- Rahul Saraf, Managing Director, Forum Projects
Kolkata-based Forum Projects, one of the leading concept realty developers in India, has played a significant role in offering some of the best examples of modern architectural marvels over the past three decades. Rahul Saraf, Managing Director, Forum Projects, talks to CW about creating global market dynamics and the correct strategy to create an iconic asset.
What is the nature of partnership between Omkar Realtors and Developers and Forum Projects for the 2-lakh-sq-ft luxury residential project at Mumbai´s BKC?
For the Bandra-Kurla Complex project, it´s a 50:50 partnership where we share our strengths and we see a great synergy here. Omkar is taking care of the SRA part of the project while we are handling the construction, marketing and sales.
Please elaborate upon the deal with Piramal Fund Management for the project.
Piramal Fund Management has invested Rs 125 crore in the BKC area from its Mumbai Redevelopment Fund. Separately, the Piramal Group also bought Rs 75 crore of inventory in a bulk purchase in the same project from its Apartment Fund. Both funds are of Rs 500 crore each. We have sold nearly 25 per cent in the first phase and this is encouraging in a market that is fairly new to us.
With the concept of smart cities picking up, what are the key elements that you are focusing on?
This is still in the planning stage. We have a broad idea of what we will have in the smart city but detailed master planning is in progress. The government seems proactive in this case and the process has been smooth so far.
With a project like Technopolis setting green benchmarks, how important are green and sustainability practices?
You will be surprised to know that in the days we built Technopolis, IT companies questioned our work. Knowledge on going green was minimal and it was considered more of a marketing gimmick. HSBC was our first tenant and it was surprised to discover green infrastructure in our country. If Technopolis weren't green, it would have used 2,000 tonne of air-conditioning as against the 1,300 tonne used today. However, it was not an easy job. We had to get the heat recovery wheels fabricated ourselves. Today, such systems can actually be bought off the shelf. In the present day, there may be greener buildings in India, but I believe Technopolis was the path-breaker as it changed the way IT parks were built thereafter. Within a year, 54 buildings turned green. At Forum, we strongly believe that great work is not built on compromises. Besides our pledge to produce an environment-friendly format, we have invested heavily in international-standard security protocols. We have constantly raised the bar in creating quality IT infrastructure and developments like Technopolis and will continue to do so.
What are the new innovations in advanced building materials and construction practices?
The forthcoming wave of contemporary architecture is a great specimen called 'Deya', which is a part of our upcoming project christened ´Atmosphere´. Atmosphere will be a new architectural icon - a sculpture in the sky. The Rs 550-crore luxury residential condominium project will consist of two towers of 39 storeys each and will be the highest in Kolkata. The towers will have a total area of 400,000 sq ft and will feature villas in the sky with a garden on each duplex unit. The most picturesque feature of Atmosphere is an amorphous shape-shifting, tubular piece of floating sculpture called Deya (cloud in Bengali), which is hanging between the twin towers at a height of 500 ft. Designed by Singapore-based Arc Studio, it is intended to look as if a cloud were gently floating between the peaks of the two towers. The structure will span more than 320 ft in width with 55,000 sq ft of usable space and will have a silver lining featuring 15,000 kinetic discs on its surface to keep it glowing. It's luxury design also conforms to green architectural standards. International engineering consultancy Web Structures has been contracted to create a dramatic cloud-like sky bridge in the Indian city. Earthquake engineering specialist Web Structures brings its expertise of working on tall buildings around the globe to Deya. The wind tunnel investigations have been done by Tony Rofail of Australia-based Windtech Consultants. The contractor is Mero Construction, which has a subsidiary in Chennai. The lighting is being conceived by Japan-based Kaoru Mende; at night Deya will be lit up by myriad LED lamps. The estimated cost of Deya alone is Rs 100 crore.
What is the buyer preference like in the current real-estate market scenario in Kolkata.?
The real-estate market is on a growth trajectory at present. You will see demand for luxury apartments growing and we believe we will have a complete revival in the next one year.
Any breakthrough in new construction technologies used? How much do you invest in construction equipment annually?
We try to use new technologies if they bring value for money to the table. It varies by project. Generally, the contractor brings his own equipment.
How much per cent of your business is driven from residential, commercial and retail sectors? How do you strategise to stay ahead in the competition in retail projects?
Commercial is the least currently, and residential is the most. We call ourselves a ´deconstructing company´ . We believe in providing customised projects to our customers that can be tailored to their needs at any given point of time. We want to provide excellence and value in anything we do, whether it is retail malls, residential projects or commercial projects. So excellence is our motto and we do not believe in competition. Every developer has a unique aspect to bring to the table. If the product is good, it has to give you good returns. We want to be the leading player in India in the real-estate and retail projects segment.
What about new expansion plans to Tier-II cities apart from Kolkata?
We have projects in five cities now: Bhubaneswar, Rourkela, Jamshedpur, Mumbai and Kolkata. We are launching a mega project in BKC, Mumbai, the first phase being called Serendipity. This will change the way residential complexes are built in the city. We are always on the lookout for an opportunity to expand and will do so as we find the aspects right.
How do you raise funds for your projects? How has the company performed this year and what are your expectations for the next fiscal?
Generally, we draw a line of credit from reputed banks or, in the case of Mumbai, from the Piramal Management Fund. Our performance is going strong. We expect the market to get better in the coming quarter. Currently, we are focusing on our Mumbai launch of Serendipity and our flagship iconic project in Kolkata, Atmosphere.
Year of Establishment: 1992
Top Management (Promoters): Rahul Saraf, Managing Director; Vidyut Saraf, Deputy Managing Director
No of Employees: Around 300 475
Centre of Operation: Kolkata and Mumbai
Ongoing projects: Atmosphere, Serendipity, Esplanade, Centenary Mall & Tower, Forum Rangoli
Upcoming Projects: Technopolis II, Forum park view, Forum Technocity, Forum Legacy, Forum Smart City
Completed Projects: Infinity, Forum& Forum courtyard, Technopolis, Forum Mart, Forum Parvesh