Achieving Ambitions: One Step at a Time
Ramesh Nair,one of India’s most successful real estate executives and the CEOof JLL India- the country’slargest and leading International Property Consultancy in conversation with Sapna Srivastava, sharesinsights from his journey and the way forward.
As onewalks into JLL’s new-age office in ONE BKC, its cool and futuristicdécorand the amazing culture of this organisation warmly welcomes the visitor. Ramesh Nair, CEO & Country Head, JLL India, credits this to the core values of the firm, those of teamwork, ethics and excellence. “Our culture is highly collaborative. You will always feel energised here because as a firm we are very driven and passionate about what we do.We have over 10,000 team members across multiple offices and sites in India, and everywhere you go, this energy remains the same”, he says.
Ramesh took his first steps intothe Indian real estate sector over two decades ago, when he started working as an analyst for JLL in the firm’s Chennai office. Over the years, he has risen through the ranks with an unwavering focus to first become a director at the age of 29 and then the youngest member of JLL’s India Leadership Council. He has been leading the Firm from the front,since early 2017. He attributes his success to his humble upbringing. “I come from a humble background, where qualities such as modesty, politeness and honesty are core. I feel that these qualities ensure that, whatever one does,one should always try to take the best decision for their people and clients,” he says.
JLL has been one of the first few international property consultancies to enter India over two decades ago. Since then, the firm has seen the Indian real estate sector through its journey of ups and downs. Though there have been many foreign players and property consultants entering India since then, JLL’s growth story in the country clearly mirrors the country’s ever-growing and transforming real estate landscape.Ramesh continues, “India’s real estate growth story has been an amazing transformation to watch. A simple example is that, back in 1995, there was almost no real trace of professional real estate consultancy services.Today, we have the top international property consultancies focusing on India with JLL beingthe largest real estate professional services firm in the country. This evolution of the sector from being highly fragmented and entrepreneurial to institutionalised and transparent has led to a lot of global interest in India. If you observe closely, you will notice that the top ten office developers in India now have foreign partners. Other factors such as regulations to control black money in the market, single taxation systems, regulation in the real estate market, accessibility of FDI in real estate, schemes for affordable housing, etc. have all significantly contributed to this growing global interest. Today, the Indian real estate sector is all set to achieve newer ambitions”
Today, with over 10,000 employees, JLL is the largest professional services firm in real estate advisory, transactions, management and consulting business in India. They advise over 250 companies from the Fortune 500 list and serves more than 80 from amongst the Fortune 100 organisations.Speaking about theirsuccess in India, Ramesh says, “JLL is a people-centric organisation. Our success is built on hiring, retaining and motivating the best people. Our culture of caring and learning is consistent throughout the organization. We not only ensure employee recognition but also help develop individual strengths, at the same time focusing on results.It is important to give people the freedom to be themselves while giving them a sense of belonging and including them as a part of something bigger.We are a very big team, so we have to make sure to collaborate more, communicate more and share our vast knowledge pool. We always aim for everyone to bealigned and consistently working towards the common goal of progress and expansion of the firm. Regardless of service lines or geographies – we come together, to help our clients achieve their ambitions. This is what we called the ONE JLL philosophy”.
It is this consistency in keeping their clients’ interest at heart that has reinforced JLL’s position as the country’s most trusted real estate advisor. JLL has recently received the award for being the Best Place to Work as a result of a survey by Great Place to Work Institute. Globally, JLL has been named ‘World’s Most Ethical Company’ for over 10th consecutive years as well named the Top Company for Executive Women and ranked in the 100 Best companies for working mothers. These are just a few of the long list of accoladesearned by the firm every year, globally as well as in India. But perhaps the greatest testimony of JLL’s people-centric culture is the employee Boomerang that Ramesh has achieved, with over one-tenth of JLL’s current workforce being employees who have left the firm previously but have joined back. “It is indeed an impressive feat, in an industry that is so competitive, and it is only because we value our people and ensure that they always feel welcome here,” says Ramesh.
With the mammoth responsibility on him, Ramesh still ensuresthat he finds the time to continuously engage with prospective talent. You will often encounter him engaging with fresh talent in India’s leading institutions to ensure that talent is updated on the myriad avenues that the real estate sector has to offer. He stated, “Today, students from some of the best business schoolsapproach me with aspirations of being a real estate professional. This itself is a testament to the growing recognition & prestige of the sector. It is important that more and more fresh talent is updated about the increasing professionalism and potential of the sector as well as to ensure that the existing talent is exposed to constant learning.”
