Mr. Irfan Razack is the Chairman and Managing Director at Prestige Group. The Prestige Group has been synonymous with the changing skyline in Bangalore over the past few decades and Mr Razack has been one to spot opportunities and pursue them with rigour. Mr Razack has been Honorary Secretary of the Al-Ameen Educational Society for 17 years and the President of Bangalore Commercial Association (BCA), Chairman of the real estate committee of CREDAI Karnataka for four years. He is also a special invitee to the Southern Regional council of Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and conducted and chaired three editions of the Estate South summit organized by them. Mr. Razack holds a Bachelors degree in Commerce from St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore University where he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by St. Joseph’s Old Boys Association. He has also attended a course by the United Nations University International’s Leadership Academy (UNU/ILA) in Jordan. He took time off his very busy schedule to respond to a few questions from Team ABT.
Q:How would you sum up the evolution of the industry since the time that Prestige Estate Projects was established in 1985?
In the past, real estate was treated with a considerable amount of suspicion and apprehension by the wider public due to the lack of regulatory oversight and a large number of unscrupulous developers. Over the years, real estate has grown into a booming industry with several big players who have changed the face of the industry. Today, the Government recognizes the fact that the real estate and construction sector can turn the uncertain economy around and also contribute towards the GDP of the country. In addition, the real estate industry has grown to become one of the strongest drivers of employment in the country.
Our patrons turn to the Prestige Group for their residential and commercial needs with no hesitation or anxiety about whether we will deliver on our promises. It is on the back of these core principles that we at Prestige have completed more than 184 projects covering over 60.74 million square feet. Currently the company has 57 ongoing projects covering 59.24 million square feet and 43 upcoming projects aggregating to 44.11 million square feet of world-class real estate space across asset classes.
Q:What kind of benchmarks has Prestige established in its journey to becoming one of the foremost developers in South India?
The Prestige Group was one of the first developers in Bangalore and can be credited with changing the very skyline of the city in the last three decades. In recent years, we have taken our expertise to several cities across South India including Chennai, Goa, Hyderabad, Kochi, Mangalore and Mysore. Today, we are recognized ubiquitously as the second largest developer in India. The company is associated with the highest quality of development, be it in the residential, commercial, retail, leisure or hospitality sector. Testimony to that is the fact that we have received recognition on a global platform by winning several international and national awards for our work.
The Prestige Group has also become a name that is synonymous with innovation. We have pioneered many landmark developments and introduced many firsts to South India, both in residential as well as commercial spaces. These include, Prestige Acropolis, Prestige Ozone, The Forum mall, Forum Value Mall – South India’s first real outlet mall featuring international and national brands, The Collection, UB City – South India’s first luxury mall, Prestige Golfshire, Prestige Shantiniketan and Prestige Lakeside Habitat.
Inspired by the unmatched success of The Forum mall, the Prestige Group is redefining the concept of shopping in malls by taking the ‘Forum’ brand forward to several cities across South India. Six more Forum malls are currently under construction across Bangalore, Mysore and Kochi.
On the hospitality front, the Prestige Group has been credited with introducing some of the most reputed international brands in the world to South India, such as the Hilton Group and Marriott International for hotels; the Banyan Tree for resorts; and Oakwood for service apartments. In association with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the company launched their hotel, ‘The Aloft’, in Cessna Business Park in 2014 and will be launching the Sheraton Hotel in Prestige Shantiniketan in the near future. The company’s world-class projects have also attracted renowned clients such as Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Oracle, IBM and Cisco to name a few.
The Prestige Group is the only developer from Bangalore to receive the reputed FIABCI award for their software and residential facilities. Among other laurels, the company’s Investor Relationship (IR) Programme, was ranked as Second Best in Asia and the Best in India by the Institutional Investor (II) magazine’s 2014 All-Asia Executive Team Rankings. Prestige is the only CRISIL DA1 rated Developer in India and was recently awarded the financial rating of A- by ICRA.
Q: What according to you will help India achieve the goal of providing universal housing?
The Government has a mission – “Housing for All” which they aim to achieve by 2022 marking 75 years of India’s independence. In this year’s Budget, a set of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives have been devised to leverage the value of land holding with the Government and to afford flexibility to State Governments in designing their own customized housing programmes. In addition, to aid investment in the housing sector, the Government has to increase tax incentives for housing and interest subversion on housing loans to enhance the corpus of the National Housing Bank. Efforts have to be made by the Government to see that they develop a good network of infrastructure, in order to enable easy access to far flung areas where housing for the LIG and EWS can be created, providing a great living environment.
