Interview with Irfan Razack, CMD of Prestige Group
Irfan Razack, CMD - Prestige Group is the epitome of an ideal Indian entrepreneur and businessman. He has been at the forefront of the Prestige Group’s meteoric rise in Bangalore.
Irfan Razack, the eldest son of Razack Sattar, is at the helm of the Prestige Group. A born leader, Irfan is blessed with the acumen to see opportunities where none apparently exist, the courage to take the untrodden path and the determination to see his vision through to fruition. His leadership acumen received national recognition, when he was declared Professional of the Year at the Real Estate Excellence Awards 2008. He has been Honorary Secretary of the Al Ameen Educational Society for 17 years, the President of Bangalore Commercial Association (BCA), and the Chairman of the Real Estate Committee of CREDAI, Karnataka for 4 years.
While Irfan propels the falcon to soar higher, farther and wider, what sets him clearly apart is his ability to simultaneously bring his formidable abilities to bear on philanthropic and social causes. A man of many facets, Irfan's leadership skills have been at the fore right from his youth. As a student leader at St. Joseph's College, Bangalore he was the driving force behind many a laurel won by it. In recognition of his achievements the St. Joseph's Old Boys Association has honoured him with the Lifetime Achievement Award. In an exclusive interview with MyBangalore.com, Irfan Razack, Chairman and Managing Director of Prestige Group talks about Bangalore’s progression, the real estate industry and his company's growth plans.
MyBangalore.com: How do you perceive the real estate in Bangalore especially after the IT boom?
The Bangalore story is probably best reflected in the growth of its population. In 1971 the population was 1.65 million, 1981 – 2.92 million, 1991 – 4.13 million, 2001 – 5.10 million and today estimated at 7.9 million. This migration to the city arose from opportunities in work resulting from the IT boom, attractiveness in relocation, education and a host of other factors. The first real estate boom happened in the 1980s when urban Bangalore started claiming the sub-urban city as its own and boundaries expanded. A lot has changed in the city since then.
The economic slowdown on the whole really proved to be a boon to everyone with real estate prices dropping to affordable limits before the rise. People saw it as an opportunity to invest in properties for future profits. I believe this trend will remain for another year or two before the next boom occurs. The good news is that the Bangalore market today presents a bullish sentiment which promises growth in all segments in the months to come.
Prestige Group has built some marquee residential properties and equally good commercial properties, so what is the next big idea?
It gives me immense pleasure to say that the Prestige Group has just successfully closed its first IPO and I wish to convey my heartfelt gratitude to all our patrons and well-wishers. With this milestone comes increased responsibility and we will be focusing our efforts to ensure that our developments match international standards in design and quality while working towards timely delivery. Our current focus in on ‘EXPANSION’. The next BIG idea from the Prestige Group is to create premium residential developments that redefine luxury living. The idea is not to create houses or villas but to gift people a lifestyle with each Prestige development. Sky villas, ‘floating’ swimming pools, Sky Clubs etc are just some of the choices on offer. And the process has already started with Prestige Golfshire & Prestige White Meadows.
What’s your advice to people who want to invest in property?
My advice to the customer is to keep in mind just one thing – location, location & location. Similarly if a developer has a property in the right location with the right pricing, then he has nothing to worry about. I believe that real estate is the only commodity that continues to be safe to invest in, unlike shares or stocks. This fact is evident when one compares any property that was bought about ten years ago and its current value.
What’s essential in any property deal?
Some of the elements that you need to keep in mind while purchasing property will be the reputation of the developer, his track record, relevant government clearances and clean documentation. It definitely pays to invest time and resources to research all these elements before taking a concrete decision.
How good are the career opportunities in the real estate sector?
The real estate sector has grown exponentially in the last decade across India, particularly the metros. This sector is further divided into several different complementing sectors and verticals. Hence, there are diverse and lucrative career opportunities available today within this sector based on skill sets and individual interests.
What are Prestige Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives?
The Prestige Group is committed to a cleaner and greener Bangalore and all our projects have 25% or more land area set aside for landscaping. The group is actively involved with the Public Works Department (PWD) in the beautification of Bangalore. We have built, in association with the PWD, a 10km stretch of road in Whitefield and partnered with the BATF for the beautification of the Hosur Road from Diary Circle up to the Madiwala Checkpost.
