successfully completed his Masters in Public Management from National University of Singapore, jointly conducted with Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, USA. He has presented papers on e-Governance which received awards like the best e-governed district award for Jalgaon district nationally. He also received a certificate of Appreciation for being a finalist in Manthan Award South Asia 2009. Most importantly, he was awarded by the Prime Minister for his excellence in Aadhar Governance when he was District Collector of Aurangabad.
Under his leadership, a PUNE SMART CITY proposal called ‘Reimagining Pune To Become India’s Most Livable Smart City,’ was selected as a finalist in the City Award category out of 250 entries from 45 countries for the ‘World Smart City Awards’ at Barcelona in 2016.

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