Eros Group: Tall Ambitions, Low-key Growth Plans

Updated: Sep 20 2003, 05:30am hrs
Its banking on quiet growth to fuel its fast-track strategy. At a time when real estate and related activity is accompanied by high profile promotions, the Delhi-based Eros group is making quiet moves in these areas: developing hotels, commercial towers and residential complexes. The promoters feel that the buildings are speaking for themselves and therefore prefer to be low key. But if one were to go backstage one will find considerable amount of activities, which are going to give tremendous boost to the groups topline in the coming couple of years.

J R Sood, Chairman, and Satish Sood, Managing Director, Eros Group
New Forays
To start with, the Eros group is busy renovating Delhis Kanishka hotel which it bought last year. It is also being elevated to the level of a deluxe five star hotel with an additional investment of Rs 75 crore. The company claims that the hotel was in a bad state and a lot of work is required before it is transformed into a luxury hotel. The hotel was acquired by the group from ITDC for Rs 96.50 crore after its disinvestment in 2002.

The company is also coming up with a corporate tower in south Delhis business centre, Nehru Place. Accompanied by a seven level car park, which can accommodate 1,000 to 1,100 cars Eros Corporate Towers will have a combination of offices, shops, restaurants and entertainment centres. Spread over 2,00,000 square feet (sq ft) of commercial space and 30,000 sq feet of shopping complex the complex will be equipped with fibre optic high speed internet connectivity and uninterrupted power supply.

However, the group has not restricted itself to commercial properties. It is developing a residential complex in Haryana, just on the border of south Delhi, spread over 127 acre. Targetted at upwardly mobile high middle class Lakewood City expects to get good clientele from residents of south Delhi who are sick of the citys hustle and bustle.

The plots are being developed into different sizes and the complex has the capacity to cater to different income groups. For instance, plot size would be anything between 126 sq yards to 425 sq yards. The complex will also have a shopping complex, a school, an entertainment centre and the required infrastructure. The sale of the plots will begin any time now and we expect good buying starting the festival season, says Satish Sood, managing director, Eros group. The total outlay for Lakewood City is Rs 200 crore

Besides these the company is also going full swing developing a 10 acre deluxe five star hotel on Delhi-Faridabad border and a three acre deluxe four star hotel in the same area.

The company is also mowing down its cinema halls Vishal and Eros in Delhi, which are being converted into modern 300-400 seats cinema halls, with a small entertainment centre and food court.

Future plans
Realising the potential of shopping malls the group is getting into a 2.5 million sq ft, international standard shopping mall, again on Delhi-Faridabad border, along with a 350 acre office complex. Besides, the group is sitting over 1,000 acre of prime land in and around Delhi which it wants to develop. It is pre-mature to reveal our plans for these areas as we are still working on them, says Mr Sood.

The group, however, is not going to put all its eggs in the same basket. It has plans to develop a mix of commercial and residential complexes along with starred hotels. It is a good de-risking strategy, says a Delhi-based analyst tracking the real estate sector. The group is also contemplating forays in a theme park adjoining its proposed hotel site on Delhi-Faridabad border.

Group chairman, JR Sood is very upbeat about its future projects. We are trying to get in world class infrastructural support in real estate development, whether it is residential or a commercial undertaking. Whether it is Eros corporate towers, townships or hotels, all continue to incorporate latest advancements while being executed, says Mr JR Sood.

Time Schedules
The next 15 months are going to be crucial for the group. For it is hoping completion of the Eros Corporate towers as well as Lakewood City residential complex. We will be starting sales of shops and offices in the Eros Corporate Towers in 2-3 weeks time and hope to go full swing operational in 15 months time, says Mr Satish Sood. He also says that the places would be competitively priced even though the facilities and infrastructure would be top class.

So the company will suddenly be flushed with funds, how does it plan to use them We have so many ongoing projects that what is earned out of one, goes to finance the other, and this money would be spent in the same manner, besides, there is no dearth of opportunities for investment, says the junior Sood.

Competitive Edge
The Eros group feels that its competitive edge lies in the fact that it is developing its properties in and around Delhi-Faridabad border, which is relatively untouched by other developers, has nice undulating locales with proximity to a natural lake called Surajkund and its distance from south Delhis business district is less than 15 km.

In near future I see a lot of upwardly mobile residents of south Delhis residential areas like Greater Kailash, East of Kailash and others selling their property there and buying plots in Lakewood City, says Mr Satish Sood.

His confidence also comes from the response it got for its earlier property in that area, Charmwood Village, which it developed in early 1990s with a project cost of Rs 300 crore, and which today, accommodates 20,000 people.

In Kanishka, the company feels, it will have the advantage of being right in the heart of the city. We expect Kanishka to be a major crowd puller, says Mr Satish Sood, his confidence coming from the fact that there are only two other five star hotels, Ashoka and Le Meridien, in that area.

In Eros corporate towers, the company is getting in the state of the art technology and is offering a tremendous benefit of seven level car parking. That area is also devoid of good food joints, which is likely to give the corporate tower added advantage.

The group has made steady but cautious moves by dividing its attention in a basket of projects which will help it derisk its ventures. Mr Satish Sood also says that the group has strategically got into developing plots rather than selling flats because the demand is in favour of plots these days. But what about the margins It all depends on the demand whether it is flat or plot, says Mr Sood.

Mr JR Sood was born in a family of builders. His father RC Sood was developing real estate way back in 1940s in Lahore. But the family became a victim of the partition. However, Mr JR Sood did not lose heart and started a construction and land development business in Delhi from scratch. With the purchase of a cinema hall in 1956 he gradually got into developing bigger projects.

Today, his projects include InterContinental Parkroyal Nehru Place hotel and American Plazaa modern shopping complex along with several other properties all over Delhi.

However, several other developers have also come up with booming properties in and around Delhi thus intensifying competitive. Besides, real estate industry has seen considerable highs and lows in the last 10 years. So far the group has sailed through. The test now is how would its new projects take shape.