"Wow! Is this Hyderabad?" That's the response that the Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) has been receiving from over 50,000 guests it has served in less than nine months time.
"In fact, the negative comments that we have received so far could only be with regard to our costs. Well, if you are going to choose Mercedes over Maruti, the costs are going to differ as well," reasons Philip Logan, general manager, HICC.
The certitude with which Logan speaks about the centre stems from the fact that it is South Asia's first world-class convention centre. Located in 15 acres of landscaped environment, it has been constructed in less than 13 months.
Promoted by Cyberabad Convention Centre, a joint venture between Dubai-based Emaar Properties and Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation, it has been built at an approximate investment of Rs 300 crore (Rs 3 billion).
Hospitality major Accor has been awarded the management contract for the property with the designing undertaken by RMJM Architects and C&T Architects.
Though it is around 12 km outside the city, visitors are streaming in to have a dekho at the centre. HICC has so far hosted over 50 events which includes mega international affairs like the Asian Development Bank meet (for which it was actually set up) to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (for which it had to speed up the construction).
The centre has bookings till 2010 for events ranging from the International Astronautical Congress in 2007 to the International Congress of Mathematicians in 2010.
While the astronautical congress will be coming to India after a span of 22 years, the congress of mathematicians has never been held in India before. Logan says, "Thanks to HICC, Hyderabad is now a popular location for international events."
Interestingly, HICC has also hosted six weddings in the past and charges Rs 250 per sq mt minus the cost of food and beverages.
What makes HICC different? For starters, it has a 6,480 sq mt hall which is absolutely pillar-free. This can be partitioned into six halls so that smaller gatherings can be hosted as and when required. It also has mobile operable walls which when expanded enable the hall to accommodate up to 5,000 people.
Besides, the hall has an inbuilt rear projection screen with around 18 ft x 16 ft capacity and state-of-the-art sound systems built into the roof to provide a concert-like experience. This feature will soon be put to use for ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh's concert on October 2, 2006, which is likely to attract about 7,000 visitors.
HICC facilitates the hosting of mega exhibitions in a seamless manner as well. The floor has special pits to facilitate power, water and phone lines to avoid unnecessary display of wires.
Apart from that, the ceiling of the hall stands tall at about 12.5 metres in height. Besides, it has catwalks which are typically used in automobile launches for bringing the car down by suspending it from the ceiling.
In addition, there is round-the-clock security with 38 CCTVs, 18 breakout rooms, six meeting rooms and four offices across three levels, making it a world-class convention facility.
HICC also provides four speaker-preparation rooms with furniture et al to ensure that even those who have just flown in have a place to prepare. "We also have six language interpretation booths, which are essential for international events," says Logan.
Though it has all the trappings of an international convention hall, HICC has consciously kept the local tang intact, proof of which is on the walls that display artwork done by local artisans and photographs of the historical grandeur of Hyderabad. Logan says, this was to represent international quality laced with local flavour.
The convention centre is also self-sufficient in terms of the 100 per cent inbuilt power back-up generation capability, its own sewage treatment plant and rainwater harvesting system. Logan declines to put a number to the daily maintenance costs for HICC, but says that it is substantial.
The centre has its limitations too. Parking space is just about enough today. But with the number and magnitude of events increasing by the day, requirements could change. Logan is, however, quick to comment, "Sometimes you become a victim of your own success."
He adds, "There is sufficient land available and we will make good use of it at the right time."
Logan says that though events planned for 2010 may sound distant, the centre has already started preparing for the events. Certainly one more reason for us to believe in HICC's world-class quality standards.