Realty Corner

Master of the Game

Nitesh ShettyWith an investment of Rs 12,000, NITESH SHETTY, Founder and Managing Director of Nitesh Group of Companies, started the business of outdoor advertising. Today, Nitesh Group is a well known name in the Real Estate sector with various upcoming projects across the country. Excerpts of an interview with him...


Elaborate on your journey so far - from starting a venture in outdoor billboards to foraying in the real estate segment?

Through the business of outdoor billboards, we got in touch with land and property owners, as we had to deal with them for leasing spaces for putting up the billboards. This gave us some insight into the real estate industry. Being passionate about architecture and landscaping and a frequent traveler across the globe, I developed a keen interest in the way cities are made. I was confident that we could provide a whole new experience through real estate development in the Indian markets.

To attract customers, we had to build a great brand that could create its own pull; and to create this brand we would have to be different and the best in the world. Thus we had to partner with the best firms in the world – be it investors, architects or consultants. We attracted global investors like Och Ziff, a US-based hedge fund and Citi Property Investors. This was followed by HDFC AMC investing in the company. Within six years of incorporation, we took the company public.

We also tied up with Ritz Carlton for their first hotel venture in India. We partnered with the best of firms in the world to design our projects such as WATG, Super Potato, Callison, HOK and Belt Collins. With the same intent of partnering with the best, we aggressively bid for and won the corporate housing project of ITC Ltd.

Another important milestone was taking our IPO to success with major fund houses like Nomura, Halbis, HDFC MF, LIC MF, Blackrock and SBI MF investing in the company. The IPO was successful even though the stock market sentiment was very low and the appetite for real estate was particularly poor.

 

What were the challenges that you faced while going about your entrepreneurial project and how did you cope with the same?

The first hindrance was my age. My motive and credibility were questioned as I was just too young. However, Dhanalakshmi Bank backed us to fund our first venture – the landmark buildings – Nitesh Broadway and Nitesh Timesquare on MG Road, Bangalore. Being a first generation entrepreneur, we did not have the capital to buy land and develop real estate. Therefore, I tried my hands on the concept of joint-development that involves sharing profits with landowners instead of outright purchase of land.

We then had to face the most unexpected downturn in the economy in the year 2008-09 which was severest for the real estate industry. This happened in the early stages of the company when it was planning for major growth and investments had been promised by some of the large fund houses. The general consumer confidence had ebbed and customers cancelled their bookings. We ensured that each one of them received their money back in their hour of need. The investors who had promised funds cancelled their commitments. We were forced to stall the planned new projects. Internally, the cooperation from employees who took pay cuts but stayed on with the company helped support our vision.

 

What was the homework done before going ahead with your real estate venture?

In order to rapidly increase the brand image we decided to develop properties which are in the central business district and focus on exclusive high-end projects. Real estate is an interesting business as there is so much involved, from land acquisition to project planning and execution, obtaining approval, hiring the right people for designing, landscaping. I got the best people to work with me.

So, it’s not just homework before each project, but continuous research that is required to know your target group and to create something appropriate for them. We also focused on how to keep our debt ratio low and use our resources to partner with the best.

 
Elaborate on the vision you had envisaged and the qualities that helped you achieve this status today.

To stand out as a firm in the real estate industry, it had to be on the planks of corporate governance and professionalism. In general, real estate firms in India have been family-owned, and have not been perceived highly on the parameters of customer friendliness and statutory compliances. We therefore built a board with independent directors who are renowned professionals in their fields helping us in building a strong company with robust practices.

Our mission is “bringing happiness to people”. We are of the firm belief that this can be achieved only if we give the customers the best in the world. The tag line of the company’s logo is “expect more”. The sense here is about stretching and excelling to give more to the customer.

According to me the single most important philosophy that has contributed to the success quotient of our company is our pursuit of excellence in every aspect of property building and our belief in our capability to offer world- class properties in India.

 
The real estate sector has seen a great deal of dynamic change in recent times. Would you say that to some extent this is a result of younger developers coming in?

Young people have made the difference in the sense that they are emphasising on bringing in transparency and insisting that the customers make well-informed decisions. This gives entrepreneurs like us a chance to make it big, as we stress more on research and planning, thus bringing the best to people. At Nitesh Estates we emphasise on offering classy, luxurious residence to our customers and we focus on detailing, it is a collaboration of superior product planning, designing and execution, which exudes understated class.

 
How has the entry of younger developers impacted the actual projects that are being constructed today?

The projects of today are being conceived on a different scale altogether. They are being planned on mega scales, with involvement of experts from every field. The look is different and quality parameters have gone up by several notches. And this is being seen in every segment, be it retail, office spaces, residential or hospitality segment. Even airports and public utility spaces are being designed and built on different scales. There is a lot of international influence, which is a good.

 
Any additions in terms of new business venture to the Nitesh Shetty offering bouquet in the near future?

We are going to launch some new properties this year and a lot of them are nearing completion. We will continue to build up the luxury segment - understated and classy luxury projects. The projects under construction are Nitesh Central Park, Nitesh Columbus Square, Nitesh Mall, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel and more.

The latest addition is Nitesh Napa Valley. Nitesh Napa Valley is a picturesque, luxury villa development off Bellary Road, Bangalore with 133 exquisite villas that open doors to luxury, privacy and convenience. The property recreates the ambience of luxury resort living, offering international gated-community lifestyles of elegance and style. The beautifully designed landscape focuses on merging the Californian style of architecture with modern landscape elements and contemporary detailing.

 

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