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When father & son share the same business philosophy

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As Sobha Ltd stands at the top of Best Practices in Indian real estate, Ravi Sinha speaks to the father PNC Menon (Chairman Emeritus) and the son Ravi Menon (Chairman) to understand where they differ in perspective and what makes them stick to the core professional philosophy over such a long period of time.

PNC Menon, Ravi Menon, Sobha Limited,  Bangalore real estate, Bengaluru real estate, Bengaluru property market, Best practices in real estate, Clash of generation in business, Best real estate brand in India, Best business family in India, Best real estate family in India, India real estate news, Indian realty news, Real estate news India, Indian property market news, Track2Realty, Invest with reputed builderRavi Sinha: What has been the outlook of PNC Menon about best practices when he started the business?

PNC Menon: Coming from interior decoration business, I had always believed in delivering world class quality. When I decided to enter India’s real estate industry, I could clearly identify the gap in quality standards. As a result, I chose to build an organization that was more focused on creating a new, higher level of quality standards that India’s real estate industry had not yet experienced. Driven by our backward integrated business model, which is unique world-over, and timely delivery, we have achieved this objective.

Ravi Sinha: With market dynamics changing fast what are the recent changes you have introduced Ravi to sync the company with emerging best practices?

Ravi Menon: Market dynamics are changing and we are aware that urban population is rising, more so in India. There is massive shortfall in infrastructure and urban housing. Due to climatic change and rising environmental concerns, more resilient buildings which are environment friendly will be required. There is also a perceptible change in the way people live, work and play. People are living longer; households are getting smaller; there is increased mobility; and of course technology is transforming the way people think demand the kind of homes they want and carry on with their lifestyle. Keeping all these in mind, we have taken new initiatives at Sobha to stay ahead of the curve.

Ravi Sinha: How easy or difficult it was to manage your brand reputation in the initial days? Do you feel the burden of often unreasonable expectations today?

PNC Menon: I believe that any brand is established by consistent delivery of quality within committed timelines. There is no additional burden of expectation, except, of course, the ongoing passion to improve quality standards on a continuous basis. 

Ravi Sinha: In today’s digital world the buyers come together for mass campaigns. How do you differentiate between consumer activism and consumer blackmailing?

Ravi Menon: We welcome consumer activism and take up customer complaints/issues seriously and quite speedily as far as possible and deal with it with honesty and openness. We make efforts to understand their issues by adopting a personal approach and try to help resolve it. This signals to them that we value their opinions. This helps in managing expectations and reducing negative feedback.

In case of consumer blackmailing, we take the threat seriously but at the same time don’t allow it to cloud our judgment. In such situations, the key is to remain calm and professional. We try to look at options available and take steps to find a reasonable solution. However, if the consumer is unreasonable, irrational or fake, we leave them to get exposed amidst other stakeholders to draw their own conclusions. We value customer feedback and strive to accommodate as far as possible. However, we do not engage or encourage consumer blackmailing, if any.

Ravi Sinha: The buyer has changed today and so has expectations vis-à-vis transparency and communication at each and every level. What is your outlook on this change over the years?

PNC Menon: We have always believed in and practiced a philosophy of 100 per cent transparency and communication, regardless of whether we are interacting with our customers, investors, employees or any other stakeholders. This philosophy has not wavered. In fact, this approach has been embraced by our Board and as such, we have strengthened our communication channels across both Sobha India and Sobha Middle East.

Ravi Sinha: Dealing with informed buyers has its own challenges. What changes you had to make in terms of transparency and communication?

Ravi Menon: We want buyers to be more informed and rather strive to make more relevant information available to them. If buyers are truly informed, they will be able to discern better and can take a calibrated decision on parameters of quality, timeliness and transparency. They would also become aware about our uncompromising business ethics, values and transparency in all spheres of business conduct, which have contributed in making us the most admired and trusted real estate brand in India.

