City Spotlight: Chennai

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Oct. 10 – Chennai is often called “the Detroit of India” as it accounts for 30 percent of the country’s automotive sector and 40 percent of auto components. Chennai, known as Madras until 1996, is the capital city of Tamil Nadu state. Considered the gateway to South India, the city has grown up around what used to be a British port. Today, Chennai excels in automobile and electric manufacturing, as well as design and R&D.

Economy and Investment Climate
In recent years, Chennai has become an automobile-manufacturing hub with investments from Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Renault SA, Daimler AG, BMW AG and Nissan Motor Company.

Car-parts suppliers in Chennai – which collectively produce 40 percent of auto components – include tire company Michelin SA and window maker Saint-Gobain SA, which have some of their biggest factories globally in Chennai, while Daimler has a multimillion-dollar test track.

Chennai is home to investments from electronic giants including Dell, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Siemens, Sony and Foxconn. In addition, Caterpillar, Komatsu & Koebelco, Japan and Doosan chose Chennai to establish large earth-moving equipment manufacturing plants.

Companies including Visteon, Caterpillar, Mahindra & Mahindra, Nokia, Ericsson, Flextronics, Alcatel, Tessolve, Vestas, and Sanmina-SCI Corporation have established their engineering design and R&D centers in the city.

Chennai has become an offshore engineering hub as a result of the existence of offshore technology and renewable energy research institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. The city’s skilled manpower is sourced from its educational institutions, including the Indian Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious engineering universities of India.

The city has also been called the “Banking Capital of India” due to its large trading and banking culture. The city serves more than 900 million people around the world through back office operations. Many firms have located back office and development center operations in Chennai, these firms include Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and the World Bank.

Chennai is also considered the health capital of India and is a preferred destination for medical tourism. The city is also a textiles hub and home to the second largest film industry in the country, nicknamed Kollywood.


Chennai lies on important road networks of India, including the Golden Quadrilateral, which is a highway network connecting India’s four largest metropolises: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

The other major road network is the North-South Corridor that connects the area with cities such as Bangalore and Hyderabad. Chennai is also connected by four National Highways (NH): NH-4 to Mumbai, NH-5 to Kolkata, NH-45 to Theni, and NH-205 to Anantapur, Andra Pradesh.

The main bus station of Chennai is the Mofussil Bus Terminus and is one of the largest in Asia. The bus system is run by the Metropolitan Transport Corporation which operates 3,421 buses on 724 routes. The buses provide transportation for more than 5.2 million people per day.

As the most important rail hub for South India, Chennai Central station connects the city with other major cities such as Delhi, Bhopal, Mumbai, Patna, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Bangalore. Meanwhile, Chennai Egmore station links the city with the southern and central Tamil Nadu state.

Egmore is also an important stop on the Chennai suburban railway, which is a railway system that runs within Chennai city. Around 30km to the south of Chennai city lies Tambaram station, one of the terminals on the suburban railway line that leads to the Chennai Beach.

The city is also currently constructing a Metro system. Phase 1 of the project is scheduled for completion by fiscal year 2014-2015. The initial phase of the project will entail the construction of two corridors for a total of 45.1km of track. One of the corridors will connect to the Chennai Airport.

The city government is also going through the planning stages of a possible monorail system.

The Chennai International Airport is the third busiest airport in India and second busiest cargo terminus. There are two passenger terminals (one domestic and one international), along with one cargo terminal. During 2012 the airport handled 12.9 million passengers. The airport is currently being expanded and a new airport is being built near Sriperumbudur in order to deal with cargo spillover.

Ports and Waterways
Chennai has two major ports: Chennai Port and Ennore Port. Chennai Port is India’s second largest container port and a center for automobile exports. It’s also one of the busiest hubs in the country with an annual container volume of 1.523 million TEUs (~25.8 million tons) in 2010–2011, handling automobiles, motorcycles and general industrial cargo. In 2013 the port handled 26.249 million tons of cargo.

Ennore Port handles cargo such as coal, ore and other bulk and rock mineral products. The port’s annual cargo tonnage came in at 11 million tons in fiscal year 2010–2011. For 2013, the port handled 12.676 million tons.

On January 31, 2013, Chennai opened the Kattupalli port. This port is both a shipyard and can be used as an alternative to the city’s two other ports. Kattupalli has the biggest ship building facilities in the country.

Chennai is one of only four cities in India that is connected to the rest of the world through undersea fiber-optic cables. The city was the first in India to have extensive Wi-Fi capabilities and has the fourth highest amount of Internet users.

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