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The man behind Lavasa, India’s first ‘smart’ city

Ajit Gulabchand is building a new city for 200,000 outside of Pune, India. (World Economic Forum)

No one would ever accuse Ajit Gulabchand, creator of Lavasa, of thinking small. Samantha North reports for CityMetric that the man behind India’s first “smart city” is a visionary who says new cities are needed to accommodate migration to urban areas.

Whether Lavasa, designed to house 200,000, is the right model is unclear. “So far, Lavasa remains a work in progress,” North writes. “It’s stalled along the way by various controversies, including a run-in with the previous Indian government.”

The latest Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, a champion of new and upgraded cities, is supportive and has visited Lavasa, located near Pune and about 200 kms (124 miles) from Mumbai. But the project is dogged by accusations that it is a playground for the rich that has displaced villagers and damaged the environment.

For now, the city is positioning itself as a tourist destination. Gulabchand envisions it morphing into an educational powerhouse, along the lines of Oxford, England or Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lavasa’s brainchild is convinced that city life is India’s future. “Even the worst life in the city was better than the village,” he tells the publication. 


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