We have a two way communication with our customers through our various touch points such as customer care cell, a dedicated customer portal and our interactive corporate website. These help us in making available uniform and consistent information to the customers round the clock. Additionally, a dedicated Customer Relationship Executive (CRE) is available for any clarification/information at all times. Even after hand-over, facility management department provides valuable support to our customers in maintenance related issues. 

Ravi Sinha: During your early days fiscal management was simple game of profit & loss account. Do you find it too complex now with company being listed entity  and hence burden of compliances?

PNC Menon: Prior to our IPO in India, we had developed internal systems and processes to enable sustainable growth, which helped us to adequately meet the challenges of the industry. Our experience with the IPO has only further strengthened the organization’s ability to meet corporate governance requirements and stakeholder expectations.

Ravi Sinha: As the second generation did you ever feel the need to change the way fiscal management was traditionally being practiced?

Ravi Menon: We have been prudent in managing the finances from the very beginning by utilizing all our resources efficiently and keeping utmost transparency in our dealings. Post listing, we ensure that there is regular flow of correct information to all our stakeholders. 

Mastering the real estate cycles is key to our business as it is cyclical in nature. This has not changed fundamentally for us prior or post our listing. We have been able to use our capital wisely during different cycles primarily due to our integrated model which helps us to manage and control the supply chain to suit the changing conditions. 

Ravi Sinha: Scale to capacity mismatch is an inevitable reality of today’s market when every developer wants to grow bigger. How easy it was in the initial years?

PNC Menon: Sobha delivers a fully integrated model of real estate development spanning multiple activities of design, engineering, MEP, joinery, glazing, joinery, landscaping and infrastructure. We have also carefully assessed the market potential for real estate in India and accordingly have created the required organizational capabilities. Sobha currently delivers 7 million square feet delivery per annum across India, across all product segments.

Ravi Sinha: How easy or challenging has been the transition when you took a conscious call to expand the scale and geographical footprint? 

Ravi Menon: With over 7 million square feet of area for the past 5 years (including real estate and contractual business), the company has sufficient manpower and machinery to increase its delivery capability, if need be. In FY16, we did around 11 million square feet which was the highest execution done by us till date. We have the capacity to scale up further.

We conduct our own market study and post assessment of demand, we launch projects. We have observed good absorption level in all our projects which almost gets sold out by the time projects get completed. Therefore, we are left with minuscule unsold inventory, if at all. In the last FY15-16 our unsold inventory in completed projects was only 0.18 million square feet; out of this, 0.08 million square feet comprised of the plotted development projects.

We do not wish to establish ourselves as an opportunistic developer and will never launch more than we can deliver. Rather, if projects and business opportunities do not fit with our overall values, we do not pursue it. For us integrity comes first. If we see that an opportunity may threaten our corporate values, we see it as an opportunity not worth taking. 

Ravi Sinha: The branding cost was peanuts during your early days, compared to today’s multimedia age. Do you ever feel the company is nowadays spending more than necessary for image build-up?

PNC Menon: Regardless of sector or geography, brands get established only with consistent delivery of the product with the best quality and as per the committed timelines. There is a  growing need for organizations, including Sobha, to be seen and heard at various consumer touch points. Technology and especially social media facilitates this “connect” with consumers. We are constantly exploring new and innovative ways to leverage multimedia in order to raise our brand equity, not only at an organizational or corporate level but also at the project level. 

Ravi Sinha: Quest to be a brand instead of advertising to sell the project costs more. What is your outlook on brand management and its inherent expenses?

Ravi Menon: For us, our brand is very sacrosanct. People trust what existing customers say about the product that gives credibility to our brand. We rely more on the word of mouth publicity and consider our buyers as our brand ambassadors. This not only strengthens our brand image but also helps us sell better. Most of our customers are happy and they recommend Sobha Homes to their acquaintances and friends.

