People are your brand ambassadors
Boman R Irani – Chairman & Managing Director, Rustomjee Group believes that a company’s brand is only as good as its people. Talking to Sapna Srivastava, he emphasized on his Parsi lineage and therefore, the faith that others put in him.
In conversation with Irani at his office in the Natraj building by Rustomjee, one can notice his dynamic spirit and the desire to change the negative perception of the real estate sector. As he said, the entry of corporate companies like Tata & Godrej in the sector is indicative of the changing opinion of the industry. He added, “This business is like banking. People come into a bank; they deposit hard cash, receive a passbook that says this is your amount with us and they trust you. Only thing a developer has to do is to at the end, give the customer what he has paid for as per the time period promised. For me the business of real estate is as simple as that.”
The similar business ethic flows down in his organization. The front office dealing with the potential buyers, describe the project details and pricing in plain simple terms.“They even explain the company’s business strategy that if few flats are available at low price for a specific period, the same rates may not be applicable after that period as the company’s marketing strategy will change in keeping with business plan with the banks & PE investors. In writing it is mentioned that price would remain the same unless any new charges arelevied by the government,” Irani explained.
For me apart from the property buyers, my employees, associates, partners, architects, service providers, contractors, vendors – all are my clients. Either, they’re selling me something or I’m selling them something.
The Brand Journey
Boman was nineteen years old when his family assigned him the task of selling a small property in Bandra. This was his introduction to real estate. While trying to sell the property he met several architects, developers, brokers and lawyers. The more people he met, the more he learnt. Recollecting those times, Irani fondly narrated, “Being an engineer by education, I went about the selling process in a structured way. I walked in Ar. T. Khareghat office and met the budding architect who is now the renowned architect Hafeez Contractor. They helped me and also introduced me to many other professionals. Most evenings after college I would spend in offices of developers, architects, brokers & lawyers, picking up on their conversations, reading books and discussing. That is when I realized that real estate is not a rocket science. But there were very few organised players and the sector in itself was unorganized.I could foresee the exponential growth the real estate would see in the coming times.”
Irani started his business with developing the family property in Dahisarin Mumbai and named the company Keystone Realtors Pvt Ltd.Elaborating on the process of creating the brand name, he said it was more of an emotional journey rather than a business branding. “The name of the company’ Keystone’ is derived from the wedge-shaped stone piece at the apex of a masonry arch that allows the arch to bear weight. It signifies ourvision is to continuously add value to the lives of our customers, business associates and stakeholders. Each of our projects is named Rustomjee after my late father on the suggestion of my mother. This passes an added responsibility on my shoulders to bring good name to my work,” he said.
Real estate was something that I was destined to do and I literally walked into it.
Building the Brand
As a developer, Rustomjee has completed 22 years in real estate sector. The company started by creating a differentiator for itself in the market scenario of that time. “The market 22 years back was based on price negotiations with developers to get the best rate of the property. I kept a fixed rate for my projects with complete transparency in terms of the cost and transaction. I used to tell my customers, look this is my cost sheet, I am going to sell you in this rate and there would be no negotiation. Initially there was some amount of resistance but after that it was such a fantastic Mantra. Fixed price was earlier considered a negative thing as people always wanted to bargain and most developers believed that this was the way how Indian market worked Many advised me against following such a marketing strategy but I went ahead and created a niche among home buyers who understood that if they dealt with Rustomjee they would get the fair price without negotiations or recommendations. This feature has now become the brand value and identity of the company,” stated Irani.
Every employee is required to ingrain the culture of the organization and what Rustomjee stands for. In business we make some money and lose some money but the integrity of the organization should remain intact. There is nothing more important than trust.
Your brand is only as good as your people
BomanIrani is a firm believer that the employees need to be trained, inspired and motivated to perform. It is the organization that has to create a sense of belonging for its people. “I think everybody wants to do a good job in their life. It just requires a positive attitude and desire to get what you want. No amount of shortcuts would work. As I always tell my people, success and failure is part of the game, as long as you has tried your best and followed the right processes.”
