Gurgaon-based Central Park, founded by IITian Amarjit Bakshi, in 2001, has real estate projects worth $2 billion (Rs 1,342 crore). It has over 10.9 million sq ft of existing development and another 12 million sq ft in advanced stages of planning/execution across verticals such as upscale residential development, hospitality, commercial and SEZs. The company’s current focus is the NCR region and Goa. HT Estates met up with Bakshi, also the managing director, at one of his resort projects in Gurgaon.
Can you tell us something about when and why you decided to set up a real estate company and the vision you had? Did your academic and professional background help in any way?
I am a civil engineer from IIT Delhi. I started with civil engineering projects like airports, highways and then moved to industry. From industry I graduated to real estate. Here the name of the game from day one is that if I have to live in some place, whether a home for the economically weaker sections (EWS), a 2BHK, 3BHK, 4BHK or a penthouse – there will be no compromise on quality. Here we are not providing houses, we are providing livability.
Any lessons you learnt while constructing Central Park-1 (CP-1) that you have incorporated in Central Park-2 (CP-2) so that things can be done better?
Our first project was Central Park-1. We were busy with our industries and other things, so we gave project management to another party. In the process some sort of antipathy was created versus us.
The lesson that we learnt from CP-1 is that your biggest win is when you win your customer’s heart. Whatever profits you don’t make from your first project, they are actually your brand equity for the second project. So, we are not in a hurry to show big profits from project to project. Somewhere, we have sold projects for Rs 2,000 per sq ft, and now their price has escalated to Rs 16,000 per sq ft. The customer has made a profit of Rs 14,000. Ultimately what we have realised is that the customer is God.
Even for our EWS projects, a certain standard has to be maintained. If I have to stay in EWS in CP-1 or CP-2, I have no problem in my life. The resale value of EWS apartments sold for Rs 50,000, today is Rs 60 lakh. That is because we respect a certain standard of specifications.
What is the USP of the recently launched Central Park-III (of which Flower Valley is a part)? I understand that it is expected to include residential units for senior citizens.Tell us more about that.
We have named CP-2 as Central Park Resorts because once you are there you won’t want to go anywhere – for your haircut, your dry cleaning, your servants, for your entertainment, for your gym. Anything that you need is available here.
Flower Valley is yet another concept. This will be of around 500 acres and will be a sports city. There we are focusing on seven or eight international academies which means we are bringing in Liverpool for football, a cricket academy, golf academy, swimming academy – a total of eight academies where we are going to produce international players. The project will have floors. There we have multi-storey apartments, with floors, villas and senior living – everything in an integrated mixed complex.
When you enter the Flower Valley project, you will be enthralled by all types of flowers We are trying to get flowers that grow in this weather, in winter, in autumn, which grow in all seasons.
For this project, we are introducing the senior living format. What we have learnt is that seniors in this country do not want to be labelled as seniors, they want to live with everybody. Simply provide certain facilities for them and that too on an optional basis. We are bringing in senior living in CP-2 also and what we are having here is a common kitchen. That is the only difference and nothing else.
Are you planning to introduce other residential concepts?
We are planning to introduce 500 sq ft apartments within our CP-2 project for the young generation. The concept is based on a premise: ‘We work, we enjoy ourselves, we live and we don’t commute’. In this project, young buyers will have the option to use the common drawing rooms, dining areas, eating facilities on a pay as you use basis. Prices of these units will start at Rs 20,000 per sq ft. Buyers will have to pay 35% at the onset and 65% at the time of possession. We are giving them an exit offer. They will have the option to vacate when they wish to, and take back their money. But of course we are not guaranteeing them any appreciation.
What about your plans for projects in other cities?
Except for Delhi and Goa, we are not going anywhere. There are three projects in Goa – one is a hotel and one is a hotel-cum-residential project. Planning is on in full scale The first project will have a lake and will be run by an extraordinary hospitality chain and only 50% of apartments will be sold. Since this will be a holiday destination, most of the units will be left vacant, so the owners can earn revenue by letting them out to the chain which will be operating there. The other 50% will be with the chain itself.
The second project is a resort project on a river front which is about one-and-a-half km long and the villas will come up virtually on the river – floating villas. And the third project is a seven-star hotel on the beach.
What about plans for Noida?
In Noida, we are planning a SEZ, which will be based on the walk-to-work concept.
Are you planning to exploit land opportunities under the new Master Plan 2021 in Delhi?
We are planning to introduce farmhouses. These will be one-acre farmhouses –three units in one farmhouse with independent entrance for each covering about 1,600 sq yard each. These will be gated communities. We are planning to launch them by the middle of next year.
What do you make of the real estate market? What are developers doing to bring end-users back to the market?
I will look at the whole thing very differently. First of all in a big city like Delhi, they have solved the housing problem. Now rentals are available at unbelievable prices. Everybody can aspire to have an apartment. Second, a few people who have not stuck to principles, will have to walk out. A time has to come, not very far from now, when 70% of the houses will have to be smaller in size, less than 70 sq m like in China. They are now talking of smart cities. The real smart cities will be the ones where people don’t have to drive at all.
What do you make of the Real Estate (Regulatory) Act?
It is not a complete act as yet but it is a great attempt. And slowly it will be modified. It is greatly required. It is the right step forward, the face of the real estate industry has already changed.
What about problems of late deliveries?
Now to construct an apartment we have taken a policy decision that we will never be late even by a day. On the contrary we will be ahead of time by a month or two. It’s not difficult at all. Anybody can achieve that. It does not involve rocket science. This can be achieved through proper planning for fund flow and making sure the funds are not diverted.