STAY­ING AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Jitu Virwani, Chair­man of the Em­bassy Group

MillionaireAsia India - - Contents - Cover Pho­to­graph by Em­bassy Group

For some­one who has sin­gle hand­edly changed the per­cep­tion of lux­ury realty de­vel­op­ments in Ben­galuru, Jitu Virwani, is a clear win­ner thanks to in­tel­li­gent think­ing com­bined with an in­no­va­tive ap­proach. Fo­cus­ing on qual­ity, his com­pany, Em­bassy Group is to­day one of the lead­ing names in the coun­try as far as real es­tate de­vel­op­ers are con­cerned. Forg­ing part­ner­ships has been a key strength too as seen in the re­cent case when Pi­ra­mal Fi­nance (PFL), the lend­ing arm of Pi­ra­mal En­ter­prises nanced ` 1100 crore to Em­bassy Group for res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial projects in Ben­galuru, Chen­nai and Hy­der­abad. With over 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the real es­tate and prop­erty de­vel­op­ment sec­tor, Jitu is the Chair­man and Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of the com­pany and also a mem­ber of the Young Pres­i­dents Or­gan­i­sa­tion a mem­ber of the Eques­trian Fed­er­a­tion of In­dia. A self con­fessed horse lover, he owns one of In­dia’s largest pri­vately owned rid­ing acad­e­mies si­t­u­ated in Ben­galuru and has founded the Stone­hill In­ter­na­tional School, Ben­galuru. He tells us more in this ex­clu­sive tête-à-tête.

Tell us about your early days and grow­ing up years.

I was in­tro­duced to the real es­tate world quite early and learned the ropes of business by ob­serv­ing my fa­ther Mo­han Virwani who was a de­vel­oper in Ben­galuru. I reg­u­larly vis­ited my fa­ther’s con­struc­tion sites and even while was driven away sev­eral times, I would keep go­ing back there. I was as­signed the com­plex task of get­ting per­mis­sions from gov­ern­ment de­part­ments. This ex­er­cise made me learn pa­tience which is a very im­por­tant qual­ity one should pos­sess in this line of business.

Did you al­ways have the en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit in you?

Grow­ing up in a real es­tate fam­ily and be­ing in­tro­duced to the trade in my early days, I have al­ways been mo­ti­vated lay my own path and fol­low it with ded­i­ca­tion and per­se­ver­ance. I was 28-year-old when my fa­ther had a fall­out with his business part­ner and de­cided to stop de­vel­op­ing more prop­er­ties. That was when I carry for­ward the brand Em­bassy on my own with­out any fi­nan­cial back­ing from my fam­ily. The jour­ney be­gan with Em­bassy Point, an of­fice space de­vel­op­ment at In­fantry road in the heart of Ben­galuru.

What drew you to real es­tate es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing that your start was pretty chal­leng­ing?

When my fa­ther de­cided to stop de­vel­op­ing any more prop­er­ties in the early 1990s, I was very clear that we had no other business to fall back on. Real es­tate business was what we knew and prac­ticed. I was very keen on be­ing dif­fer­ent from the rest move away from the tra­di­tional mode of op­er­at­ing real es­tate in In­dia. With the learn­ing I re­ceived from my fa­ther and the sense of con­fi­dence which I feel could have been due to en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit within me, I set out to do what I have been do­ing all this while now. Some of the con­cepts and prac­tices in the real es­tate mar­ket to­day have been pi­o­neered by the Em­bassy brand and I am very proud and pleased about that. An ex­am­ple would be Em­bassy Of­fice Parks.

You are known for your su­perla­tive of­fice spa­ces, what is it about com­mer­cial of­fice arena that at­tracts you?

In the early 2000, a large num­ber of com­pa­nies started ex­pand­ing their op­er­a­tions which led to the cre­ation of huge vol­ume of new jobs. The amount of of­fice space needed by is th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions in­creased dra­mat­i­cally. We wit­nessed a steep growth in de­mand for of­fice spa­ces es­pe­cially from global com­pa­nies In­dia. We were prob­a­bly the first to re­alise this po­ten­tial. Since the global poli­cies barred them from buy­ing of­fice space, the only op­tion left to them was to lease. We saw this as a great op­por­tu­nity and took an im­por­tant de­ci­sion to cap­i­talise on the same. This led to the in­tro­duc­tion of world­class, Grade-A of­fice spa­ces, which cater to the de­mands of th­ese global com­pa­nies. We are com­mit­ted and will con­tinue to build and ex­pand the Em­bassy port­fo­lio across the coun­try. Em­bassy Of­fice Parks which are in­te­grated business parks,

I have al­ways been mo­ti­vated to lay my own path and fol­low it with ded­i­ca­tion and per­se­ver­ance. Some of the con­cepts prac­tices in the real es­tate mar­ket to­day have been pi­o­neered by the Em­bassy brand and I am very proud and pleased about that

pro­vide an over­all ecosys­tem for cor­po­rate oc­cu­piers help­ing them have a bet­ter work life bal­ance and thereby a more pro­duc­tive and en­joy­able work en­vi­ron­ment.

