Developing a Smart Future for Mauritius
Dhiren Ponnusamy, CEO of historic Mauritian enterprise, Medine Group, discusses strategic diversification and delivering the island’s smart city future as a haven for investment
Writer: Phoebe Harper | Project Manager: Kyle Livingstone
A historic mainstay within Mauritius’ business sector, the Medine Group today has significantly expanded from its roots as a sugar estate founded on the island over a century ago.
Since the company’s inception in 1911, Medine Group have maintained a position as a prominent player within Mauritius’ sugar cane industry, as reflected by the 10,000 hectares of company-owned land located on the west of the island that represents the core of the enterprises’ holding as a land bank.
Alongside this foundational activity, Medine Group have established a reputation for pioneering initiatives that have been adopted as mainstream within the industry.
“Over the years, Medine has gradually diversified away from monoculture activities, i.e.
sugar cane cultivation and sugar manufacturing, and currently boasts several pillars of activity across a range of economic sectors namely agriculture, education, property, leisure and hospitality,” explains Dhiren Ponnusamy, CEO of Medine Group.
Ponnusamy found his way to the company following what he describes as a “richly diverse career” spanning several continents after his graduation from the London School of Economics. Working for Standard Chartered Group across South Korea, Philippines, Singapore and Africa in several disciplines from finance to large-scale restructuring, Ponnusamy developed a taste for operating within “fast-paced and rapidly evolving environments.”
“My journey with Medine Group began when I joined in 2018 as COO. I was brought in to provide leadership in matters of strategic planning, finance, and performance management. In April 2020, I was asked to oversee the group in an interim capacity before being formally appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Medine Group by the Board of Directors on July 1st, 2021,” he explains.
In 2005, Medine Group developed a master plan that has since effectively governed the company’s economic diversification strategy, whilst ensuring the coherent, harmonious and sustainable development of the land bank.
Within this, Medine has taken an increasingly active involvement within property development, leading to its present positioning as an established leader within the sector.
“In 2007, Medine Group set up a dedicated property and urban development arm to implement the vision of the Medine Master Plan, whose motto was: ‘see far and look closely’,” Dhiren Ponnusamy tells us.
“At the time, Medine was a pioneer in Mauritius in terms of Master Planned Community development, with the ambition of building a new town on the west coast of Mauritius,” he adds, making reference to the Integrated Resort Scheme and within this specifically the development of the Tamarina Golf Estate, as a market-defining move.
Subsequently, Medine Group was successfully issued with a ‘Smart City Certificate’ in 2017 from the Economic Development Board under the Mauritian Government’s ‘Smart City Scheme’. The scheme was initially launched as an opportunity for investors to share in the vision of creating innovative and sustainable cities across Mauritius, centring on a ‘Live-Work-Play’ concept and backed with the necessary enabling legal framework and attractive incentives for real estate developers.
“One of the big advantages of the scheme is that it enables a coherent masterplan for a mixed-use development to be approved as a whole, rather than projects being treated as individual components.
“The main incentives for smart city companies and developers include tax exemptions, sustainable-green features and initiative allowances, permits facilitation through the Economic Development Board, defined frameworks for the city governance (code civil) and the sale of immovable property,” Dhiren Ponnusamy explains.
This granted Medine Group with the opportunity to develop its own Smart City, Uniciti, thereby bringing long-term value to the company’s shareholders whilst furthering property development on the island with the infrastructure in place to attract a range of diversified inhabitants.
“Uniciti is now a reality, and the overall aim is to position the west coast of Mauritius as a fully integrated hub based on the ‘Live-Work-Enjoy-Learn’ concept.”
Uniciti is now the location of the Medine Group’s head office, as a thriving business park environment that hosts part of the company’s 1,000 employees, all individually dedicated to executing the company’s vision and strategic objectives.
“Uniciti’s modern business park, already home to several international brands, is the ideal launch pad for established organisations, start-ups and investors looking to set up, relocate and grow their businesses within a supporting and dynamic framework,” he surmises.
Alongside the highly attractive business environment that Uniciti has come to represent, promoting a sustainable, integrated and connected lifestyle centred on a healthy work-life balance in an idyllic island setting, the Smart City’s Education Hub is a particular source of pride for Medine Group.
With an established network of French and British schools and universities and a highly student-centric infrastructure, the hub provides world-class education whilst also offering partnership development opportunities through the setting up of educational institutions. The development also hosts on campus student life residences.
Uniciti Education Hub embodies Medine Group’s vision of positioning Mauritius as a vibrant higher education ecosystem with a fully-fledged international campus designed to cater to all phases of academia, tailored to suit the growing needs, trends, and aspirations of students and professionals.
“The hub today hosts a population of over 2,900 students, contributing to the unique student experience offered in Mauritius across its two campuses, while resolutely harnessing new growth opportunities, rooted in sustainable innovation.
“Leveraging its strategic engagement and strong partnerships with higher education institutions, Medine Group targets to reach of population of 5,000 students by 2025,” Ponnusamy tells us.
At present, Medine Group continues to attract foreign investors under the Smart City Scheme, within the purchase of residential built properties, purchase of serviced plots of land, the acquisition of serviced land or the development of specific projects as Smart City Developers. Various incentives are offered to expatriates concerning the purchase of residential property, including well-defined schemes for property acquisition by non-citizens, whereby residency by investment is made possible when acquiring units under such initiatives, when the investment value exceeds $375,000. Meanwhile, non-citizens in possession of a valid occupation of residence permit may also acquire residential plots of land within a Smart City.
Dhiren Ponnusamy highlights other projects that are currently underway within Uniciti and are reflective of the company’s expertise in residential development, including the recently completed first phase of 15-hectares Magenta Park, which is significant in enhancing the city’s green credentials. Alongside this, Ponnusamy includes a first of its kind residential development in Mauritius, in the precinct of ‘Oceanside’ and comprising three distinct pocket neighbourhoods. Plots within the Oceanside precinct are available for purchase by foreign national residents in Mauritius, allowing them to design and build a residence entirely to their taste.
“Uniciti has launched this month ‘The Grove’ - Uniciti’s very first built units comprising of a set of apartments, villas and townhouses. Based on a sustainable vision of daily life that encourages connections and invites people to make time for themselves, this residential project is set to offer an exceptional lifestyle in one of Mauritius’ most sought-after regions.
The residential units – a mix of townhouses, elegant and luxurious villas and well-positioned apartments - feature graceful architecture comprising natural materials, enhanced by the abundance of natural light, with generous external spaces that enhance the Western Art de Vivre.
“The project’s residences are available for purchase for both Mauritians and foreigners.
Whether one is buying a home or an investment, they will benefit from Uniciti’s amenities and infrastructure, ensuring that property gains in value over time,” he concludes.
Dhiren Ponnusamy draws to a close recalling the political, social and economic stability that makes Mauritius, and in particular Uniciti, such a fertile and attractive playground for investors.
“The west coast of Mauritius is a fast-growing and dynamic region that is highly sought after by locals and foreigners for its quality of life and strategic location and Uniciti literally sits at the crossroads of the towns and the beach.
“As such it provides global investors and foreigners with the most attractive option to invest, live and work within this part of the island, notwithstanding the attractive natural setting and government incentives,” he explains.
Consolidating Mauritius’ reputation as an international hub of business, finance, and education, Medine Group is delivering the future for the gateway to Africa.