- Dr R Kumar, Managing Director, Navin Housing & Properties Pvt Ltd
Chennai´s skyline stands as testimony to the prowess of Navin Group. Indeed, in the past 25 years, this pioneer in the residential space has given the city a host of landmark projects. And going forward, it has several plans on the anvil. Dr R Kumar, Managing Director, Navin Housing & Properties Pvt Ltd, shares industry trends and the company´s strategies to success in conversation with seraphina d´souza.
What are the recent trends in Chennai´s real estate market. How do you strategise to stay ahead in this segment?
There has been a slowdown in the overall economy that is reflected in real estate as well, and we need to adapt to it. Chennai, too, is following the all-India trend, which is a challenge, but the key is in being cautious and doing projects in phases, which is what we do, with the key factor being delivery of projects on time. We have been here for 25 years; we understand buyers´ expectations, which are now more demanding with international exposure and desire for better products and amenities. We study the market trend and take constant feedback from our customers on their expectations.
We keep improving our product quality and project amenities and we build in locations that are liveable.
How do you study buyer preference to determine locations for your projects?
We consider places that are liveable and where demand already exists - that has been our strategy. More important, the availability of social infrastructure around it, physical infrastructure, the proximity to city centre and the transportation facilities are key factors we consider to determine the liveability of the area; that´s the criteria we adopt and we generally reflect buyer preference.
Share some of your landmark projects and the innovations in construction practices implemented in these.
In the residential segment, Navin Dayton Heights and Claremont Court, and Navin Presidium, an office building, are some of our landmark projects. These are on Nelson Manickam road in Chennai and have changed the complete environment of the vicinity. Some other landmark projects are Navin WSS Towers and Rajendra Gardens. Several of our projects have got the Vishwakarma Award; our Starwood Towers is an award winning project. The uniqueness is that we have adopted the Mivan formwork technology in this project, which is imported from Malaysia, and the whole building is made only of RCC - there are no beams and columns, except for the basement and stilt floor. We used two layers of reinforcement and high-grade concrete between the walls and have made use of sensor lighting in the project. A floor can be done in about six to eight days; this is the biggest innovation. We moved early to adopt this technology and refined it with a lot of improvements and innovations. In the past, we have used flat slab construction, which is post tensioning and brings down the need for beams.
How do you see the affordable housing segment pick up and the company´s role in this segment?
There is a huge gap between supply and demand in the affordable segment, with a lot of scope. This market will definitely pick up with a proper mechanism brought in and affordable homes created, but the challenge lies in finding land. The only way to make affordable housing is to make people afford these houses. It has to be tackled in two ways: Improve the economy and improve the buying power of the people. We have already set our eyes on creating affordable homes and are looking out for properties, which is the biggest challenge. If there is good fallout, land prices should come down, and this segment will pick up.
What is your construction equipment requirement and the investment made in this direction?
We invest in tower cranes and suspended platforms for high-rise buildings, etc; we invested around Rs 10-12 crore for the Mivan formwork. The investment depends on the need of a project. Depending on the usage, the volume and the type of projects at a point in time, we decide to buy or rent equipment.
How do you ensure quality in your offerings? What about training and safety?
We lay the highest emphasis on quality. Our projects are made with a customer focus. We look for long-lasting and strong products, even if they have to be imported. We have three to four levels of supervision; we have a quality assurance team that conducts checks and inspections. We are an ISO-certified company and meticulously practice the ISO systems on quality standards and ensure these systems are documented. In terms of safety, we have a provision wherein Rs 2-3 per sq ft is allocated to safety. Safety practices are our priority; it´s not just for helmets, etc, but goes beyond this. We have on-the-job training and skill training. In addition, we send our people for training to other institutions, as well as get people and provide training at Navin. Besides, we have free training for our workers and supervisors.
Is green, sustainable building a focus area for the company?
Chennai being a water-starved city, we started rainwater harvesting even before it became mandatory. We have also set up recycling of sewage water in our projects. After the green building movement came in, our major projects are all IGBC Gold-rated. In fact, we use the green concept even in our smaller projects, though we may not apply for certification.
How do you ensure the desired RoI in your projects?
We do a mix of projects - smaller, large and medium - and we do it in different locations. We have about 8-10 projects of different sizes in progress in parts of the city; these cater to different markets. We do a lot of joint developments where initial investments are low, so they give a better RoI. We do a mix of things out of our own land, or with JVs in different budgets and geographical locations of the city. When there is a lull in some areas, the demand is low, so we maintain our RoI.
How do you raise funds for your projects? How has the company´s financial performance been this year?
Funds are mostly internally generated and, then, we are supported by financial institutions. We have one of the highest ratings in real estate; with our track record, we have got financial assistance from nationalised banks and housing financial institutions like LIC, ICICI, etc; we haven´t gone into private borrowing. Our financial performance has always been good. In fact, in 25 years, the company has not defaulted in a single instalment of loan repayment. Currently, we have to trade with caution. We have been maintaining this trend. We want to strategise to expand in the affordable housing segment along with doing multiple projects.
Please share your expansion plans. Going forward, which cities are you targeting?
We had planned to move into Tier-II cities; Tier-III will be the next phase. We have expanded to Vizag and Trichy, but then the slowdown has retarded our progress. We also have Bengaluru and Coimbatore in mind, but the market there is still not in an encouraging shape, so we may delay our plans until things grow.
Year of Establishment: 1989
Top Management: Dr R Kumar, Managing Director; P Bhavani Kumar, Executive Director; Viswajith Kumar, Director; Ksheer Vasudha Kumar, Director
No of Employees: About 200
Centre of Operation: Chennai
Ongoing projects: Starwood Towers, Septem, Hillview Avenue, Eden Park, Whiteberry, Springfield, Aaradhana, Palm Fronds, Skanda, Srishti
Upcoming Projects: Three upcoming projects in Visakhapatnam, Tiruchirapalli and Rajakilpakkam at Chennai Completed Projects: 104