Balancing Materialism & Holistic
Lalit Dharmani promoter of a young, dynamic construction brand LD is a businessman with his heart in the right place. Talking to Sapna Srivastava, he elaborates on his realty business and righteous beliefs.
The setting of the interview during a hectic real-estate event venue was much in contrast to the calm and sombre persona of the interviewee. Finding a quaint corner amid much of the hustle & bustle, I proceeded to ask Dharmani, how his company brand came about. “During 1960s my father dabbled in various businesses from wood carpentry workshop to steel fabrication and saw some tough times. After graduation in 1992 I joined his business of drums & barrels manufacturing and from one factory we expanded to three factories. As I had always been inclined towards real-estate business, in 2002 after a detailed discussion with my father, we started the real-estate vertical. We constructed a residential project in Chembur called Callista offering 1 and 2 BHK iPad-ready green homes. Another project completed was under Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRA) started in 2006. Gradually we started doing some small scale projects. Till now we have completed eight projects, out of which one is commercial development Origins 108 on 20, 000sqm plot in Chembur and rest are residential projects. It was in 2012, that I decided to give our real-estate business a formal brand name LD, the Lalit Dharmani Group. In current times, company brand, track record and creating a legacy of works is very important. When tying up for business, one wants to know your previous track record, similarly a buyer would want to know the legacy of works a developer has done,” he said.
To stand apart in the crowd, we focused on quality as the differentiator for our projects. Why shouldn’t a 1-2 BHK residents too be given the same quality and amenities as a luxury 3BHK project resident? Thus, even our budget homes are fitted with best quality materials and home automation features.
The Discerning Factor
Having come from a humble background, Dharmani understands what buying a home means for a common man. As he rightly said, a middle class person buys a home from his life’s savings. Therefore, a developer should provide him good quality construction, superior materials and amenities that can add value to his life. He added, “I believe, the homebuyer irrespective of the size of housing unit should be given value for money and that is what we endeavour to achieve in all our developments. For instance, Green building consultant Godrej & Boyce guides us in selection and use of holistic and sustainable materials & techniques that are beneficial for the customers as well as the environment.”
Reminiscing about his learning curve in the realty sector, Dharmani is clear that he would not want to engage in a SRA development again. He explained, “The slum rehabilitation projects are financially very viable as the land cost is very low but getting SRA clearances and tenant approvals is difficult. However, slum dwellers are mostly uneducated and easily influenced by group leaders or other parties with vested interests. It is hard to deal with them and sometimes with illicit persons who get involved and try to pressurize the developer.”
Talking about his on job training, Dharmani light heartedly reveals that he learned the ropes of the trade on ground by being on project site and getting involved in each and every aspect of real-estate. “Similar to running the factories previously, where I got hands-on training in every department from shop floor, to marketing etc., in real-estate too I have understood all the facets of construction, marketing and sales. I make sure that I am easily approachable by clients whenever they need so, to give them the confidence that their money is safe. A buyer is investing lakhs or crores of his money thus, he has the right to ask each and every detail of the project and promoter.”
The Paradigm Changes
During his 15 year journey in the sector, Dharmani has seen the transformation of the business from being a completely unorganized segment to getting more organized and consolidated. As he pointed out, earlier developers had a bad name as many were in this field to just make quick money but gradually only serious players are now operating. “RERA in my opinion has created a level playing field for all developers, big or small. Bound by regulations, they are now organizing their finances project wise for timely deliveries. In terms of buyers, they are now more confident as they can easily access information on project and promoter. Also with oversupply, the consumers are in a better position to negotiate. Another major transformation has been the relationship between a developer and a broker. The brokers have evolved into consultants who advise the developer on market demands and product suitability and on the other hand the customer about the project details and sales proceedings. They are also providing after sales service to the client which is a major shift from earlier days.”
Associations and real-estate bodies are helping change the perception of the developers and the young generation view of doing business is more professional. With changing face of the sector, NBFCs are providing funding to real-estate sector, FDI is also growing and HNIs are increasingly investing in Mumbai.
According to Dharmani, their experience of couple of projects in Airoli and Ghansoli in Navi Mumbai were not very profitable and so they have decided to develop projects primarily in Chembur area. “We are planning a large scale affordable housing development across five lakhs square feet in Chembur and will start Service Apartments by next year again in Chembur. Also on anvil is the residential project in South Mumbai and expansion of our franchisee of fitness centres, Kris Gethin Gym in Mumbai suburbs of Chembur, Powai, Andheri, South Mumbai and Pune.
Faith & Well-being
A health enthusiast himself, Dharmani has invested in the franchisee of a reputable fitness brand Kris Gethin Gym and has a large setup in one of his commercial projects. He believes that the quality of life and personal growth relies on good health and balanced living. “Given the lifestyle that all of us lead, regular physical activity and proper diet is mandatory for an optimal state of well-being,” he said. Also, deeply spiritual in nature, Dharmani is associated with Brahma Kumaris, a worldwide spiritual movement dedicated to personal transformation. According to him the organization encourages deep collective consciousness of peace and of the individual dignity. Concluding the interview on an inspiring note he said, “Apart from being a businessman, I have a social responsibility as well. The participation in activities of spiritual well-being helps me recognize my core capabilities. Self-realisation is very important and it teaches one to become a better person in life.”