When measuring the success of his business, Harshavardhan Neotia has a simple philosophy: he just wants himself and others to be happy. “It’s important to be happy,” the Chairman of the Ambuja Neotia Group says.
“Our key purpose is to be happy and put a smile on everyone’s face, whether it’s our customers, employees or contractors. Of course, you also want to make some money, but hopefully the two are not mutually exclusive. I look at them as being complementary, so if you do one, the other should follow.”
This personal approach has helped Harshavardhan steadily build his company over the past few decades. The Neotia family has been part of the business scene in Kolkata for more than 120 years, operating in a diverse range of industries including cement, fertilisers, textiles and petroleum.
Harshavardhan started out his career working in the cement business with his father and uncles, but a chance meeting 35 years ago saw him turn his attention to the construction industry.
“My father’s friend was visiting our home one evening. He was moving to Mumbai and he had a piece of land in Kolkata, so he and my father were discussing the possibility of building an apartment block,” he recalls.
“I was just out of college and my father said, ‘Why don’t you build these apartments?’ So I said, ‘Okay.’ Not because I knew anything about it, but just because I thought it was a good learning opportunity for me.”
Harshavardhan concedes his youth and lack of experience did pose some problems, but the 22-year-old made up for it with enthusiasm. “It was a bit of a struggle as I had a commerce background and I was not an engineer, but I took great interest in it,” he says.
“An architect who was involved in the project had a lot of affection for me and he decided to give me guidance. I think he spurred my interest in architecture and design.”
Fortunately, the project was a success and Harshavardhan set his sights on a career in real estate development. From day one, he had a simple mission – to make a difference to the way people live – and he still abides by this today.
Ambuja Neotia’s diverse business portfolio now also spans the hospitality, healthcare and education sectors, but real estate is clearly where Harshavardhan’s passion lies.
He says the building industry has undergone massive changes in India over the past 10 years, especially in terms of the level of professionalism and quality.
“People are looking for professional developers, not just one-building wonders. They are looking for projects with high specifications, good architecture and lots of amenities. The credibility of the developers is very important, particularly if you want to sell your product while it’s still under construction,” he notes.
“Essentially, the sector has matured and consumer activism is very high. You have to live up to your promises.”
“People are looking for professional developers, not just one-building wonders.”
With this is mind, Harshavardhan is determined to ensure he continues to deliver quality products to his customers every time. “We want to make our customers happy and we wish to be remembered for doing a good job,” he says, adding that he is cautious about expanding the business too quickly.
“We don’t want to be a big company doing lots of things and not doing them very well. In fact, I would rather pursue quality and excellence over quantity. That doesn’t mean we’re not happy to grow, but we don’t want to grow and then lose quality in the process.”
Ambuja Neotia’s employees celebrate the company’s Foundation Day each April by participating in a talent quest known as Humara Utsav. This much-anticipated event is attended by staff and their families and features drama, dance and music performances.
From the initial design to the finishing touches, Ambuja Neotia works closely with its suppliers and contractors to ensure each project is constructed using quality materials and workmanship.
“A large number of our suppliers have been with us for the past 20 years. We try to involve them early on so that they can help us to optimise the design,” Harshavardhan explains.
“For instance, our architects discuss their elevator plans with the supplier to make sure we have the right combination and sizing of the elevators, which is a wonderful collaboration.”
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