That’s not all though,as JLL aims to take the Indian real estate sectoritself to the next level. Ramesh says, “The first thing we want to do, to increase professionalism in the sector itself, is to start by inspiring our people to give the best real estate advice. It is imperative to be a trusted advisor to our clients. Internally, as authentic leaders, we take the responsibility for the results we seek and work towards achieving our goals. Everyone is equally accountable as well as appreciated for the firm’s success. We believe in being led by insights and having a solution selling mindset. And we ensure that we continue to learn and remain updated. We call this- The JLL Way.”
Since assuming the top office at JLL India, Ramesh has helmed a number of strategic initiatives within the company. “With a firm that has the size and scale of JLL, our people come from across a number of large and diverse backgrounds, and it is important to ensure that all of them live and breathe our core values and culture.The i10 priorities are a result of this focus. They act as a blueprint for the firm’s success and ensure that all businessesare aligned as One JLL.” Ramesh’s key focus areas include the implementation of a tech-driven CRM platform, launching specialized services, simplify the org structure and increase mentorship. Additional priorities involve activating areas of corporate social responsibility and improving talent mobility, at the same time ensuring to keep the ‘Cool’ quotient of the firm intact!
Talking about future avenues for Real estate, Ramesh says, “Technology is the key. We are focusing on embracing new technology business models and ensuring that the client is at the centre of this digital transformation. I believe that we should experiment with new technology and actively collaborate and partner with new technology operators.”
On a global level, JLL hascreatedthe Spark Global Venture Fund, with plans to invest up to USD 100 million in companies focused on leveraging technology by introducing improvements across the spectrum, starting from real estate development and management to leasing and investing. The fund will also help entrepreneurs by connecting them with JLL’s business lines and clients to distribute their products. According to Ramesh, the move complements the company’s vision of investing in innovative, technology solutions and bringing the best PropTech ideas in the sector.
“JLL is highly focussed on digital transformation and on implementing technology for customer experience, operational processes and disrupting existing business models.We envisage being much more a technology company focusing on real estate – something that we’re gearing up for globally.”
Ramesh’s leadership style is authentic. He says, “I feel proud that I’m able to play a small role in the way people live and work in India. As a leader, I am constantly working on exploring newer ways to give back to the society. I believe leadership is a huge responsibility and for anything to work, we need to select teams very carefully. Across India, we have over 350 odd directors- great local leaders who come up with great ideas and are full of enthusiasm. To all of them I have the same request- Be authentic, institutional and professional.”
Speaking about the future of the real estate sector in India, he says- “Real Estate in India is finally coming of age. The increased transparency on account of the new regulatory environment has finally unlocked the immense potential the sector has to offer. We have already seen the positive effects of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) and Goods and Services Tax (GST), that have made the sector much more transparent. That in addition to new developments around Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) has led to a surge in foreign investments in the past couple of years that have surpassed the combined investments in the past decade. India’s rank in the global transparency index is also going up is hinting at increased professionalism in the Indian Real Estate Industry which has a huge potential to attract domestic and foreign investors.”
Ramesh points out that in the next decade, India will see a rise of another 7-10 cities. “There will be immense opportunities in upcoming alternative segments such as co-working, datacentres, education as well as an increased focus on mid-market developers and the industrialand warehousing sector. As workflows become streamlined and issues of licenses and approvals etc. become smooth and efficient, real estate costs will reduce, thereby facilitating more development and adding qualitatively to the economy,” says Ramesh.
Future course for Indian real estate – Ramesh Nair
-Alternative asset classes becoming investment-grade
-The emergence of REIT vehicles
-Large-scale portfolio exits
-Increasing FDI share in PE investments
-Technology and millennial driving changes to workplace
-Big Data and Data management rules bringing data centre creation to the fore
-Expect smart cities to lead in new metro cities creation: We expect next twenty years to give rise to at least 5 new cities which will have at least 50 mn square feet of Grade A office stock
-Big box retail to drive the creation of standalone destination stores
-Warehousing &logistics Grade A stock to increase exponentially: Specialised categories such as cold storage to be driven by e-commerce, pharma, FMCG etc.
-Price wars in e-commerce with Walmart competing with Amazon: At least 5 years before both firms come in the black
-Compacting of home sizes in the bigger cities: 17.1% average drop from 2010 till 2017 in the major metros
-Global in-house centersto propel the growth of IT firms: Expect less growth from third-party outsourcing
-Improved transparency and faster dispute resolution to propel India’s growth in Ease of Doing Business Rankings. India should break the top 50 rank barrier in the next five years with construction permits planned to be issued in a matter of days.