Prestige has also partnered with St. John’s for their Vision 50- 50 program, a mobile eye camp active in the rural areas and donated vision testing equipment. The Prestige Group in association with the Rotary Bangalore Midtown also presents the annual ‘Citizen Extraordinaire Award’ each year to the citizen of Bangalore city who has contributed to its overall growth. Previous recipients of this award include Former CM, Shri SM Krishna, Dr. Devi Shetty, former BDA commissioner, Shri Jayakar Jerome, Swati and Ramesh Ramanathan of Janagraha and Nandan Nilekani among others.
As a builder how do you react to the depleting green scene of Bangalore?
More than as a builder, as a resident of this city, which was once named the ‘Garden City’ of India, it makes me sad to see the fast diminishing green scene in Bangalore. Though Bangalore’s infrastructure has to keep pace with the alarmingly fast growth of the city, we need to keep in mind that simultaneously, initiatives are taken to protect and preserve the greenery.
At Prestige, we try to ensure that more than 25% of our land area for all projects is set aside for landscaping. Be it our residential or commercial projects, we want all Prestige patrons to experience the serenity and foliage of old Bangalore at least within our premises. This is also a small initiative from our side to contribute to a cleaner and greener city.
What role do you think the government can play to enhance the real estate scene?
Infrastructure is extremely critical for the fast-paced development of a city. Bangalore has witnessed growth over time simply because adequate infrastructure was gradually added over the years. Having said that, the infrastructure needs of the city have never managed to keep pace with the rate of development Bangalore has seen in the last decade. Initiatives such as the Ring Roads and the upcoming Metro Rail are bound to help the cause. However, maintaining existing infrastructure should also be a priority for the government to sustain the growth. A glance at any model city in the world including New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong or Singapore would corroborate the need for high infrastructure standards and its direct correlation with overall development.
Do you in the long term perceive yourself moving towards the rural sectors?
The Prestige Group’s current focus is on expansion in Tier II cities and redefining lifestyles with signature Prestige developments. Being a company that is sensitive to the environment, we would prefer to focus on cities currently and help achieve its potential.
What is your view regarding Bangalore in terms of its progression, traffic etc?
Bangalore is currently facing problems with governance and unsatisfactory infrastructure in line with demand supply. But we have to be optimistic as a society and I am confident that with the upcoming metro, increased road works and other changes in the pipeline, things are definitely bound to improve.
Who do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration is my father, Mr. Razak Sattar. It was his dream, grit and foresight that laid the foundations of Prestige, way back in 1956. He was a visionary and the founder of what is today the Prestige Group. My father, endowed with unmatched business acumen, started with custom tailoring and retailing ready-to-wear garments, and today, the company scores skylines with innumerable impressive constructions. The repertoire of completed developments of the Prestige Group spans the residential, commercial, retail, leisure and hospitality space. I have reached this far in life purely based on the hard work and learnings he has instilled in us.
What do you do in your non-working time?
In my free time, I try to engage in my dream of contributing more towards the education segment. And I have taken a small step in this direction by co-founding the Inventure Academy (estb. 2005), a leading International School in Bangalore. Inventure has showcased to the prejudiced education sector that education is not only about stacking knowledge in the grey cells, but also about linking multiple intelligences to solve real problems.
In my career as an architect, I have learnt a lot. But mostly, I have realised that there are a lot of people who need help, recognition and motivation to grow in life. Though I have been tagged with numerous names like, “the architect of modern Bangalore”, my heart lies in my little known accomplishments which include my stint with the Rotary Midtown, Bangalore as their President, establishment of the Rotary Midtown Prestige Citizen Extraordinaire Award and my active involvement in the management of more than 50 graduate and postgraduate institutions.
Lastly, where do you see Prestige Group headed in the next 5 years?
The company has completed more than 184 projects covering over 20 million sq ft and currently has 22 projects over 13 million sft under construction. Along with the recent success of our IPO, we have growth plans in the residential, commercial, retail, and hospitality domains across the cities of Bangalore, Goa, Hyderabad, Mangalore, Cochin, Mysore and Chennai in the coming years - giving each city an unparalleled experience with landmark malls on the lines of The Forum, large townships, tech parks, hotels, luxury villas, and SEZs.
Inspired by the unmatched success of The Forum mall, the Prestige Group has plans of redefining the concept of shopping in malls by taking the Forum brand forward to several cities in South India. Seven more Forum malls are in the pipeline across Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mysore, Mangalore and Kochi. Also, the popularity of Forum Value Mall, the only outlet mall in South India, has encouraged the company to develop more malls along the same lines.
The role of technology today? Technology is both the boon & bane of existence
Favourite Holiday Destination? Hawaii
Favourite Restaurant? Toscano
Superstitious Beliefs? None
Favourite Films? Godfather
Favourite Music? Indian classical music