"I was the guy parents warned you about"
It is tough to take a suit and tie-clad Janak Malkani seriously when he says these words. At 26, Mumbai-born Malkani works as manager (occupier services, tenant representation) for a renowned global property consultant. He draws a six-figure salary, works in a swank office, coordinates with international clients and is rewarded with generous incentives for every deal he closes.
But the Colaba resident chooses to highlight something most people would want buried and forgotten. He failed in Class 12.
"I was down in the dumps. But I didn't let it get to me," said Malkani, his Blackberry buzzing with calls and messages. "I learnt to deal with failure. So today if a deal does not come through, I don't brood over it."
Malkani was born into a family of highly educated people. His father was an engineer and his grand father a doctor. The pressure to "keep up" led him to take up science after his Class 10 exams. But he did not succeed in clearing.
After appearing for his class 12 exams through the National Open School, he moved to commerce. He tried his hand at various jobs while he was studying to be a graduate - from an event organiser to a staff member at a pastry shop.
Somewhere in between he was introduced to the world of real estate through a grandaunt who was in the business for years. "I spent time with her and my uncle who was a realtor in the United States and understood the business," he said. "It is during my interactions with my grandaunt that I heard the word 'broker' for the first time."
He joined his uncle, Naresh Malkani's property listing portal indiaproperties.com. "My responsibility was to tap agencies for property classifieds that could be listed on the site. I would also network with brokers and builders to convince them to use our services," said Malkani.
His first successful deal was the sale of an apartment at Worli's Madhuli building for Rs 72 lakh in 2002. "Soon, I realised that I loved dealing in the residential part of real estate," said Malkani, sipping coffee out of a spotless white cup. "The joy you experience when you get someone a house is something very few jobs can offer."
Today, Malkani has moved on from being a "broker" to being a "consultant". But he still remembers how he cried when he had to step out of his cocooned south Mumbai life for his first outdoor assignment in Kolkata. And his first ever apartment inspection. "It was a flat in Colaba. I was so excited that I bought new clothes for that day," he recollected.
What happened next was an eye-opener for Malkani, who had then just stepped into his 20s. "When I introduced myself to the domestic help who opened the door, he called out to the owner of the flat saying, 'Memsaab, dalal aaya hai'," said Malkani. "That day I decided I would work towards improving this 'dalal' image."
Malkani decided the real estate industry was his for good. After he graduated in 2004, he worked with various international property
consultants (IPCs, as they are called). As Mumbai grew into a megapolis and demand for real estate accelerated Malkani's profile got better. The retail boom brought along more opportunities for people like him. It meant more work, more travel and more money. It took four years for his salary to move from Rs 5,000 to Rs 12,000. Today, seven years after he joined the industry, it runs into six figures.
The real estate industry has moved from being an unorganised business run out of tiny sheds to an organised industry with many developers, builders and IPCs playing in the market. "Many parents want their children to be doctors, engineers or bankers. But not once did my parents make me feel that I was in an industry that wasn't organised," said Malkani.
He joined the business when it was in its early stages and today has a job anybody would envy. He made sacrifices but they were worth it. "I would be working when my friends went out for movies. But I bought my own car at 20," said Malkani who owns a Maruti Swift but prefers traveling by train to save time.
He has travelled the country in state transport buses. "With livestock," he added.
His job requires him to adapt to diverse circumstances. "I could be sipping cutting chai at the local tapri (as a small tea vendor's shop is known in Mumbai) one moment and walking into a five-star hotel the next. I am comfortable with both," he said.
Malkani, who now concentrates on corporate real estate, says he cannot see himself doing anything else. "If you are a go-getter, enthusiastic, with fire in your belly, this is the job for you," he said. "Come with an open mind and an intention to learn something not just to make money immediately."