You have a lot of premium res­i­den­tial projects - again is there any thought process be­hind fo­cus­ing on the same?

Our dif­fer­en­ti­ated of­fer­ings have strong prod­uct, brand and lo­ca­tion ad­van­tages mak­ing them a unique choice for our clien­tele. The lux­ury seg­ment has steady in­ter­est from the dis­cern­ing buy­ers of Ben­galuru and other cities with many con­sid­er­ing it to be the most at­trac­tive in­vest­ment op­tion. Over the last three decades, Em­bassy has com­pleted over 6 mil­lion sq ft of res­i­den­tial spa­ces. We want to cre­ate com­mu­ni­ties for like-minded in­di­vid­u­als who share a pas­sion for the good life and pro­vide lux­u­ri­ous liv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of­fer­ing world class ameni­ties.

What is your opin­ion on the cur­rent state of real es­tate in In­dia?

The real es­tate mar­ket was a bit at for a while but now there are sure signs of growth and pick-up. There is up­side in the de­mand for res­i­den­tial com­mer­cial spa­ces across coun­try. A new de­vel­op­ment that is cre­at­ing a mi­cro mar­ket within the real es­tate business is the in­creas­ing de­mand for world-class au­to­mated ware­hous­ing and in­dus­trial parks. We are happy to state that we have suc­cess­fully launched this line of business and Em­bassy In­dus­trial Parks has al­ready be­gun work on projects in mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions in In­dia. An­other big de­vel­op­ment in the up­scale/premium res­i­den­tial hous­ing business is the grow­ing need for branded res­i­dences. We are cur­rently of­fer­ing the Four Sea­sons res­i­dences at the up­mar­ket project Em­bassy One be­ing de­vel­oped in cen­tral Ben­galuru.

What drives you to con­stantly in­no­vate?

The de­sire to offer the best to my cus­tomers whether it is res­i­den­tial or com­mer­cial drives me to stay ahead of the curve, in­no­vate and come out with con­cepts and fa­cil­i­ties that are ei­ther trending glob­ally or are a mar­ket-rst. The ever chang­ing realty land­scape also gives me enough will and com­pet­ing spirit to keep on the look-out all the time.

What is your opin­ion on how RERA will im­pact the real es­tate sec­tor?

RERA has been es­tab­lished for reg­u­la­tion and pro­mo­tion of the real es­tate sec­tor and to en­sure sale of prop­er­ties, in an ef­fi­cient and trans­par­ent man­ner. It is a wel­come move which will ben­e­fit both de­vel­op­ers and buy­ers. Con­sumers will be pro­vided the trust and con­fi­dence, much-needed trans­parency and on-time de­liv­ery of projects. RERA will also es­tab­lish a mech­a­nism for speedy re­dres­sal of dis­putes and is ex­pected to see re­newed in­ter­est from buy­ers. Em­bassy Group has been known for its clean track record, func­tional pro­fes­sion­al­ism and trans­par­ent deals.

What will be the im­pact of GST on prop­erty prices?

It is too early to pre­dict how GST will im­pact the real es­tate sec­tor in the long run. A lot will de­pend on rates and im­ple­men­ta­tion. The uni­fied tax regime will over­all be pos­i­tive for not just real es­tate, but other sec­tors as well.

You have launched a town­ship too, how hard is it to man­age a de­vel­op­ment of this scale?

Yes, we have launched our world-class in­te­grated mixed use 300-acre town­ship, Em­bassy Springs, in North Ben­galuru. No project is with­out chal­lenges, but it has been a de­light to launch the largest and the most am­bi­tious of­fer­ing from the Em­bassy Group yet. The kind of mi­cro-level plan­ning and de­tail­ing that has gone into this self-sus­tain­ing city, in it­self is a huge ac­com­plish­ment for the group. We are pleased to state that Em­bassy Springs will pro­vide a holis­tic liv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

will only im­prove the qual­ity of life for the town­ship res­i­dents and oc­cu­piers. The best gar­den city green­ery and the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of Sil­i­con Val­ley have been mar­ried to de­liver a great liv­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to you, which cities are go­ing to do well in the real es­tate space in the fu­ture?

