“Location, chemistry and trust are the keys to our success” says Irfan Razack, Chairman, Prestige Group. He seems to have the right keys as nothing seems to faze the growth of its flagship real estate business – not the RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) Act, not demonetisation. Sales keep improving and rentals on income keep going up substantially. The group’s diverse portfolio includes retail, leisure, hospitality, property management, amongst others..
When the IT boom happened in Bengaluru in the late 90’s, Prestige was amongst the first to cater to IT companies, though says Razack, “When we started building office spaces, there was no such thing as the IT boom. It was very different from today when customers are gobbling up hundreds of thousands of square feet. The need then was for smaller spaces for the smaller businesses and companies. The rent in the late 80’s and early 90’s was a mere 6 or 7 rupees in the CBZ. Today, it is Rs.175 per square foot in a Grade A building. There is a steep change, the capital values and rents have changed, and most importantly, the volumes have changed. Each company comes in with a requirement of at least 40-50 thousand and 100 thousand square feet, sometimes even a million square feet. And we have been able to cash in on this. I feel proud that we have been associated with some of the best companies.”
These include Cisco whose largest innovation centre outside the US in Bengaluru occupies 2.8 million sq ft of space in the Prestige Cessna Business Park. Razack estimates that approximately 100 or 150 square feet of workspace is equivalent to one job, and by that measure, taking into account the 105 million sq ft of properties that it has built, Prestige has helped create a sizeable number of jobs.
Prominent properties that Prestige has built have pedigreed occupants; in Bengaluru, apart from Cisco, HCL, Cargill, Micron Technologies and Sixt are based in Prestige Cessna Business Park, (4mn sqft), JP Morgan, Western Digital, Adobe, Oracle, Amadeus, Juniper, IQVIA, Bosch, Aricent, Mylan, 7 at Prestige Tech Park (6mn sq ft), and HUL, Exxon Mobil, Caterpillar, Baxter, VMWare,TCS, GE, Britannia, Rockstar at Prestige Shantiniketan (3.6mn sqft).
Outside Bengaluru, the Prestige Polygon in Chennai (5,00,000sft) hosts the offices of RR Donnelley, Microsoft, Kellogg Brown & Root Engineering, Grant Thornton, Durr, Walker Chandiok & Co, Toray Industries (India) Pvt. Ltd., Aruba Network India Private Limited, Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited, Hewlett Packard India and the TMS Square in Kochi (2,17,000 sqft) hosts IQVIA, Samsung, Deloitte and Blue Star.
Constant reinvention and evolution is fuelled by “innovations in the way we manage our company and the way we construct our buildings. We adapt new technologies to get speedier and better construction”, says Razack. A recent technology that Prestige uses is aluminium shuttering which eliminates the need for concrete walls and the attendant procedures of block work, plastering and curing. This helps build high rise buildings faster.
He’s also acutely aware of the need to use technology to connect with millennial customers who demand instant resolution of issues. And soon, all its new homes will be ‘connected’ homes that the owners can monitor with their smartphones. As construction becomes more reliant on technology, he also wants to ensure that automation does not lead to job losses. “We have to balance both and make sure that innovations and technology go hand in hand with the human side”, he says.
Prestige’s USP lies in choosing the type of development that is appropriate to the environment and making it relevant to the target audience. At the heart of this success is amazing goodwill that Razack, a local boy, enjoys in the city, and the popularity has paid off handsomely. From Richie Rich businessmen to the average joe, they view Prestige with rose-tinted glasses.
“Trust is the answer to why our sales are more than anybody else’s. Over a period of years, we have built not just buildings but the confidence of our customers. People are putting their life savings and getting themselves into debt to buy a home that will be an asset. We have an edge over other builders as people prefer to buy a Prestige property if there is one available within their budget and in the location of their choice”, says Razack.
With over 150 landmark developments across Bengaluru, Prestige has extended its expertise to major cities across South India, building malls, large townships, tech parks, hotels, luxury villas, and SEZs.
It also helps that the company caters to real estate needs of varied asset classes and to a range of budgets. Apart from Bengaluru, Prestige is now in 5 major cities – Hyderabad, Chennai, Kochi, NCR and Mumbai. It is developing an IT Park in Pune. In the residential space, it realised long ago that the actual demand is in the mid-market. So, while it builds homes and malls for the rich and the famous like the UB City and Kingfisher Towers, it also gets its volume from the mid-segment.
Branching from offices to homes and to malls, Prestige has become the largest mall manager, with 9 malls across India under its banner with a GLA (gross leasable area) of 42,09,441 sq ft, and five more under construction that will increase its GLA by 27,17,583 sq ft. “A mall is a social infrastructure. We are looking at being one of the largest and strongest. We want to be one of the best mall managing companies, which understands the retail space and the needs of customers in different parts of the country.” Choosing the right location has ensured footfalls that result in sales that keep retailers happy and the malls successful. Prestige’s Forum brand has a strong presence across most of the southern cities that the company plans to extend.
Prestige has also created some of the best hospitality assets like the Sheraton Grand, the Conrad and the Aloft hotel, the Oakwood Residences and the Oakwood Premier. Razack downplays this not insignificant achievement, “Hospitality is a very long play, our foray into hospitality happened because of the demands of a particular property, because an integrated development needed to get the element of hospitality”.
He’s chuffed though about the Prestige Golfshire, which has an 18-hole championship golf course in a 275 acre property. “I believe this has contributed to the city’s stature and brand. I am particularly proud because we have created another social infrastructure for the city. It is good to see Japanese, Koreans and our own Bengalureans enjoying this beautiful infrastructure.”
He’s currently immersed in the restoration and the beautification of the Ulsoor Lake, a landmark water body in the heart of city. He has all the plans ready to stop sewage inflow, to clean and aerate the water and to make it a vibrant and green public space. This is a part of the company’s CSR effort, and he says, “We are going to make a difference, and others will emulate by restoring other lakes in the city.”
The Prestige Group which has won a plethora of international and national awards, is the only developer from Bengaluru to receive the reputed FIABCI award for its software and residential facilities. At the Asian Brand Conclave in 2018, Prestige Group was awarded the “Admired Brand of Asia” in the Real Estate category while Irfan Razack received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” for outstanding leadership and valuable contribution to the industry. The company’s Investor Relationship (IR) Programme was ranked 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 also awarded the financial rating of A+ and A1+ by ICRA. It is also the only Indian developer to win the celebrated FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Award in 2016 for its luxury residential development, Prestige Silver Oak.