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Reality bites

Reality bites
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First Published: Sun, Aug 22 2010. 06 19 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Aug 22 2010. 06 19 PM IST
You might see them at a construction site, taking a team of clueless buyers up to the 17th floor as it is being constructed. Or later in the evening at a coffee shop, hard-selling an idea to the big shot of a multinational company. Wearing their confidence on their jacket sleeve, they sell houses as homes, glass and chrome structures as industrious office spaces. They close crores worth of deals in a day; they manage the most real asset you can have: property. We talked to three such specialists to find out what it takes to navigate the glass and steel gangways and atriums of new India.
Rati Shroff, 26
Manager, sales and marketing, Wadhwa Group, Mumbai
Rati Shroff started her real estate career with a bang. After working in a sports management firm and then in an interior design firm, Shroff joined Mumbai-based real estate developer Wadhwa Group in 2009. In her first few weeks at work, she sold a flat that earned her a tidy personal incentive at 0.2% of the sale value. But that sale also came with its own challenges. “There was a buzz that I should be retained in residential sales,” says Shroff, who was dismayed by that prospect. “I didn’t want to be based at the site office and be dealing with families; my dream was to be working with companies for office space, and to be based at the corporate office.”
Daily duty: Shroff’s workday begins at 9.30am and she starts her day on the third floor of the Platina building, Bandra Kurla Complex, by scanning the Internet for Mumbai-related real estate news items, reading newspaper listings and real estate research reports. By mid-morning she starts getting calls from customers.
On an average, Shroff has four-five meetings each day, mostly at her office, sometimes at the client offices or construction sites. Saturdays are reserved for internal review meetings, where the team leader reviews the status of each transaction with the team, and figures out who needs to push more and who needs support. Saturday is like any other working day, it only feels different because people are dressed casually. Shroff puts aside her formal wear (usually pantsuits in muted shades such as grey, black and white) for a T-shirt and jeans on Saturdays. She usually manages to wind up her day by 7.30pm.
Sanity saver: Shroff’s once-a-week extravagance—a visit to a spa.
Wish I could change: “The few times I have to work really late on a Friday or Saturday evening.”
Education: Has a bachelor of management studies degree and an MBA.
Skills set: “Often you’re selling something that isn’t even there, like a building that is still to come up, so you have to be able to communicate a vision of it to the buyer.” Also, the ability to negotiate.
Salary range: Rs7-10 lakh a year with incentives.
Career progression: “You could grow within the organization from manager to senior manager to vice-president. You have to learn everything in this job, from operations to legal documentation to networking. So if you’re really ambitious you can strike out on your own and become a property consultant. You could also join an international property consultant, another developer or a corporate as part of their real estate team.”
Rajesh Prasad, 30
Senior associate director, Transaction Management Group, CB Richard Ellis, Mumbai
Like most just-about-graduate business school students, 22-year-old Rajesh Prasad was dreaming of a job with a consumer goods company—but the year was 2002, and the economy was not in such great shape. “The objective was to secure a job rather than being choosy,” says Prasad, who joined CB Richard Ellis, an international property consulting company. That was eight years ago, and now, as the head of a team that comprises 15 commercial property account managers or brokers, he is happy that he got a chance to get a campus placement with Ellis.
“Real estate is a high involvement product, so when it comes to finalizing, the CEO will often get involved in it. Our clients are names you read about in business magazines; and that I could be meeting these people, at such an early stage in my career, was something I had never imagined,” says Prasad.
Daily duty: Prasad’s day often begins at about 9am with client meetings over breakfast. “It is a good time to meet, either with a real estate developer to update oneself on construction in the market, or with a potential customer, because it leaves the rest of the day free for other stuff,” he says. For example, one of his recent meetings was at the Trident Hotel in the Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai, with the head of real estate for an Australian bank. “After a breakfast I had to take his team and him to Parel to check out 10-15 buildings. The site visit can be such a culture shock for expatriates,” he observes. “There is such a difference in safety standards. Some construction sites don’t even insist on helmets for visitors. I have to make sure I carry helmets for the visiting teams.”
From site visits to helping his brokers with problems such as deadlocks in negotiations on an upcoming property, to preparing for conference calls where he has to hammer out lease terms, Prasad’s working hours are chock-a-block.
After wrapping up work, he usually likes to play squash and gets home around 10pm, after another round of meetings with clients in the evening.
