Interview with Jaimin Desai
Design Head, Mahindra Lifespaces
Jaimin has been in the Indian and South Asian field of design for more than past20 years. Before joining Mahindra Lifespaces, Mr. Desai worked for Tata Housing as well as large consultancy firms in Singapore that had a presence in India, China and other South East Asian countries. Being passionate about design, he has always pursued paths that have brought him back to design-related ventures.
The design on a budget?
At Mahindra Lifespaces, we offer homes designed for end users. However, we also customize designs, according to customer requests. We have an in-house design team that facilitates these customizations, tailored to suit our customers’ tastes.
As far as affordable homes are concerned, we have a different perspective on the segment compared to what the market perceives. We target that section of society that really can’t afford to buy a house. Take our recently-launched project in Palghar. We are offering studio apartments starting at as little as Rs. 6-7 lakh. We want to make it possible for members of even the lowest income strata of society to be able to own a house. Moreover, all these projects are strategically located, primarily in areas where infrastructure is already in place or is growing.
Changing product design?
The design philosophy, when designing an affordable home, works in reverse. We first keep in mind the requirement of the customer and his monthly income and then design the home according to his affordability. This gives us clarity on expense with respect to the construction of the project, asa considerable amount is also spent on land and other expenses. As a designer, I am then aware of the budget I have to work with to design the best possible home for the customer.
Customers want something which is luxurious and at the same time affordable. So even though their houses are smaller, they want something good in that space, something beyond just the usual. So before starting any project, we have extensive drawing board discussions where we look at the customer’s needs, We also take a look at our existing projects and incorporate learnings from them.
In cities like Mumbai, space is the biggest challenge. For example, the flat that costs 6-7 lakhs in Palghar city, had it been in a second-tier city, the size of the apartment would have been much bigger. The reason for this is the land cost. In Mumbai, the land cost is very high and hence the cost of everything else also rises. In a second-tier city where the land cost is lower, we can provide more at the same price.
Another challenge for us is the diversity of the country. We are present all over India and we have to work very closely with our local teams to generate positive responses. For example, if we are designing a project in Gurgaon or NCR, we will work very closely with our counterparts there. Be it a landowner or consultants or our local in-house architects, coordinating with them is crucial. Because what works in Mumbai is not going to work in Delhi and certainly won’t work in Chennai. Architecture does not have a globalized approach.Local sensibilities matter a lot.
Our project in Hyderabad is one good example of this localized approach. The people of Hyderabad follow vastu ardently. Hence, for them, their house has to be vastu-compliant. So, every building we put on site has to be vastu-compliant. That’s a make or break deal for them.
Are green products pocket-friendly?
The demand and supply ratio of green products is getting better. There are now more and more takers for green products and projects. The cost of going green has reduced substantially. Also, green technology has become more accessible. Earlier, the cost of the green building used to be eight to 10 percent higher than conventional projects. However, now cost difference has gone down to about two to three percent. If you design it from day one then the cost can be further minimized and the difference between green and conventional will be almost negligible.
All our projects are IGBC-certified and most of them are gold/ platinum rated. For one of our projects in Bangalore, we had initially applied for a gold rating. However, as the project progressed, we upped the standard to platinum. The reason for this was that the people in Bangalore greatly appreciate green projects and they are willing to pay a premium for them. People are aware of and understand and appreciate the importance of such projects. Hence, this was a possibility.
We aim to make our customers aware of the benefits of green buildings so they see the merit in buying green homes.
Future of design?
The market is getting very professional in a way. People are now aware of what a designer brings to a project. Hence, they are now more active in reaching out to a designer and engaging their services. Also, there is a lot of information out there today. So the customer is extremely aware. No designer can take the client for a ride because everything is now easily available and the information is accessible.
The job sector is changing and more and more people are working from home now. So, this will also change the way we design homes. Everything is moving towards a co-working environment. Apartments are now also offices. All these changes are also going to trigger changes in the design industry.
We design entire small cities as well. One of our projects in Jaipur is about three thousand acres, where we have designed the entire area in such a way that companies can come and set up their offices and warehouses there. We have 1500 acres as an IT SEZ there and another 400 acres is residential. We are coming up with an entirely Utopian environment there. It’s also pedestrian friendly and sustainable.
In the coming years, we are very focused on upping the design quotient towards our product. We want to leave a good legacy behind.