To engage deeper with our customers, we recently launched “Sobha Connect Program”. We believe brand management does not entail a gloss of heavy advertisement alone. A brand gets made if the intrinsic qualities of the product are world class, guided by uncompromising work practices and ethics and has top end delivery excellence, peppered with transparency and trust. 

Ravi Sinha: Do you feel the heat of increasing peer pressure and competitive challenge today, compared to your initial days?

PNC Menon: No! From my perspective, the challenge has always been an endless pursuit of excellence. It is more of an internal challenge. As an entrepreneur, I have always believed in building a meritocracy-focused organization. This has enabled me to identify top talent from multiple geographies, industries and backgrounds. Furthermore, this selection of top talent at the management team or Board level has provided me with great comfort and confidence – and the transition thus far has been a smooth one.

Ravi Sinha: Ravi, being the scion of the family business, how much do you control the organisational decisions and to what extent you allow the professionals to take independent decision?

Ravi Menon: Sobha is known for being a process driven organisation which is run professionally. All our practices and processes have helped strengthen our bonding with stakeholders including our employees and build immense trust. We have at present about 2,800 professionals on rolls and we value and promote professionalism and merit. 

We adopt newer cutting edge management practices. The pack is led by one of the most able professionals in the Indian realty sector, Mr. JC Sharma, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, who is most respected name in the industry. We believe in empowering our people and there is enough freedom to innovate and add value to our existing processes. 

Ravi Sinha: Defining demand was not a challenge in early days with real estate being a micro market business. Now with the challenge of geographical expansion and destination development, do you feel the sector is clueless with due diligence mechanism?

PNC Menon: Real estate demand is primarily driven by population dynamics and economic growth. As each of our key markets in India have different demographic and social factors at play, real estate demand for each of our cities must be assessed independently.

Ravi Sinha: What kind of professional functioning you have introduced for decision making in terms of identifying market, defining demand and adopting technological and scientific processes?

Ravi Menon: We have adopted the most advanced construction technology and have followed scientific processes to deliver eco-friendly projects. Achieving the highest standards of performance in each of the three pillars of sustainability being the economic, environmental and social aspects is what we as a responsible organisation aspire for. Our buildings are designed to be energy efficient. The best green practices are followed in all Sobha’s properties.

Today, facilities such as water recycling plants, solar powered lighting systems and organic waste converters are provided by default in most of Sobha’s projects. These facilities help in significantly reducing maintenance expenses. Sustainable initiatives are taken not only at our construction sites but also at our manufacturing facilities where every attempt is made to keep the carbon footprint low by following the best industry practices.

Ravi Sinha: What is one desirable best practice that you find missing in the business today? 

PNC Menon: Real estate is inherently a cyclical business. Well planned financial engineering is a critical strategic element that enables real estate developers to be well prepared for downturns, which are bound to occur. Based on my experience, the real estate business should be structured with 60 per cent of the total capital as equity and the balance 40 per cent as debt. This discipline of maintaining a healthy and consistent debt to equity structure is what all major developers have come to appreciate. In my opinion, those that will achieve long-term success will treat this best practice as a top strategic priority.

Ravi Sinha: What is one desirable best practice that you would like to adopt to be first mover in the business?

Ravi Menon: We believe in honest, transparent, value-laden hard work. We wish all employees to become true brand ambassadors of Sobha, know our process, the way we do and why we do it. We believe if each employee becomes our brand ambassador, it will surely fulfill our twin objectives of strengthening the brand and help sell better. We are looking at ways to make each employee knowledgeable, innovative and committed. Rest we think, will follow logically.


Can Bengaluru’s infrastructure support vast real estate development?

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Bottom Line: Faster implementation and collective effort is the key to success in Bengaluru’s infrastructure supporting real estate development, says a Colliers Research. 

Bangalore, Bengaluru, Bangalore real estate, Bangalore property market launches, Infrastructure in Bengaluru, Investment in Bangalore infrastructure, India real estate news, Indian realty news, Real estate news India, Indiaproperty market, NRIs in Bangalore, Track2Realty Bengaluru absorbs about 13-14 million sq ft of commercial office space every year, which is approximately one third of the total space leased in India. As per Colliers Research, the trend is likely to continue in the coming years.

