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Friday, May 31, 2013

We are a niche realtor focusing on creating landmark developments: Kailash K Agarwal

Kailash K Agarwal with son Nishant Agarwal
An edited version of this Q&A first appeared in DNA Money edition on Thursday, May 30, 2013.

A non-resident Indian (NRI), Kailash K Agarwal, chairman, Avighna India Ltd, had a tough time searching for a quality residence in Mumbai to live in. The experience led him to conclude that finding a house that meets all the requirements is a dream come true. Ending his search, Agarwal went on to build his own residence Nishika Terraces - a 18 storey tower featuring six duplex apartments on Worli sea face. The most astonishing aspect about Nishika Terraces is that the state-of-the-art development was completed in a record eight months.

Taking this experience forward, in 2006 Agarwal acquired a seven acre mill land at Currey Road to launch the company's second luxury development called One Avighna Park - a pre-certified platinum rated project under Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) green homes rating system. The project, currently in a fairly advanced stage of construction, has already won five prestigious International Asia Pacific Property Awards in 2012 including the 'Best Residential High Rise Development' in the entire Asia Pacific region.

Earlier this month, One Avighna Park once again won seven International Property Awards held at Malaysia and will once again compete for the best residential development in the APAC region, the finals will be held in December this year. He spoke about the awards and the key highlights that led to winning the awards twice in a row. Edited excerpts:

Despite stiff competition, this is the second year the Mumbai project has won the International Property Awards.

Yes. The One Avighna Park project at Lower Parel has been awarded the Best Residential High-Rise Development and the Best High-Rise Architecture in the entire Asia Pacific (APAC) region. The competition was between developers from 23 countries including Australia, New Zealand, China, Singapore and Malaysia. The project also won awards in the categories of Best Interior Design Apartment, Best Renovation / Redevelopment and the Best Landscape Architecture in India. Last year, International Property Awards conferred One Avighna Park with the prestigious Best Residential High-Rise Development in the World.

Could you share the reasons and key highlights of the project that got it the awards?

First and foremost, we chose a rather unconventional approach to developing the exclusive residential development i.e. making luxury practical. Several proactive steps are being taken to ensure luxury doesn’t become a burden for residents. For instance, consumption of water, the development offers a long-term sustainable solution – treating sewage water and using the recycled water in areas where maximum water is consumed i.e. flushing, gardening and other such ancillary services. This will drastically reduce water consumption.

Common areas have been designed to have maximum natural light and ventilation ensuring significant reduction in power consumption. Being a cluster redevelopment, residents will also enjoy substantially lower property taxes – a life long benefit that holds great value.

As far as quality of construction is concerned, majority of the materials have been imported from Europe and America. The execution of mechanical, electrical and plumbing works have been contracted to a firm in UAE. We also have eight layer water proofing in deck and wet areas to arrest leakage problems for a period of 50 years at least. In fact, we have over 300 workers flown down from various Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to ensure international standard execution and workmanship.

Cluster developments typically tend to be very challenging. How did you deal with the hurdles posed by this project?

Managing tenants and convincing them to give their consent was quite challenging for sure. After continuous discussions with the 800 tenants explaining them the benefits and the change it will bring to their quality of life and living standards, we managed to get 100% consent for the development.

We have already shifted 90% of the tenants in to the redeveloped towers and another 10% will be shifted in three to four months from now. I must also confess that the two political bodies namely Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) extended all the help in getting this project off the ground.

We had asked for some concessions from the government which are very practical. The chief minister has promised and is working on it. However, since the final approvals from the government's side is yet to be received, suspicion tends to build up in the minds of the tenants.

Also, we have seen developers do the for sale component very seriously while the free component generally gets a step-motherly treatment.

We have stayed away from that approach to business and have ensure the tenants get an enhanced quality of life in the rehabilitated towers. We have taken Gold certification under the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) green homes rating system for these towers which is unheard of in the Indian real estate sector.

What is the current status of this development? How are you funding it?

Of the two towers, one has already reached 51 floors and the second tower has reached 36 floors as we speak. When completed the two towers will be 64 floor tall with 278 apartments in 3-, 4- and 5-BHK configurations. We are targeting to complete and hand over the development with building completion certificate by mid-2014. Funding this development is being done completely through internal approvals.

One Avighna Park

How has the market responded to this project? Are you also targeting the NRI buyers?

Sales were opened just a few months ago and we are taking the by invitation only approach to finalising the buyers. In fact, we are closely screening buyers to ensure creation of a community of like-minded people. We are also staying away from selling to the investor community. Most of the buyers currently include gold and diamond traders as we also have a Jain Derasar (temple) there. We may also look to tap the NRI buyers as well in the near future.

Your company has land parcels in Thane and Pune. What are the plans like for these locations?

Out entire focus currently is on completing the One Avighna Park development. Unless and until this project is completed and handed over to the buyers we will not undertake any new project. We are a niche realtor focusing on creating landmark developments and we want to continue the same way in the future as well.

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