The Builder Extraordinaire
Dr Niranjan Hiranandani, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Hiranandani Group and Hiranandani Communities zest for life is inspirational. At the age of 67, he has the young man’s zeal to keep expanding the horizons of his organization. Speaking to Sapna Srivastava he recounted his journey and briefed on his new ventures.
Niranjan Hiranandani is credited with changing the skyline of Mumbai in Powai, Thane and now Panvel. The cities of Pune, Chennai and Ahmedabad will soon follow suit. But it all started from Powai in Mumbai where his office building is located. Meeting him in the conference room adjacent to his own office, one could see outside the window, the outline of neo-classic buildings of Hiranandani Gardens, Powai and obviously the first question that comes to mind is why such an architecture. “I wanted the building design to be timeless. That is how the whole idea about European architecture came up but not many appreciated this concept at that time. Today, a brand new building or a building made 20 years ago; they all look new and similar. This is perennial and attractive architecture”, replied Hiranandani.
Indeed, the classic design and architecture continues in all Hiranandani developments and has become the signature style. But, wanting to know more about how the whole idea of developing a mixed-use township came about when such a concept did not even exist in India, I coaxed him further. Ever so gladly, Hiranandani obliged, “My brother Surendra and me started the real-estate business by doing small and medium projects in Versova, Malad, Ville Parle and Mulund. Every time I finished a project, I would look out of the window of the building and would be disappointed of the views of the surroundings. This set me thinking of creating an atmosphere that was beautiful everywhere. Powai at that time was an undeveloped quarry land and we were able to get about 250 acres at reasonable price. With an aim of creating a lifestyle, the construction at Powai was started in 1987. Architect Hafeez Contractor who had just started his practice and had done our Versova project Beach Classic joined in 1988-89 and has been working with us ever since. We built the entire infrastructure from roads, electricity, storm water drains, sewage treatment plants, telephone cabling ducts, schools shopping complex, hospital etc. Of course, most people were cynical of what I was doing and it was a huge risk for us, of building an entire suburb from scratch. We met with resistance to change but managed to convince the authorities that our intentions were clean. Few in the government department supported us, though the concepts like cement concrete roads or recycling of water were new at that time.”
Becoming a real-estate developer
“My brother and I are first generation businessmen. My father L H Hiranandani was a famous ENT specialist and he wanted me also to become a professional. Therefore I became a Chartered Accountant but as I always wanted to do a business, I forayed into the textile segment. Simultaneously I co-invested in plots in Malad and started building there. The turning point came when I had to choose between both the businesses that were making losses. In January 1981, I received a letter from my textile mill workers union asking for a 100 per cent increase in wages. Though, they would have accepted even 10 per cent raise, I looked at it as a ‘sign from above’ and decided to sell off the textile unit and focus completely on real estate.”
Hiranandani elaborated on how he created a differentiator for himself. “Very few developers in 1980s were keen on hiring professionals. I engaged young professionals as I could not afford the experienced experts. We set the quality benchmarks for ourselves whether it was, design, construction technology or materials. When we started with township development, not a single realty firm was implementing that range of activities. So, it was a steep learning curve for us. I feel what set us apart from the competition was that the other developers did not provide stabilized quality which we did.”
We became iconic by default because the others just didn’t do what was needed to be done.
Along the way the company has undergone tremendous transformations as well. As Hiranandani explained that the company setup was changed proactively keeping in mind the next generation. “In 2005, my daughter Priya came back from abroad and my son Darshan had almost finished college. Similarly, Surendra children Neha and Harsh were also growing up and planned to be part of the business. So, for ease of transition, we decided to create separate business entities. Apart from Powai and Thane, where we have been doing joint development, anything outside Mumbai would be undertaken separately.” In 2005, Niranajan Hiranandani along with his daughter and son started working on projects together and his brother Surendra also initiated his independent projects in Chennai. In fact, Darshan started his professional career pioneering their first overseas project 23 Marina, a 90 storey, 400m residential ‘super tall’ tower in Dubai. Currently, he is the MD & CEO of “H-Energy, the venture of the Hiranandani Group in the energy sector.
As an organization, what we have now is three verticals that I like to call as ‘yours’, ‘mine’ and ‘ours’ i.e. Surendra’s “House of Hiranandani”, mine “Hiranandani Communities” and jointly ours, “Hiranandani Group”.
