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28 May 2024

Setting Up AIF in GIFT City – A Detailed Investment Guide

28 May 2024
Setting up AIF in GIFT City

Overview of GIFT City as a Financial Hub

Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) stands as a pioneering endeavor, harmoniously integrating commercial, residential, and social spaces within its 886-acre development. Positioned strategically on the banks of the River Sabarmati, bridging Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, GIFT City not only boasts proximity to the Ahmedabad International Airport but is also augmented by robust metro connectivity plans. This meticulously planned financial district is India’s first and only operational International Financial Services Centre (IFSC), offering unparalleled ease of doing business through a conducive regulatory framework. Lauded globally, GIFT City has garnered recognition on the Global Financial Centres Index, underscoring its significant role as a nexus for global finance and IT industries.


Significance of AIFs in GIFT City’s Financial Landscape

Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) in GIFT City represent a cornerstone in its expansive financial landscape, providing sophisticated vehicles for diverse investment strategies. The IFSC at GIFT City allows AIFs to operate under favorable regulatory conditions that starkly contrast with those found in the broader Indian financial system. This includes provisions for 100% tax exemption on business income for a considerable duration, opportunities for extensive leverage and co-investment, and the ability to invest substantially in international markets. Such attributes not only attract a wide array of investors and fund managers but also position GIFT City AIFs as highly competitive entities on the global stage. This ecosystem is particularly enhanced by the flexibility allowed in fund structures and the exemption from several restrictive norms applicable to AIFs outside the IFSC, making GIFT City an enticing prospect for establishing and managing AIFs.


Understanding Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) in GIFT City

Definitions and Types of AIFs

Category I: These funds primarily invest in start-ups, early-stage ventures, and sectors identified as socially or economically desirable by the government. They include venture capital funds, infrastructure funds, and other funds focused on developmental and innovation-driven sectors. Category I AIFs often enjoy certain regulatory relaxations and incentives, fostering growth in key economic areas.

Category II: This category encompasses a wider range of funds, including private equity funds and debt funds, which do not qualify for specific incentives or concessions under other categories. They are allowed to invest in a broad spectrum of activities, making them versatile investment vehicles for a variety of sectors without specified investment targets.

Category III: These funds use complex trading strategies and may employ leverage, including through investment in listed or unlisted derivatives. They are typically aimed at generating short-term returns and include hedge funds and other funds that engage in trading with a view to making speculative gains.


Regulatory Framework

Overview of IFSCA Regulations: The International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) regulates AIFs in GIFT City, providing a framework designed to facilitate ease of doing business and attract international financial services to India. These regulations are more flexible compared to the traditional Indian financial regulatory environment, aimed at creating a competitive international market.

Comparison with SEBI-regulated AIFs: While AIFs in India are primarily regulated by SEBI, those operating in GIFT City are governed by IFSCA, which allows for broader operational freedoms. While SEBI regulated the Fund, IFSCA regulated the Fund Management Entity (Investment Manager). For instance, AIFs in GIFT City are not subject to stringent investment diversification norms that cap investments in any single investee company, as is the case under SEBI regulations. Additionally, AIFs in GIFT City can raise funds in foreign currency and are permitted unrestricted access to invest overseas, unlike their SEBI-regulated counterparts which face certain restrictions on offshore investments. 


Setting Up an AIF in GIFT City – Step by Step Process

Initial Considerations

Assessing Business Case for Setting Up an AIF in GIFT City Before initiating the setup of an Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) in GIFT City, it is crucial to evaluate the business rationale and the strategic benefits. This evaluation should consider the regulatory advantages, tax exemptions, and the broader investment opportunities that GIFT City offers. Investors and fund managers need to analyze how these factors align with their investment strategies and objectives, especially the ability to invest significantly in international markets and the flexibility around diversification norms.

Engaging with IFSCA and Other Regulatory Bodies Engagement with the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) and other relevant authorities is a vital step. This involves understanding the specific regulatory requirements and compliance standards set by IFSCA, which are designed to facilitate ease of doing business in GIFT City. Early consultations can help clarify any regulatory concerns and streamline the approval processes.


