They were chromosomal aberrations of sorts when they started out. Not anymore. Meet the country’s top women real estate executives who have brokered deals worth thousands of crores. In a country where decisions to buy property is usually taken by male heads of families, it has not been easy for these feisty women to convince people to trust them with their life savings.
Take the case of Shveta Jain, executive director, transaction services, Residential, Cushman & Wakefield, an international real estate consultancy. She started her career 18 years ago as a transaction agent in a space largely dominated by men. “It was a cultural change for me,” she says. In a largely unstructured market, handling residential transactions was not easy as one had to deal with clients who were not open to or ready to park their life savings and inheritance in the hands of a woman.
“Most phone calls I made initially to high net worth families initially were met with a cold response that they would much rather have the family broker handle their real estate interests than a woman. As I networked more, clients opened up to trusting their assets with me. I feel that was bound to happen because women have a natural inclination towards homes. Initially this career may cause a lot of inconvenience but constant engagement and interaction with clients made it easier to plug the gap,” she says.
Residential transaction is primarily a business-to-consumer business and calls for large amounts of compassion towards customers while negotiating deals and women have loads of that. Trust gets built over time and clients never think twice before making women custodians of their savings and inheritance. Ask her about the deals she may have brokered in her 18-year career and she tells you without batting an eyelid that she has closed deals work about Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 crore and addressed diversified needs of clients that have included corporates, HNI families, developers and expatriates.
Anita Kataria, senior vice president at Raheja Universal’s story is no different. Starting off as a trainee in the company, she holds a law degree and is passionate about alternate medicine. If not real estate, Kataria would have chosen to become a doctor. “I knew very early in life that I was a people’s person and real estate was therefore the ideal calling for me. When I joined, there were very few women in this field. Within our organisation too there were only a handful of women that included the HR head and the business development head. When I started out, people were accustomed to transacting high-value properties with men and were only accustomed to interacting with women with grey hair.”
So, what did she do to get that first deal started? “I started dressing up older than my age. But it was extremely difficult to strike a deal straight after my first presentation. Clients would make several reference calls to senior managers to confirm my antecedents, call for repeat presentations before they were comfortable to strike a deal,” she reveals.
But years spent in the business have only made things easier. “Today, it is more about cashing on the relationships built over years,” she says.Today she has transacted deals worth over 10 lakh sq ft.