Beyond Customer’s Desires and New Levels of Satisfactions
Agnelorajesh Athaide, Chairman & Promoter of St. Angelo’s VNCT Ventures is a first generation entrepreneur who started from humble beginnings. Talking to Sapna Srivastava, he emphasized his belief in delivering projects that can give home buyers beyond their expectations and desires.
Meeting with Agnelorajesh at his home in Bandra in Mumbai turned out to be an inspirational talk that so truly encapsulates the saying by Winston Churchill “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won”.
Agnelelorajesh had always been academically good student and due to the poor financial condition of his family, started working at the age of 13 at a Bindi factory. He provided tuitions during his 11th & 12th standard and in his college years became a sales person for cosmetics, perfumes, garments and other products. Talking about his early life challenges, Agnelorajesh said, “I had the entrepreneurial spirit right from the young age. No work was small for me and I always felt proud of what I did. My door to door selling in fact was a business education for me as it taught me the psyche and reactions of diverse range of people. Today, I can read a person within few minutes of my meeting which in a business like real estate is a great advantage.”
Actually real estate had always been a passion of Agnelorajesh. As he explained that having lived in a small one room with no tap or toilet and a leaking roof because of which home used to be flooded during rains, he can very well understand the importance of housing for a common man. Though, it was a long journey before he actually could become a developer himself.
“In 1990s computers had come in India and I was very keen to learn but the computer course fees at that time were very high and unaffordable for me. I got the chance to learn computers in my father’s office from his colleague who used to teach me after his office hours. I thus, started data processing jobs during the final year of college in 1993 and gradually starting with just one computer, established my first computer education centre with eight computers.”
It was again the turning of trials into triumph for Agnelorajesh who saw the opportunity of educating the young in the notorious and underprivileged area of Malwani where he lived. He offered computer course for as low as Rs 1500 and also helped arrange loan for the same. Progressing from there he launched the franchise module for St. Angelo’s computer education in 1997.
My mother was a very strong woman. One of her life lessons that I still abide by is that don’t let any situation control you. You control the situation.
The Journey in Real Estate
It was in the year 2000 that Agnelorajesh ventured into real estate development and construction. “I started out by working with other partners on redevelopment, stalled or disputed projects. This gave me hands on training of working in real estate. These were individual project taken up under various company names because the partners for each project used to be different. St. Agnelo’s VNCT Ventures was later formed as a brand name for the real estate company with the focus on the development of design and value based homes across India.”
Elaborating on the company Agnelorajesh added, “We are doing residential projects across Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Coimbatore & Madurai and have also set foot in Dubai with residential projects in DIC, Dubai. The company specializes in high-end designer projects as well as in affordable luxury villas and give value proposition to the buyers. We do end to end client servicing & coordination right from choosing right project, bank loan complete coordination, property maintenance and leasing of property if needed.”
Apart from Agnelorajesh, the Core team of the company consists of Nagu Chidambaram, the founder and MD of Sun Industries and Sun Investments. He is the Founder – Director of St. Angelo’s VNCT Ventures, with specific focus on finance and project Management. His wife Geetha Nagu is also the Founder – Director of St. Angelo’s VNCT Ventures, and she handles sales.
Briefing about his partners Agnelorajesh said, “Nagucomes from automotive sector and therefore he is very focused on planning and implementation of programmes. He is the field’s person and always on job sites to make sure of time lines and quality. Geetha is an MBA by qualification with over two decade of expertise in the field of sales and marketing.”
Another important member of the core team is Agnelorajesh’s wife Sugra Athaide. She handles the HR and Finance of St. Angelo’s Computers Ltd. and is also responsible for HR of the entire St. Angelo’s group.
As Sugra joined us in between the meeting, I took the opportunity of asking her on the role of being the backbone of the company. “As of now I am managing all the five centres of St. Angelo’s Computers Ltd. and also devoting time to supporting the administration of the real estate venture. Going forward as the real estate vertical expands, I will be getting more involved with that business too, replied Sugra who is as humble a person as her husband. Parents of two kids, a girl and a boy, they both agree that it is the children who will decide which career path they would like to choose and if they would like to join education or realty business of their father.
I have always believed in the value of owning a land. It gives a family to plant a tree in their own yard and own their own piece of sky as they have the roof terrace too. It is not the built structure that appreciates over time but the land value that increase over the years.
The Villa Development
Agnelorajesh explains the concept of White Villas that St. Angelo’s VNCT Ventures is constructing in Shahpur near Mumbai. “While other developers are in the race to use as much FSI as possible and even beyond through unfair means, in White Villa developments I am using only half of the FSI permitted. We have also carefully chosen the project sites of our developments which are well connected outskirts of the metro cities. The cities are constantly expanding and these areas will see high appreciation in near future thereby greatly benefiting the current buyers. As a matter of fact, many of these villa buyers are the first time home buyers for whom this is the second home. They are living on rent in the city and have invested here because of the reasonable prices and high appreciation in future. Some also plan to live here in next few years given the well-connected location.”
He further added that the reason for him to foray in the segment of affordable villa projects was his belief that these developments are the true value creators for the home buyers. “The buyer not only gets to own the land but can also later on construct further as per his family requirement. Both of these factors are not possible in an apartment development. Also the Villas at Shahpur near Mumbai and Oragadam in Chennai have been designed by renowned designer Suzanne Roshan. The distinct feature of these villas is the high quality standard of the materials and finishes. Affordable doesn’t have to mean cheap or low quality. All the Villas have branded floors, paints bath & kitchen fittings among others because with brand comes assurance of reliability, quality and durability and that is what I offer my clients in my projects.”
In the context of home design, the favourite element of Agnelorajesh is high floor to ceiling heights. His own home has a double height ceiling in the living room with large glass areas on walls and floor above overlooking. What’s more, he likes to give the same element in his projects as well. “All my projects come with rooms having clear 10 feet height from floor to ceiling. I believe the space should not be enjoyed only in terms of floor space but also the height of the room. It gives a feel of spaciousness. Some of our villas have double height living rooms to give a feel of grandeur. This is what we deliver to our client without them even expecting the same,” explained Agnelorajesh.
The Real estate Going-forward
RERA has been the game changer for Indian real estate feels Agnelorajesh. “It has created a level playing field for all the developers big or small. Now someone by using unfair practices will not be able to get an undue advantage and developers like us who follow rules and processes will be able to compete fairly in the regulated environment. I am highly optimistic of the growth story of Indian real estate. I plan to continue to focus on the West and South region of India especially the Mumbai Nasik belt and will be launching more projects soon,” he stated.
Indeed, Agnelorajesh Athaide born to a Christian father and a Hindu mother, married to a Muslim is a business encyclopedia himself. His experiences have helped him think from a customer point of view. Many established developers are now adopting customer-centric business strategies but, Agnelorajesh had incorporated them from his very first project.
While, closing the conversation Agnelorajesh mentioned about his passion of meeting new people and developing relationships. That he feels is the key to growing as a person and gaining knowledge. “I have not studied in management or engineering institutes; life has been my teacher, college and training ground. It taught me about customer behaviour, sales and marketing and the technical aspects of design and construction,” he concluded.