The recently completed projects include 4.2 million sq ft ‘Hiranandani Signature’ building in GIFT City Gujarat and 2 million sq ft TCS mega campus ‘Olympus’ in Thane. Hiranandani Fortune City at Panvel is a 558 acre mixed-use township under construction as also, 400 acres integrated township at Oragadam, Chennai. Other projects include resort living development on 500 acres in Khandala and tourism focused development on 250 acres plot in Alibaug. Also, in planning stages are the logistics & warehousing project in Nasik, 250 acres Industrial Township in Pune and SEZ in Chennai. .
Commonly with age, people tend to reduce their work pressures. Definitely not the case with Dr Niranjan Hiranandani, “Rather than slowing down, my work has increased fourfold in the last couple of years. Expansion works are being carried out in our existing projects of Powai and Thane and we are also looking at opportunities for SEZs and townships in Mumbai, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and other Tier II cities.”
Apart from the real-estate business, Niranjan Hiranandani is also the Chairman of H-Energy, the company started by his son Darshan Hiranandani that is building LNG re-gas terminals and natural gas pipeline projects in India as well as the LNG liquefaction project and crude oil infrastructure in Canada. Hiranandani explained, “Basically there are two projects. The West Coast project consists of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) re-gasification project at Jaigarh in Maharashtra and the East Coast Project that includes setting up a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) at Digha, West Bengal. H-Energy also plans to develop an LNG liquefaction project comprising a floating and onshore natural gas liquefaction plant in Canada. H-Energy is focused on creating LNG receiving infrastructure in the country that will be extended ill Bangladesh going forward. We envisage that with the prices of gas coming down in India, we will be able to import it and that will be a paradigm shift.”
Shaping the Realty Future
As National President of NAREDCO, Hiranandani is also engaged in bringing to government’s attention the demands of the sector as well as helping the segment grown in a holistic manner. He is closely involved with the skill development centre that aims to impart specialized skills to graduates. Commenting on the new policies and initiatives of the government, Hiranandani said, “Affordable housing segment has immense growth potential. However, the government needs to bring liquidity in the fund flow and also introduce single-window clearance system to expedite project clearances. Higher spending on infrastructure projects will generate employment and have a multiplier effect on the economic growth. But, rationalisation of taxes is very important. GST should subsume stamp duty and registration to keep property prices within reasonable limits for the buyers. I believe the public-private partnership can help achieve government targets of Housing for All and Smart Cities. But, the authorities need to tweaks their policies.” Hiranandani is highly optimistic of the new generation of entrepreneurs in real-estate and feels the veterans of the industry instead of feeling threatened should encourage, guide and promote the young talent. As he rightly said that India’s housing & infrastructure demand is so huge to generate enough work for everyone.
Niranjan – The Person
Born in 1950, Niranjan Hiranandani is a qualified Chartered Accountant. His thesis on – Housing Revolution in India Challenges and Prospects’ resulted in the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management to be conferred on him. He also drafted the State Policy for Slum Rehabilitation in Mumbai, which was designed to improve the wellbeing of over 6 million slum inhabitants.
He has served on the board of the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), was the adviser to the Government of India on the Housing and Habitat Policy for over a decade; and served as Chairman of Housing Committee of FICCI as well as Chairman of Real Estate & Infrastructure Committee of Indian Merchant Chambers. He is a trustee of Nathdwara Temple, holds key positions in various government bodies, private and social institutions, schools and colleges. Besides these, he also runs 17 colleges, 8 schools, three hospitals and three temples.
In spite of all the responsibilities, Hiranandani definitely knows how to enjoy life as well. He likes to go for get-togethers with friends & family, but stays at parties for just an hour. Even his hosts now are used to his regimen. “Work is my passion and hobby. I am really enjoying what I am doing. Going to parties and having fun is what I do apart from the work. I am the first one to go on the dance floor, may not be the last one though,” Hiranandani said smilingly.
It is not about working for money. Money is a by product of what you do with passion and sincerely.
Still it seems unbelievable how anyone can fit in so much within a day and out of curiosity as a parting query I had to ask Hiranandani what his regular day is like. Amused at my question, he still indulged, “I start my day at six in the morning; go to the gym than browse through all the morning newspapers. On my way to work I call all my CEOs for an update and by the time I am in office at 9.30 am I am set to start work immediately. Moving from one task to another, the first half of my day is dedicated to office work. The second half is for external meetings, media interactions and social appointments. So, the day ends as per any social event timing. As a matter of fact, many ask me how I manage to do so much at my age and I always say, it’s simply passion for life and for Hiranandani Communities.”
At the end of the meeting with Dr Niranjan Hiranandani, the words that come to mind for him are leadership, untiring zest for excellence and down-to-earth. The phrase ‘labore et constantia’ (with consistent efforts, one can scale great heights) sums up his success story.