Q: The Prestige Group is recognized for the rich value they deliver. What kind of thought process goes into the planning of new projects?
One of the reasons for the Prestige Group becoming market leaders is the fact that we have always attempted to understand the void in the market and fill that gap. Quality residences were the need of the hour way back in the 1990s when we first came up with Prestige Acropolis. It continues to be a landmark residential development within the city till date. Similarly, The Forum mall was one of the first malls to come up in India and even a decade after its inception, it continues to be one of the best-designed malls in the country.
At Prestige, the thinking/planning process begins right from the time we even consider a plot for possible development. The type of development we finally build is decided keeping the following factors in mind:
- Location in terms of easy access to public transport, schools, colleges, hospitals, entertainment, etc.
- Orientation in direction & elevation of the plot
- A very important phase of planning is profiling the ‘Customer Class’ i.e., whether the development will fall in the affordable, premium or luxury segment and what kind of clients it will cater to.
- The company has a panel of architects. Architects for new developments are selected basis who best understands our wish list
- After all this, numerous alternatives are explored and all stakeholders are consulted before we finalise the best option
- Construction is monitored very closely at all levels to ensure the highest quality
- We are always open to adopting new ideas/latest materials available in the market
Q:Smart Cities seem to be the buzzword today. Is it possible to lead a brown field development in this area?
The Central Government is initiating Resource Planning and wants to get this initiative underway at the earliest. This is a necessary course of action in a country where we have had no specific zones to do business. For eg: Having an ‘Industrial Zone’ clearly demarked right from the planning stage.
Sick Textile/Industrial Zones in Mumbai and surrounding areas as well as similar zones in other parts of the country can be converted. The opportunity of converting these big tracts of land to real estate benefits is possible since:
- They lie in the urban context
- They can be used for larger developments and can cater to the basics of a Smart City including power planning, waste conversion, solar powering, urban transport with zero emissions etc.
- They are basically self-contained
- High Quality Fibre optics can be used
- Leed rated buildings can be planned right from the design stage, with less power requirements
Therefore, since most of the urban places in India are under various development phases, it is good to look for brown field developments for a smart cities.
Q: Indian developers are not among the early adopters of sustainable practices. What is your view on this? Has Prestige taken any significant initiatives in this direction?
Generally most leading developers accredited to CREDAI follow sustainable practices.The Prestige Group has always been a strong advocate of sustainable practices and we have taken several initiatives in this direction. We give relevance to:
a) Using CP fittings to enable less water consumption, sanitation with recycled water and treating used water. For eg., soak wells to recharge ground water to present day with advanced treatment plants and using treated water for recirculation
b) Buildings are designed to get lots of natural light and ventilation so that dependency on power for lighting is reduced
c) Bio-Converters for solid waste management
d) Usage of Sensors / Auto Controls for lighting, BMS systems for various functionalities of the building services
e) Parking management techniques
Q: Please do some crystal ball gazing and predict what could be the top 5 trends in the industry over the next 3 years.
A] Townships: With the growing urban population in India, townships are becoming the order of the day. Townships are definitely an advantage if the development takes place in a planned manner from the very beginning. Integrated townships will have the advantage of uniform growth and infrastructure. This in turn facilitates future growth of the city sans the clutter. Townships are also seen as a viable investment opportunity for FDI and other investors. This is seen to be a growing trend across the country as these projects are typically phased and can be scaled over a period of time.
B] International architecture and design: Several international brands have been making their presence felt in India in recent years and we can see luxury developments like UB City gaining in popularity as a result. Who would have imagined a New York styled luxury retail destination taking shape in the heart of cosmopolitan Bangalore! This growing appetite for luxury brands and international architecture and design has in turn, prompted the increase of modern day architecture that is developed on international standards with state-of-the-art design and aesthetics. This trend may not be resplendent of the India that we are accustomed to but is definitely here to stay and a sign of things to come.
C] Smart homes technology: Yet another trend currently is the use of ‘Smart homes technology’ as an integral part of high-end amenities. Owing to a busy lifestyle, the new-age customer demands the latest in technology including security products, home automation products, mood-lighting and scenario products that can be controlled by a mobile phone or computer within the premises of the house or through remote access. The Prestige Group was the first developer in South India to install ‘Smart Homes technology’ in their projects, which include ultra-luxury developments like Prestige White Meadows, Prestige Golfshire and Kingfisher Towers, among others.