Registration Process for AIF

Steps to Register an AIF with IFSCA in GIFT City

  1. Pre-Application Consultation: Engage with IFSCA to discuss the AIF’s business model and investment strategy. This stage may involve preliminary meetings and the submission of a detailed business plan.
  2. Formal Application Submission: Complete and submit the application form along with required documents, such as the fund structure, investment strategy, and details of the fund management team.
  3. Review and Approval: IFSCA will review the application. This may include a detailed scrutiny of the documents submitted and possibly an interview or presentation before the regulatory panel.
  4. Obtain Approval and Registration: Once approved, the AIF will receive formal registration and can commence operations.


Required Documentation and Compliance for Setup

Essential documents include the fund’s investment strategy, details of fund managers, risk management framework, and compliance policies. Additionally, compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Countering Financing of Terrorism (CFT) standards is mandatory.


Operational Setup

Choosing Office Space and Infrastructure in GIFT SEZ Selecting the right office space within the GIFT Special Economic Zone (SEZ) involves considerations of space adequacy, infrastructure quality, and accessibility. GIFT City offers state-of-the-art facilities with plug-and-play infrastructure, which is conducive for financial services operations.


Legal and Regulatory Compliances (GST, Income-tax, TDS)

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST): AIFs in GIFT City benefit from GST exemptions on management fees and transactions carried out on IFSC exchanges, significantly reducing operational costs.
  • Income Tax: AIFs enjoy a 100% exemption on business income for the first ten years within a 15-year window, under certain conditions.
  • Tax Deduction at Source (TDS): Compliance with TDS regulations is simplified due to exemptions available for transactions within GIFT City, though careful management of obligations related to investments outside the SEZ is necessary.


Financial and Tax Implications for AIFs in GIFT City

Investment Norms and Restrictions

Diversification Norms and Limits on Investments – In GIFT City, Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) benefit from a relaxation of typical diversification norms which are prevalent in other financial jurisdictions. Unlike SEBI regulations that limit investment concentrations (e.g., no more than 25% of a Category I and II AIF’s funds can be invested in a single investee company), AIFs in GIFT City face no such restrictions. This flexibility allows fund managers greater leeway in structuring their investment portfolios according to their strategic interests and risk assessments.

Guidelines on Offshore and Hard Asset Investments – AIFs in GIFT City are permitted to invest up to 100% of their corpus in overseas securities, providing a vast landscape of international investment opportunities. Additionally, they can allocate up to 20% of their funds in hard assets, such as real estate, bullion, and art. This capacity for broad investment diversification is especially attractive to funds that seek to mix traditional financial instruments with tangible asset investments, providing a hedge against market volatility or sector-specific downturns.


Tax Benefits and Liabilities

Tax Pass-Through Status for Categories I and II Category I and II AIFs in GIFT City enjoy a tax pass-through status, meaning that income is taxed in the hands of the individual investors and not at the fund level. This treatment helps avoid double taxation, making these categories particularly attractive for investors seeking transparent and efficient tax handling. Additionally, income earned by non-resident investors from offshore investments through these AIFs is not taxable in India, adding an extra layer of tax benefit.

Tax Exemptions and Benefits for Fund Managers and Investors AIFs in GIFT City, along with their fund managers, benefit from several tax incentives:

  • 100% Tax Exemption: Fund management entities enjoy a complete tax exemption on their business income for the first ten years, within a 15-year window, promoting long-term investment planning.
  • GST Exemptions: Services provided by AIF managers in GIFT City are exempt from the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which can significantly reduce the cost of operations.
  • Exemption from Standard Tax Requirements: Non-resident investors are not required to obtain a Permanent Account Number (PAN) or file tax returns in India, which simplifies the compliance burden and enhances the attractiveness of GIFT City AIFs to international investors.


Key Benefits of GIFT City for AIFs

Comparative Advantages Over Other Financial Centers

GIFT City, as India’s first and only operational International Financial Services Centre (IFSC), offers a unique blend of benefits not typically available in other financial hubs. Its strategic location, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and a regulatory framework tailored for ease of doing business distinguish it from other global centers like Dubai’s DIFC or Singapore’s financial district.

Key comparative advantages include:

  • Regulatory Flexibility: GIFT City provides a regulatory environment that is more accommodating compared to traditional financial centers, facilitating easier fund setup and operations.
  • Cost Efficiency: Operational and tax-related costs in GIFT City are competitively lower, largely due to tax exemptions and incentives offered to businesses operating within the IFSC.
  • Access to Global Markets: The IFSC allows for broader investment in international markets directly from GIFT City, making it an ideal base for funds looking to invest globally.