The data analysis reveals that about 26 million sq ft of Grade A office buildings are under various stages of construction in the city which will completed by 2020. Most of this upcoming supply is concentrated in Outer Ring Road (ORR), which is a major commercial hub in Bengaluru.

“As on today, within ORR and Whitefield, the commercial office space stock accounts for approximately 78% of Grade A stock in Bengaluru. With infrastructure projects like the ORR metro line, and planned road improvement projects in and around these areas; the market is likely to remain bullish with respect to overall office space absorption in next 2-3 years, driven by IT-ITeS, followed by Engineering & Manufacturing and BFSI sectors. However, with more office supply coming in these markets, the pressure on infrastructure and support sectors is to increase multi-fold,” says Ritesh Sachdev, Senior Executive Director, Occupier Services, Colliers International India.

Bengaluru being a host to the largest share of technology start-ups (26%) in India, is the testing ground for co-working spaces and has always invited new occupiers, such as Capiot, InnerChef, Knowlarity, Monkey Box, Artifact Design, and many others. Moreover, the residential market is also developing to support the vast commercial development.

The story is good as far as the real estate development of the city is concerned, however, the unwelcome news is that the city’s infrastructure is unable to keep pace with the vast real estate development.

Bengaluru has seen an increase of 47% in population during the last decade (2001-2011) and the vehicle population growth rate is even higher than the population growth rate. The state government has started various initiatives and is going in the right direction to solve the infrastructure issues; Namma Metro being one of the initiatives. Phase 1 of the project connecting Nagasandra to Puttenahalli (Green line i.e North-South) and Mysore Road to Bayapanahalli (Purple line i.e East- West) corridors have been completed. Phase 2A, connecting Mysore Road to Challegatta near Kengeri and Yelachenahalli to Anjanapura is set to be completed by December 2018. This will push the demand in micromarkets such as Mysore Road and Bannerghatta Road.

Further extension of Phase 2 includes stretch between Silk Board and K.R Puram which is set to be completed by 2020. This will further boost demand in ORR accounting for 75% of the total leasing activity in Q3 2017.

Construction of underpass and widening of flyover along ORR at Hebbal Junction will improve commute time within the city’s major employment hubs. The National Highway Authority has also notified land for widening of NH 209 (948) till Kanakapura. With good accessibility to other parts of the city, these micromarkets are expected to improve further.

Although the government has started taking initiatives, the pace of development is slow. In our opinion, the government should also look at making the city sustainable to natural calamities. The time and again flooding of the city, brings the city to its knees. Along with the introduction of new infrastructure projects, the government should also focus on retrofitting the existing infrastructure.

According to Colliers Research following initiatives can be undertaken at three levels: 

One, at the citizen’s level, where they are imparted civic sense to follow the set rules of transportation like following the signals, crossing at footpaths, etc. This will ease the flow of traffic to a certain extent. 

The second initiative should be in identifying and implementing key infrastructure projects at a faster pace to improve the quality of living, to make Bengaluru a world class city. We believe that occupiers, investors along with the developers should make an effort to pressurise the government for the same. 

Bengaluru requires a comprehensive integrated sustainable public transport system like London and Singapore. Widening the road itself might not be the optimum solution for the problem. Efforts by all involved stakeholders, from citizens to governing bodies should work towards achieving a common goal, that is making Bengaluru uphold its name of Silicon Valley. 

Colliers Research says the infrastructure planned along commercial hubs such as ORR is likely to provide impetus to the real estate sector in ORR and nearby micromarkets, such as K.R. Puram and Hebbal. However, development of office assets without timely completion of infrastructure will leave the city in a chaotic state and may impact the office market adversely.

