Varsha Satpalkar, Chairman and Managing Director, Maitreya Group of Companies
CW presents the next in a series of interviews with women who have made their mark in the building and construction sector.
A commerce graduate, Satpalkar threw herself into the group's various projects, most of them in the early stages as her husband had just started them. In less than two decades, Satpalkar now Chairperson and Managing Director of the group, has managed to convert a Rs 60 crore company to a Rs 600 crore one. She has also strived to establish the brand 'Maitreya' in the realty sector with the successful completion of several projects. It was a real challenge to take care of business, along with her six-year-old child. But her hunger to learn and indomitable spirit kept her afloat. "Whenever challenges come my way, I just think of what my husband would do in a similar situation," she confesses. Then, I trace my path accordingly.
Today, at the age of 40, Satpalkar is an astute entrepreneur and the driving force behind Maitreya. She has won accolades aplenty for her exemplary work including the Hirkani Puraskar, Udyog Vibhushan Samman Award initiated by the Indian Organisation of Commerce, and the Industries and Pride of India Award by the All India National Unity Council. Candidly, she shares with SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN the strategies that helped her write her unique success story.
Tell us about Maitreya Group of Companies and its latest activities. Established in 1998, Maitreya Group is a multi-faceted organisation with business interests as diverse as real-estate development, hospitality, media and publishing, packed drinking water, and corporate insurance booking services. Maitreya Realtors, the construction and real-estate company, primarily focuses on commercial, residential, retail and hospitality properties across Maharashtra and Gujarat. At present, we have two ongoing projects in Nashik, namely, Pandav Van and Sankul. While Pandav Van is a 40, twin-bungalow scheme spread across 2.5 acre, Sankul is a residential project supported with all modern amenities.
You took over the reins of the company in 2003. How has the journey been? This journey would never have been easy for me without the support of all the employees and board of advisors. Initially, I lacked the confidence required to handle this business alone and my core team was also not sure if I would manage this group. Hence, my prime focus was first to build my self-confidence and at the same time achieve the trust and support of my team and convince them that we could do wonders together. Further, my target was to make a Rs 60 crore company a Rs 600 crore group.
From Rs 60 crore to Rs 600 crore...what were the strategies involved? First, I aimed to create and run a sustainable business model because the symbiotic relationship between a business venture and its employees leads to the success or failure of any organisation. Second, I began to invest in different business verticals; this was the key strategic business decision after my takeover. Lastly, I involved consultants and always believed in my core team's abilities.
Were there any initial challenges? How did you overcome them? Initially, when I took over, most of the projects were at a nascent stage. In fact, our first hospitality project Mamacha Gaon had opened to the public just two months after my husband's demise. Also, I did not have the required experience and my associates did not have faith in me. However, I did not give up. To manage a business, it is important to be updated about the industry. Hence, I started reading up on all the sectors we operate in and engaged myself in networking activities as this helped me learn about opportunities and seize them at the right time.
Today, what does your role involve? I take stock of all our business ventures. Our very capable and experienced consultants in each business vertical help me take all the important decisions.
Talking from your experience over these years, how do you view India's current real-estate market scenario? The real-estate market in India is neither up nor down. For instance, there continues to be a demand for homes in the suburbs of Mumbai. Hence, there is a constant rise in price in these areas. Moreover, a person from the suburbs will not shift to South Mumbai owing to the price difference. But, he has money for luxuries that may include a second home. So people are looking for second homes in the outskirts of Mumbai as well as in Tier-II cities as properties in these areas are expected to be valued well in the future.
How do you prepare your company to overcome issues like cost, land acquisition, delays in approvals, etc? A developer has to take as many as 44 permissions from the government to execute a project. And securing these permissions takes about three months to two years. Although it is a task, we need to fulfil this requirement. Further, it may be difficult to develop big projects in cities owing to land shortage. But there is scope for development in developing cities like Nashik, Dhule, Baroda, Surat, etc. Hence, as far as our projects are concerned, we are doing well in Tier-II cities.
Tell us about your life beyond work. I spend my free time with my daughter. She has always been supportive. It is because of her that I never gave up and never will.
What would you say to women struggling within this male-dominated industry? Life can be cruel at times, but one should never give up. If the construction industry was a less-explored career option for women in India, so was space engineering. But if Sunitha Williams could go to space, why can't women step forward and be part of India's real-estate industry? Yes, I agree that this is a male-dominated industry but that is because many women don't opt for it. Otherwise, it's a gender-neutral industry without any biases.
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