Ben­galuru, Hy­der­abad, Ahmed­abad, Pune and Chen­nai are the top ve cities to look out for in the real es­tate space go­ing for­ward. Given the im­pe­tus smart cities by the cur­rent gov­ern­ment, newer cities and ge­ogra­phies will also get added to the real es­tate band­wagon.

Tell us about your as­so­ci­a­tion with Black­stone and REIT list­ing?

The Em­bassy Group has a 50-50 joint ven­ture with Black­stone to form Of­fice Parks. We have been eval­u­at­ing var­i­ous cap­i­tal rais­ing op­tions and one of our op­tions is to con­sider a list­ing of select assets through the real es­tate in­vest­ment trust (REIT) route with Black­stone. In this re­gard, EPDPL (Em­bassy Prop­erty De­vel­op­ments Pri­vate Lim­ited) has led an ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Board of In­dia for an in-prin­ci­ple ap­proval to reg­is­ter a REIT in In­dia.

What does suc­cess mean to you?

For me suc­cess is di­rectly pro­por­tional to the amount of hap­pi­ness that I can give to my cus­tomers be it res­i­den­tial or com­mer­cial. But greater suc­cess would the num­ber of lives that I can touch through my var­i­ous com­mu­nity projects. If I have been able to im­pact even a small de­gree of change or de­vel­op­ment in pro­vid­ing a good so­cial in­fras­truc­ture that em­pow­ers chil­dren and peo­ple and en­riches their lives, I would deem it a big suc­cess. I feel that I am suc­cess­ful when am able to con­trib­ute to the so­ci­ety and serve the com­mu­nity we op­er­ate in.

What are the big­gest chal­lenges you see to­day in your business and how do you plan to over­come them?

Business wise, we are very happy with some of the mea­sures taken by the gov­ern­ment of the day such as GST, RERA, Uni­form Stamp Duty, Be­nami Bill, etc. But the big­gest chal­lenge would be in the in­tro­duc­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the same. The im­pact of th­ese new mea­sures on the real es­tate mar­ket is yet to be seen or un­der­stood. That can also be a bit un­set­tling. Even the mar­ket out­look for the res­i­den­tial, com­mer­cial and re­tail seg­ments has been ei­ther a weak or at growth, but we are very bullish and op­ti­mistic and look for­ward for a fan­tas­tic year ahead.

What does wealth mean to you?

Wealth means a sense of ac­com­plish­ment, con­fi­dence as well as a po­si­tion of power that en­ables me to not only grow but also give back to so­ci­ety.

Your love for horses is well known, tell us a lit­tle more about this pas­sion. What are the other things you like - cars, yatches?

Though the fam­ily had been fa­mil­iar with the horse rac­ing cir­cuit, de­sire to get into com­pet­i­tive sports where I wanted to do some­thing that would get In­dia gold at the Asi­ads, led me

eques­trian sports. My love for horses and my un­der­stand­ing of the equines helped me set up a very suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional rid­ing school in the out­skirts of Ben­galuru. To­day, Em­bassy In­ter­na­tional Rid­ing School not only boasts of the best-in-class horses, but also is de­vel­op­ing su­pe­rior ta­lent in eques­trian sports. EIRS has a suc­cess­ful breed­ing oper­a­tion. The num­ber of lads who are join­ing us as am­a­teurs and turn­ing into pro­fes­sion­als and com­pet­ing across var­i­ous events both in In­dia and abroad is very promis­ing. It won’t be too long be­fore we have EIRS trained rid­ers get­ting us Asian or Olympic gold medals. It is a busy eques­trian cal­en­dar for me and it’s thrilling.

What is the roadmap planned for your com­pany?

The road map is growth, a suc­cess­ful REIT list­ing for Em­bassy, ex­pand­ing the Em­bassy port­fo­lio across res­i­den­tial, com­mer­cial, in­dus­trial and hos­pi­tal­ity seg­ments. Af­ford­able hous­ing also is soon to join our ex­pan­sion drive.

What kind of suc­ces­sion plan do you have in place?

Both Karan and Aditya, my sons, are in business with me. One is at the ex­ec­u­tive of­fices be­ing trained di­rectly un­der me. The other has suc­cess­fully launched world’s largest cowork­ing brand in In­dia. The fu­ture is bright and a suc­ces­sion plan is not in dis­cus­sion yet. When the time is apt, the right de­ci­sion will be made.

What do you like do­ing out­side work?

Con­sid­er­ing the hec­tic work sched­ule, I love spend­ing qual­ity leisure fam­ily time. Recre­ational sports are a hobby for tness and love for horses is a pas­sion.

Please tell us some­thing about you that peo­ple don’t know.

I am a con­ser­va­tive busi­ness­man.

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