Interview with Jaimin DesaiDesign Head, Mahindra Lifespaces
Jaimin has been in the Indian and south Asian field of design for the past 10-20 years. Previous to joining with Mahindra, Desai worked for Tata Housing and as well as large consultations firms in Singapore that had a presence in India, China and other South East Asian countries. Being passionate about design he has never steered away from the field and always pursued paths that led to design related ventures.
Design on a budget?
As Mahindra Lifespace we offer only products for design. We do not have sort of consultancy services. Having said that, we also reach out to customers when they need some help in design. We have an in-house design team, who reaches out and helps customers with their house customizations and design related issues they have.
In terms of affordable, we look at it in a totally different way that what the market perceives. We look at targeting the section of society who really can’t afford to buy a house. For example, our recent project in Palghar where we have come up with small studio apartments. They start from 6 to 7 lakhs. Our target is to enable even the lowest income section of society to own a house. Also, all these projects are strategically located. All these projects are constructed in areas where the infrastructure is up to mark.
Changing product design?
When we are designing with the affordable sector in mind the process gets reversed. We first keep in mind the requirement of the customer and his monthly income and then design the products according to what he can afford. So that’s gives us an idea about how much budget we have to construct the products, keeping in mind the land costs and other expenses. As a designer, I am then aware of how much budget I’m left with to design the best possible product for the customer.
The customers also want something that is luxurious but at the same time affordable. So even though their houses are small they want something good in that space, something beyond just the usual. So before starting any projects we have extensive drawing boards discussions where we look at the customer’s needs, the local players and the playing field. We also take a look at our existing projects and learn from them.
In cities like Mumbai, space is our 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 the diversity of the country. Being present all over India, we have to work very closely with our local teams to generate positive responses. For example, if we are a designing a project in Gurgaon or NCR, we will work very closely with our counterparts there. Be it a land owner 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. So, 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 it used to be 8-10% more charges for a green building but now it was come down to about 2-3%. If you design it from day one then the cost can be further minimized and the difference with green and conventional will be almost negligible.
All our projects are IGBC certified and most of them are gold and 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 that extra for these projects. They are IT people there and they understand and appreciate the importance of such projects. Hence, this was a possibility.
We always aim to make our customers aware of the benefits of green buildings. So, they do see some merit in buying these properties.
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 acquiring their services. Also, with the information overload, 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 people are now working more from home. So, this will also change the way we design. Everything is moving towards a co-working environment. Apartments are now also offices. So. 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 ITSCs there and another 400 acres is residential. So, we are coming up with an entirely Utopian environment there. It’s also completely pedestrian friendly and completely sustainable.
In the coming years, we are very focused on upping the design quotient of the company. We want to leave a good legacy behind.