Sanity saver: A daily game of squash. It can be during work hours at the MCC club in Bandra Kurla or after work, at the 1,000 Acres Club in Chembur.
Wish I could change: “Having to attend to phone calls during the ride in to work every morning.” Prasad and his banker wife Chetna ride in to work together and this is their together-time. Prasad hates phone calls during this period. “Also, I wish I did not have to work on Saturdays.”
Education: Has an MBA degree.
Skills set:  “You need to be a good team player. There’s a lot of interaction with senior people, and you need a good personality to be able to network and present yourself and your ideas confidently.”
Salary range: “This profession is like investment banking; you don’t work for the salary, you work for the bonuses.” Fixed salaries at this level range from Rs24-30 lakh a year, but you can earn up to Rs1.5crore a year if you include bonuses, which could be three-five times the salary.
Career progression: “Once you build equity, getting a job is not a challenge. Real estate has a dearth of good-quality professionals. Besides, the sector is expanding. Real estate funds need people, developers need people, companies need real estate professionals.” Prasad may have got into this career by default but he now considers himself fortunate to be a part of the profession.
Vinod Rohira, 40
Director, K Raheja Corp, Mumbai
Vinod Rohira began his career 15 years ago at a construction site in Mumbai’s leafy green Versova area. He was just 25, and overseeing work at the Raheja series of Raj buildings, which today is home to Bollywood stars and TV celebrities. Now 40, Rohira is a director at K Raheja Corp. and has been responsible for setting up vast IT office complexes—the Mindscape series in Mumbai and in other centres around the country.
Beginning at the construction site has been typical of Rohira’s approach to his career—he believes in immersing himself stage-by-stage in all its verticals, from architecture to purchasing and accounts to finance and legal documentation. Along the way, he has picked up a law degree and an MBA because he believed they would help his career. “Those days were crazy,” he says. “I did not take even a day off for three years. I’d work Saturdays and Sundays, study for my MBA from 7pm to 12pm at the office because at home my 6- and 12-year-old sons made it tough to concentrate.”
Daily duty: Rohira’s day starts as early as 6.30am because he likes to go cycling on his Firefox cycle with a cycling group, or with his sons. Sometimes he likes to play badminton.
He’s in office at Raheja Towers in the Bandra Kurla Complex by 9.30am, which gives him half an hour’s head start to plan his day. There are about 1,000 people who work at K Raheja, and Rohira interacts with many of them in different verticals, on residential or commercial projects. There’s a once-a-day meeting with his core team, as well as external meetings with customers and investors. “I used to have lunch and dinner meetings earlier but now I avoid them. I don’t enjoy eating outside and prefer sitting in the office café and interacting with my staff,” says Rohira.
On days that he is in Mumbai he makes sure he is home by 7.30pm. But he is on the road at least two days in a week to check the status of K Raheja projects in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad, and even visits Singapore, Europe and the US regularly to meet architects, investors and customers.
Sanity saver: Holidays in the wilderness. “Africa is unbelievable,” he says.
Wish I could change: “The way things are going in real estate in Mumbai. It’s hara-kiri.” Rohira says many of the new building have been built in violation of regulations such as the floor space index, and on inflated land values. “So when the actual buildings come up, many buyers are going to feel let down by corners cut, and by substandard quality.”
Education: Has BCom, LLB and MBA degrees.
Skills sets: “Be able to think outside of whatever you’re good at. If you’re an architect, you should be able to think commercially too; if you’re a finance man, be able to look at the marketing angle as well; and to have the fire to want to learn more.
“Also, constantly upgrade your skills and add formal skills such as law, management courses. If there is at least one new idea you can pick up during these, it will help in your career.”
Salary range: “If you are not risk averse, think like a realtor and buy property regularly; you can make a lot of money. In fact, much more than what any traditional Esop (employee stock ownership plan) will get you. After 7-10 years in this business, you can definitely earn more than Rs1.5 crore a year.”
Career progression: “Huge. This entire country is going to be a construction site for the next 20 years, whether it’s infrastructure-related, private real estate or public-private real estate. Besides, alternative businesses such as large architectural firms, engineering firms, and if you understand operations, real estate funds, will keep trying to pick you up if you are good at this.”
Every month, we explore a profession through the lives of three executives at different stages in their careers. Tell us which profession you want to know more about at
businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Aug 22 2010. 06 19 PM IST