Non-resident Indian businessman C Sivasankaran's Sterling Infotech group is in talks with the Seychelles government to lease an island for 99 years, on which it plans to build an integrated mega township and tourism project.
This will make Sterling Infotech the second Indian corporate group to enter Seychelles. Sunil Mittal's Bharti Enterprises, India's largest telecom group, operates mobile phone services there and has also bought a five star hotel.
When contacted, Sivasankaran, who was in Singapore, said: "We are talking, the government has to give us permissions. Nothing is final yet."
The island identified for the township and tourism project is Coetivy, 290 km south of Mahe, which is spread over 930 hectares. The project will include villas, condominiums, hotels and leisure facilities. The investment details are not known.
Siva Ventures, a group company that did a private placement of secured redeemable non-convertible debentures last month, confirmed in its information memorandum that the company was looking to lease the island for 99 years.
An email reply from Michelle Tomkinson, technical advisor to the principal secretary of finance and trade in the Seychelles government, said: "We are unable to release information as we are bound by legal limitations in terms of protection of personal information and privacy and secrecy laws."
Invest Seychelles, the official site for investments in the island country, says the government has asked for expression of interest from companies to take the island on lease as part of its policy to develop the islands as land is limited. The government is going through a detailed analysis of islands and classifying them for various functions, such as, tourism, agriculture and fisheries.
Sterling Infotech has diverse business interests that include telecommunications, shipping, retail, restaurants, media and wind energy. Sivasankaran started out as a fabrication contractor for MRL (now CPCL). In the 1980s, he bought Sterling Computers from Robert Amritraj, father of former tennis star Vijay Amritraj.
The company created a sensation in the computer hardware market by selling personal computers for as low as Rs 33,000 (they were much more expensive then).
He was also a pioneer in running broadband services through his company DSL Dishnet, which he later sold to the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. The NRI has also dabbled in various businesses as diverse as coffee retail and heath food restaurant, among others.
Photograph: Rediff archives