Stating Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “Find purpose and the means would follow”, Irani commented that if one firmly decides to do something, right people will get associated to help achieve your objective. The wrong kind of people will not stay long. “We’ve been building this brand brick by brick, day by day. The entire team of 700 people are all in a way what Rustomjee is as a brand. They all believe that they are an integral part of the company’s journey. I tell them “success is everybody’s and failures are mine”. If the intent is correct and in the best interest of the company, no one has too feel insecurity of job.”
We hire people for their attitude and train them for a skill
“Rustomjee is only as good as the people who work here, only good as the product it creates, the services it provides and only as good as how it makes others feel. This brand has been built on human connect. It is not my philosophy but our groups’ philosophy that we are all about what we do for our customers; that is the ethos that drives us to great heights,” added Irani. Talking about associations and partnerships, he commented that more than the size or financial strength of an organization, it is the mutual synergies that decide the association with another organization or a brand. “After all people work with people,” he said.
The Real-estate sector
Till now, Rustomjee has completed 143 lakh square feet of construction including large scale developments of two townships of 127 acres & 217 acres. The company is a Society redevelopment specialist since 2000 and has done 50 lakh square feet of MHADA redevelopment.
Rustomjee has carved a niche for itself in the ever-growing real estate sector, with a portfolio that includes 14.32 million square feet of completed projects; 12 million square feet of on-going development and another 28 million square feet of planned development in the pipeline, spanning across the best locations of Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
In our journey, one of the things I learnt was to be super vigilant. Real estate business can be hit by anything and “if something has to go wrong, it will go wrong” is the philosophy I believe. At one point of time, around 2006-07, we had to go beyond the understanding of our own ability and understand the dynamics of what the market can be. Around 2009, we realized that instead of working at 100% of the ability, utilizing 75%-80% of the organizational capacity will keep you up and running in the long run. Likewise, DCR rule changes in 2012 and forest land amendments later on followed by many other policy changes all have impacted the realty sector in one way or the other. But one has to work in the environment one is provided with. Embrace the change and work with the challenges instead of complaining about it.”
He strongly feels that one should always be open to change and keep upgrading to keep up with the changing times. According to him the biggest challenge facing the sector is the shortage of trained manpower and people with right skill-sets. Irani added, “Rustomjee Academy of global careers is working with CREDAI on training on-site workers and are also reaching out to the developers to further train their labourers in their skills and pay them accordingly. This will help raise the standard of construction and reduce the project execution time.”
He mentioned inadequate face time with the authorities another roadblock the sector is grappling with. As Irani opines, a lot more communication channels need to be continually opened with the real estate authorities to discuss the best solutions. Also the lack of inter-departmental communication becomes ahindrance for the real estate professionals due to ambiguity of rules & regulations. He also stated that, RERA while boosting the confidence of the consumers falters when the objective becomes imprisonment of the developer for flouting rules. In practice this actually works against the interest of the consumer as they are only interested in getting the home.”
This company is a company of every single person who comes here every day and puts in his honest hard work.
Concluding the conversation, one gets the understanding that what sets Rustomjee apart is its faith in its employees, associates & partners and the strong emphasis on people connect.The organization gives the employees the confidence of owning their work and processes. Complex processes are simplified and people are continuously trained and up-skilled.Irani proudly states that his people are trained to handle their responsibilities independently. “I have told my employees to not to come to me with a problem. Brig me options and solutions to decide from.”
The respect for the customer’s wishes is another of Rustomjee’s priority. Accountability, commitment to delivery schedules, customer centricity and innovations in design& superior quality minus price induced compromise are the principles followed by the company. Irani said, “At Rustomjee, our responsibility doesn’t just end with the buildings we construct, but extends to giving the right environment to the customer as per the needs. The customers trust the brand Rustomjeefor its transparency and interestingly being a Parsi adds to the trustworthiness of the brand.”