India’s newest financial hub is rising from scrubland near the banks of the Sabarmati River once dominated by marsh birds and grazing buffalo.
In the state of Gujarat, just a few glass-fronted towers greet the 20,000 employees of companies such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and HSBC Holdings Plc who commute in each weekday. Its full name is Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, but it’s more commonly known as GIFT City. It occupies 886 acres between Gujarat’s capital, Gandhinagar, and Ahmedabad, its biggest city. As of October, bankers managed a combined $33 billion here.
An exemption from the many rules and taxes that hamper business and trading in the rest of India. GIFT City is an experiment in free markets nestled inside a $3 trillion economy—one of the world’s fastest-growing—that’s long been reluctant to let its national currency, the rupee, become a plaything of international investors. The goal is to create a welcoming place where India-centric trading that’s moved to Dubai, Mauritius or Singapore can return home.