My passion for work keeps me going

Written by Viveat Susan Pinto | Updated: Jan 31 2008, 07:19am hrs
Niranjan Hiranandani would rather chase his dreams than be saddled with something he is neither excited nor happy about. This philosophy has held the 57-year-old managing director of Mumbai-based Hiranandani Constructions in good stead all through.

The second son of renowned surgeon, L H Hiranandani and the brother of the late Navin Hiranandani, also an eminent surgeon, Niranjan demonstrated early on that his career preference would be different from the rest in the family. He opted to pursue his studies in commerce rather than in science after finishing school, where he was the first elected head-boy. It wasnt easy, he says. The expectation was that I would pick up my fathers profession like the way my brother had. I didnt. My father was not pleased and he expressed that in no uncertain terms. But he didnt stop me from achieving what I wanted to.

Working hard is his motto. For instance, he trained to be a financial cost accountant, took two shots at business along with his younger brother Surendra. The first attempt was in textiles and the other shot was in construction. And he gave up the former to keep his focus on the latter. In the process, the group, which the two brothers started, is credited with bringing professionalism into the construction business in Mumbai, at a time when none existed. We began in the late 1970s with a bit of textiles and construction. But, in 1981, we decided to stick with the construction business only. We did go through ups and downs, but in the end we were successful, says Hiranandani. The group was noticed for its work in the suburb of Versova, Andheri. Says an executive who has worked with the group, The fact that he bought some order into the business, introducing systems and processes, is one of his major contributions.

Hiranandani attributes this to the education hes had. That helped, he says. It opened my mind to new ideas and concepts, which Ive been able to apply to the business. I also, in a sense, envied the stature and reputation my father had and yearned to get that credibility too. The best way that Hiranandani could achieve it was through his work. Hiranandani properties are not only plush, but also systematic and organised. The flagship property in Powai, for instance, has commercial and residential apartments, a hospital, school, retail establishments, recreational facilities, just about everything one would want over 250 acres of land. Hiranandani chooses to describe his properties as enduring. I think weve been able to take care of the needs of the people we were targeting. That was the objective. That people like it not only now, but also fifty years on.

With the boom in the retail/ real estate industry though, builders today are getting aggressive, going all out to woo consumers with large, ambitious even opulent projects. What that means is that there is no dearth of competition for the Hiranandanis in a city, where they began some 30 years ago. Whats more New players are getting in and the old ones are reorganising themselves, many of them tapping the capital markets. In such a scenario, it is surprising that the Hiranandani group has opted to stay out of the domestic capital markets, choosing to list a new entity Hirco on the Alternate Investment Market (AIM) in London instead. I did this separately from my brother last year, who is focussing on other initiatives, says Hiranandani. Tell me how many people from the real estate fraternity have listed on the AIM, he asks. We did and the response we got was good. The group raised about $750 million, which will be used to set up properties in areas such as Navi Mumbai, Jaipur and Chennai. We are clear that we do not want to grow for growths sake, says Hiranandani. Growing is important, but we would rather do it appropriately with sustainable projects, enduring structures and quality construction.

Hiranandani has also chalked out diverse plans such as expansion into hospitality, retail, IT-enabled services, education, entertainment and healthcare besides realty. An average day begins at 6.30 am, stretching right through to the midnight. The fact that wife Kamal and son Darshan are also involved in the business helps. The latter holds forte in Dubai, where the group is setting up the 90-storey 23 Marina, the tallest residential tower in the world, along with joint venture partners ETA Star. All this means that there is hardly any respite for Hiranandani, but the man isnt complaining. I do get tired. But my passion for work keeps me going. Besides, I spend about 40 minutes in the gym. That energises me. Also, I draw great strength from my father, who is 90 years old, has had seven operations in the last eight years. To top it all he suffers from Parkinsons disease. Despite these so-called handicaps, he keeps an active life, going to four hospitals, visiting patients. If he can do it, why cant I

The senior Hiranandani is a great source of inspiration even otherwise He constantly reminds me of things I havent done. A phone call I havent made or a courtesy call Ive forgotten. In his own little way he is reminding me to be considerate. This gentle pressure has worked its magic. In his free time, Hiranandani devotes himself to charitable activities. He also manages ten schools, 17 colleges and one hospital, the Dr L H Hiranandani Multi Speciality Hospital in Powai. He is on the board of a number of bodies and loves meeting people. Surendra and I are extroverts in comparison to our elder brother Navin, who was an introvert. If there is one regret I have, it is not being able to help him, when he needed us the most. Navin, died tragically in 2006 at his South Mumbai residence. He was suffering from depression.

The lows notwithstanding, Hiranandani is one, never to give up on life. I was hurt in my personal capacity on a number of instances, thanks to my frank opinion on issues. But that didnt stop me and I dont think it will. This tendency to be vocal about issues has helped the fraternity, shifting the spotlight to key issues. In a sense it has also helped Hiranandani become the poster boy of the real estate industry in the city. He can be found addressing seminars, conferences, summits, speaking passionately about issues close to his heart. For instance, he insists that it is not so much about builders not wanting to provide affordable housing, but more about wrong policies of the government that have not allowed it to happen. If land banks are prevented from being constructed on account of wrong policies I dont think you can fault builders for it, he says.

However, I do agree that builders need to be considerate about the needs of the poor, about the public at large, and take up affordable housing more proactively. We have campaigned hard for policies to be changed. But the pace has been slow. We are hopeful, however, that things will change in the future, he says. Strong words, but is anybody listening

Fact File

* Niranjan Hiranandani is the managing director of Hiranandani Constructions.

* Though real estate is their core area, the group has plans to expand into areas such as retail, entertainment, IT-enabled services, education, healthcare, etc.

* The turnover of the Hiranandani group is estimated to be over Rs 1,000 crore.

* Group company Hirco listed on the Alternate Investment Market in London last year and raised $750 million.

* He is a trained financial cost accountant. His first business foray, along with his brother Surendra was in textiles.