Specific Incentives for Investors and Fund Managers in GIFT City

GIFT City offers several incentives specifically designed to attract AIFs and their managers:

  • Tax Incentives: Complete tax exemption on business income for the first 10 years and no GST on management fees enhance the profitability and operational efficiency of AIFs.
  • Investment Freedom: There are no restrictions on the percentage of funds that can be invested in foreign securities by Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) established in GIFT City..
  • Ease of Doing Business: Simplified processes and support from the IFSCA ensure that setting up and managing a fund in GIFT City is straightforward and hassle-free.


Managing an AIF in GIFT City

Compliance and Reporting

Regular Reporting Requirements to IFSCA – AIFs in GIFT City must adhere to regular reporting protocols which include detailed disclosures about their activities, investment portfolio, and fund performance. This ensures transparency and aligns with global best practices in fund management.

Compliance with AML, CFT, and KYC Regulations – The IFSCA mandates strict adherence to Anti-Money Laundering (AML), Counter-Financing of Terrorism (CFT), and Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations. Compliance with these international standards reassures investors and enhances the reputation of GIFT City as a secure and reliable financial center.


Strategic Considerations

Leveraging GIFT City’s Ecosystem for Growth – The integrated ecosystem within GIFT City is designed to support the growth and expansion of AIFs. This includes access to professional services, networking opportunities, and a collaborative environment with other financial and tech companies.

Networking and Partnership Opportunities Within the IFSC – GIFT City fosters a community of financial services professionals and businesses, providing ample opportunities for AIFs to build partnerships and expand their professional networks. Regular events, conferences, and seminars within the IFSC also offer platforms for thought leadership and industry engagement.



Setting up an Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) represents a strategic decision for fund managers and investors aiming to capitalize on the unique benefits offered by India’s premier financial hub. GIFT City’s integrated infrastructure, conducive regulatory environment, and robust financial ecosystem provide a solid foundation for AIF operations, distinguishing it from other global financial centers.

Recap of the Potential Benefits of Setting Up an AIF in GIFT City:

  1. Regulatory Benefits: GIFT City offers a regulatory environment that simplifies compliance, reduces bureaucratic hurdles, and provides clarity on financial regulations, making it easier for AIFs to operate with confidence.
  2. Tax Advantages: One of the most compelling reasons to establish an AIF in GIFT City is the significant tax benefits. These include a 100% exemption on business income for up to ten years within a 15-year window and exemption from Goods and Services Tax (GST) on management fees. These benefits enhance the profitability and operational efficiency of AIFs.
  3. Operational Efficiencies: The city’s state-of-the-art infrastructure ensures that AIFs operate efficiently. Facilities are designed to support the high demands of modern financial services, and the strategic location offers easy access to domestic and international markets.
  4. Investment Flexibility: AIFs in GIFT City are not bound by stringent diversification norms and have the freedom to invest a substantial portion of their funds in international markets. This flexibility allows for broader investment strategies and access to global opportunities.
  5. Networking Opportunities: The ecosystem within GIFT City is ripe with networking opportunities, fostering collaborations and partnerships across financial services sectors. Regular conferences and seminars further provide platforms for AIF managers to engage with industry leaders and influencers.
  6. Enhanced Security and Compliance: Adherence to international standards in Anti-Money Laundering (AML), Counter-Financing of Terrorism (CFT), and Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations reassures investors of the integrity and safety of their investments.

In conclusion, establishing an AIF in GIFT City not only offers financial and operational benefits but also positions fund managers to leverage growth opportunities in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The unique advantages of GIFT City create an enticing proposition for AIFs looking to expand their footprint in emerging markets, making it an optimal choice for those seeking to combine robust growth potential with strategic financial planning and execution.



The content of this article is for information purpose only and does not constitute advice or a legal opinion and are personal views of the author. It is based upon relevant law and/or facts available at that point of time and prepared with due accuracy & reliability. Readers are requested to check and refer to relevant provisions of statute, latest judicial pronouncements, circulars, clarifications etc. before acting on the basis of the above write up. The possibility of other views on the subject matter cannot be ruled out. By the use of the said information, you agree that the Author / Treelife is not responsible or liable in any manner for the authenticity, accuracy, completeness, errors or any kind of omissions in this piece of information for any action taken thereof.

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