Kumar Gera, Chairman and Managing Director, Gera Developments Pvt Ltd
The name Gera Developments has now become synonymous with premium residential and commercial projects in Pune and Goa. Indeed, the company has gone from strength to strength over the past four decades, defined by its unwavering commitment to quality and innovation. At the helm of affairs sits Kumar Gera, Chairman and Managing Director, who balances his long workday with pranayama and regular workouts at the gym. A golf enthusiast and avid traveller, Gera takes out the time to tell Pia Sinha little more about his company and what makes it tick.
Tell us about the history of Gera Developments?
After completing my degree in civil engineering, I decided to join my father's contracting business. After coming to terms with my complete lack of interest in the field, I decided I wanted to get into real estate. The year 1970 marked the beginning for Gera Developments. My first project was a small development comprising 10 bungalows on Boat Club Road, Pune, which became tremendously popular. So it really started from there.
What has been the company's philosophy?
We have a very conservative approach to our business in the sense that we don't overextend ourselves financially. In reality, so much conservatism could result in hampering growth, because when you leverage yourself fully, you can scale up significantly. We never did this. Nevertheless, we had numerous financial institutions wanting to finance our projects. So yes, we have played safe, and it has never bothered the company's functioning or resulted in failure!
Tell us about some of your ongoing projects.
Currently, we are executing three major projects in Kharadi, Pune, and two in Panjim, Goa. In Pune, we have a project comprising 90 bungalows called Greensville; residential project Skyvillas including 400 apartments; and a residential complex, Emerald City North & South, comprising 452 apartments. In Goa too, we have an interesting mix of residential and commercial projects.
What is your dream project?
Building a gated community excites me the most as these have a number of interconnected issues and challenges, right from conceptualisation to delivery.
Many people perceive Gera as a luxury housing brand. How exactly have you positioned your brand?
Today, luxury and affordable housing are commonly misused terms and used rampantly, without understanding their real meaning. The whole concept of affordable and luxury housing is extremely relative and solely dependent on the family income and location in question. 'Luxury' as people believe it includes additional frills and fancies like swimming pools and parks that developers add at no major extra cost. Currently, I am not operating in the space of luxury housing. Luxury housing is definitely on my mind, and I may venture into it in the future.
What about affordable housing?
We do not believe in mixing brand identity, because that is how we are perceived in the market. If someone wants to buy at the bottom end of the segment, he will not come to me, because I have not built a brand that caters to that need. Similarly, if someone wants absolutely top-end luxury, he will again not come to me, because I have nothing on offer in that segment. In terms of affordable housing, we have created a separate brand name called Shakti to cater to the segment. So Shakti is not a Gera project, and thus does not dilute Gera's branding.
Is Gera Developments in any JVs?
We do have a JV with City Group Property Investors, who have now been taken over by Apollo. We are doing a 1.5 million sq ft development jointly with them in Kharadi, Pune.
What is the secret behind the company's stellar performance?
It is based on the company's philosophy and vision, which is based on trust. Among other things, our topmost priority has always been to have zero litigation. We have really bent over backwards to avoid litigation.We are extremely customer-focused and ensure our customer ends up satisfied. At the end of the day building a great relationship with the customer is extremely crucial. Our aim has always been to make home-owning a joy. To sum it up, fairness, trust and honesty are perhaps the three cornerstones of the business; this has led the company to achieve immense popularity.
What are your future plans?
We are currently building in Pune and Goa. We have acquired some land in Bengaluru and plan to start development soon. We want to continue to be active, productive and useful.
How do you plan to keep pace with the booming realty market?
We are in the process of growing but this is being considered in small steps of consolidation, reaching desired efficiency levels before taking the next step. From being invested in three cities, we are looking at a fourth city.
How do you plan to give back to society?
At the corporate social level, we are really looking inwards in the sense of the migrant labour that works at our sites. We conduct regular health checkups, AIDS awareness programs and immunisation camps for them. Moreover, we are extremely conscious of safety standards and try and ensure the best of practises and training to minimise accidents. We also are looking at getting into training labour to enhance their skills and improve their quality of life.
What are your views on eco-sensitivity in construction?
We are extremely serious about eco-sensitivity and wholeheartedly support the cause. Recently, we went back to all our customers, which includes all projects completed from the beginning, and offered to install rainwater harvesting systems free of cost. We spent a couple of lakhs on each project. It feels great to be a part of the whole eco-sensitivity drive.
As founder president of CREDAI, what are the areas you look into?
CREDAI has grown to encompass over 6,000 developers as members all over India. Fundamentally, a real-estate developer comes under the jurisdiction of both the state and central government and has to adhere to both laws. We have therefore structured CREDAI in the same way. I essentially look at the functioning of CREDAI National, which deals with the Finance Ministry, Environment Ministry and Housing Ministry for policy regulatory issues at the Centre.
When do you expect the realty industry to reach an all-time high?
Real-estate growth has been almost 30 per cent CAGR. Currently real estate is a $ 48 billion industry in the country. I think the peak will come anywhere between four and eight years from now because I see a large effort in investment coming from infrastructure. The GDP continues to rise and is going into double digits. This will result in significant urban growth, resulting in more disposable income in the hands of the urban middle class, and their aspirations are going to drive this growth, which will continue for a long time.
Lots of newer builder have come in and catapulted themselves into the limelight, selling projects at astronomical prices without any prior history, so to speak. Please comment....
Competition is always good for any industry. It's no different in the real-estate development business. However, in real-estate purchase decisions, the buyer always needs to be discerning. The track record and experience of a developer is critical, especially when a buyer is making a booking during construction.
What is your take on the ethics practiced in the construction industry?
For my part, I firmly believe that building credibility and trust is as important as building good buildings.
Top management: Kumar Gera, CMD, Gera Developments Pvt Ltd; Rohit Gera, JMD, Gera Developments Pvt Ltd.
Centres of operation: Pune and Goa.
No. of employees: 140
Pune: Gera's GreensVille SkyVillas, three and four-bedroom luxurious duplex villa apartments, Kharadi; Gera's Emerald City, two and three-bedroom child-centric homes, Kharadi - South.
Goa: Gera's Astoria, Caranzalem, Panjim, Goa, two and three-bedroom resort style apartments; Gera's Imperium II, Patto Plaza, Panjim, Goa, commercial project.
Pune: Gera's Regent Manor, Baner, split-level residences; Gera's Regent Tower I & II, Baner.