Property market potential of top 5 cities

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Bottom Line: The realty markets of Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad are proving to be magnets that attract potential home buyers from all over due to their massive infrastructure development, affordable rates and good job catchment opportunities.

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However, a closer look at some of the leading property markets of the country, like Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, clearly suggest that the market is poised for an upswing in the next few years. More importantly, it is not just the analysts but also the home-buyers who are today; ready to bet high on the long term growth story of the property market in these leading cities.

City realities

Home-buyers are bullish over the medium-to-long-term growth story of the property market

Cities that are mostly being preferred are Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad

Infrastructure developments and job catchment are the investment magnets in these cities


“I don’t really subscribe to the view that Mumbai is saturated and hence, is facing a slowdown. The same was opined before the emergence of BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex) as well but the new destinations for both, residential and commercial spaces changed this outlook,” says Jessy Kutty, an NRI, who is soon planning to invest in the city’s property market.

After all, the kind of infrastructure upgrading, like the Eastern Freeway and Western Expressway, the metro rail, Jogeshwari – Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR), Andheri Kurla Link Road, etc, have had, they have changed the outlook of the city.

Add to it, the upcoming infrastructure projects like the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link and an international airport in Navi Mumbai, has suddenly given birth to a twin city that is ready for investment. Needless to add, these developments are on the stretches of high business corridors and hence, are all set to fuel the housing demand in the city.

Advantage Mumbai

Mumbai 7th most promising city in the list of target cities in APAC due to growth prospects in commercial office activity-Cushman & Wakefield

Impressive investment along the new growth corridors of upcoming MTHL and Navi Mumbai International Airport

New corridors of development emerging as the government pushes for Rs 46,000-crore expressway to connect Mumbai-Nagpur with Samruddhi Expressway


The story is no different in the neighbouring city of Pune as well where the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has set up five special funds for urban projects. The PMC has set a target of raising:

INR 55 crore for the Pune Infrastructure Fund;

INR 23 crore for Critical Infrastructure Funds for Information Technology and Enabled Services (ITES);

INR 2 crore for Heritage Conservation Funds;

INR 20 crore for Urban Transport Land Development Charges and;

INR 40 crore for Urban Transport Building Development Charges.

“Pune is no more just a hot destination but the best market for investment today. Even in the wake of a slowdown, the performance of the IT industry in the city has been phenomenal. Even Cushman & Wakefield has placed Pune among the top 10 markets across the Asia Pacific region. For me, this is the market to bet on for a long-term growth story,” says Gaurav Gupta, an IT professional.

Advantage Pune

Pune 8th most promising city in the list of target cities in APAC due to growth prospects in commercial office activity-Cushman & Wakefield

Pune sells India’s first municipal bond since 2007 worth $31 million for 10 years for smart city project and aims to modernize the city

A detailed project report (DPR) for the ring road proposed by the PMRDA will be ready by September and civil work will start by October-November. This eight-lane 128km ring road will connect places on the periphery of Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad


Bengaluru has always been an aspirational city for the average home-buyers. Now, with the boost of infrastructure projects, like the metro rail and Periheral Ring Road, this job magnet destination appears to be even more desirable.

The influx of global corporate occupiers, infrastructure deployment in the peripheral areas, rapidly improving connectivity and unleashing of large land parcels by the government for commercial and industrial growth, promises the emergence of newer nodes in the peripheral districts of Bengaluru.

Since land in these areas comes at a lower cost; the expat workforce that is employed in the numerous automotive, engineering and other industries located on the outskirts of Bengaluru, would continue to drive the property market.

Ashish Puravankara, managing director of Puravankara Ltd, finds reasons to suggest why Bengaluru is a huge investment magnet. The companies are also realising the cost of doing business here; the average rental cost of office space per sq feet in Bengaluru is about INR 45 and that works well for companies. Then look at the customers’ point of view. The average cost of housing in Bangalore is INR 5,500 and that works well for their workforce too.

“So, it is all supporting each other and it is not that only one factor alone is driving the market. If the prices have become unaffordable due to the high demand in the city, people would have started looking at other cities but Bengaluru continues to drive the major share of investment in the property market,” says Puravankara.

Advantage Bangalore

Bangalore 6th most promising city in the list of target cities in APAC due to growth prospects in commercial office activity-Cushman & Wakefield

A Colliers report suggests Bangalore market maintained its top position across nine cities despite low vacancy and recorded an overwhelming share of 37% of total absorption

Bangalore is the only Indian city that has now scaled up to global level of consumption of office space per household, an impressive 65 sq feet as against the national average of 25 sq feet 


Chennai seems to have moved ahead from its flood disaster of 2015. Today, it is the biggest manufacturing hub in India. The city has more industries coming up and it is termed as the Detroit of Asia. Almost every manufacturer has a facility there. It has attracted more investments and has more industrial corridors in almost every nook and corner of the city.

The IT sector here is also booming and growing at a rapid pace. Top Indian IT majors have a considerable chunk of employees operating out of Chennai.

“The best part about Chennai is the price point that hovers in the range of Rs 2500-5500. Premium projects are located in Nungambakkam, Egmore, Anna Nagar, Nandanam, Mandaveli, RA Puram and locations in ECR such as Muttukadu, Uthandi and Injambakkam. Low and mid-segment projects are coming up at Perumbakkam, Ottiyambakkam, Thalambur, Mevalurkuppam, Avadi, Padappai, Mogappair, Thirumazhisai, Navalur, Manapakkam, Padur, Kelambakkam, Thaiyur and Velappanchavadi,” explains Ravikiran Donthamsetty, a local broker.

Advantage Chennai

Chennai 9th most promising city in the list of target cities in APAC due to growth prospects in commercial office activity-Cushman & Wakefield

Vision 2023 of State Government aims to boost infrastructure and industrial growth in the city

Expansion of Chennai airport, laying of Chennai peripheral ring road, widening of East Coast Road, and setting up of Chennai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor promises to alter the investment climate of the city


Parth Mehta, managing director, Paradigm Realty agrees that markets like Hyderabad have been outperforming their peers in larger metro cities. The city is improving currently with respect to the infrastructure and government policies for doing business.

“Also, due to the IT and e-commerce boom, there would be a lot of start-ups that would prefer to operate from low cost office spaces at these locations,” says Mehta.

Probably, no other city looks as promising as Hyderabad from a medium-to-long-term perspective. The continuous growth of the IT sector in the city has had a cascading effect on the housing market in corresponding hubs as well. The residential activity in north Hyderabad is now driven by the presence of industries such as pharmaceutical, bio-tech, electronics, etc.

“In 2016, Hyderabad witnessed strong office leasing, registering a 109 per cent y-o-y growth during the year. In the January to March 2017 quarter, the city witnessed an uptake of more than 1.3 mn sq ft of office space. This growth in office leasing activity, coupled with robust infrastructure development and competitive pricing, positions Hyderabad as one of the most affordable residential markets for buyers in the region,” says Rami Shetty, a local property agent.

Most of the homebuyers in the city also agree that the metro connectivity and transit hubs will fuel further demand in the housing segment in the near future. Due to the lowest office rentals across top markets in southern India, corporates are increasingly looking at Hyderabad while planning their expansion strategies in the region. With the demand going up for office space, the city is experiencing a demand-supply gap at present and its organic effect on the housing market is a logical conclusion.

Advantage Hyderabad

Hyderabad tops the list of target cities in APAC due to growth prospects in commercial office activity-Cushman & Wakefield

With political stability the city is high on the wish list of corporates due to low cost of doing business

The upcoming metro connectivity & transit hubs fuelling investment climate in the city

In Conclusion

In a slow moving housing market at present, these cities are displaying exemplary resilience to suggest that the medium-to-long-term outlook is pretty bright. The best part is that the home-buyers and other investors are ready to believe the long term growth stories of these cities.