Not many construction companies can lay claim to erecting the highest luxury residential building in India, a raft of affordable housing projects for Mumbai residents seeking better accommodation, in addition to two high-end luxury apartment projects in the heart of London.
It’s an unlikely mix of achievements, but the Lodha Group is proud of its ability to not just compete, but also win accolades and awards in such divergent real estate markets. And it has done so in just three decades since its foundation.
Much of that success is due to the drive and foresight of CEO – Pune Tikam Jain, who in 15 years has taken a small building company to the heights of India’s burgeoning construction industry as it tackles the complex demands of its huge population. “When I joined Lodha Group in 2005, the company was very small. We had just 50 people and our turnover was around US$1 million,” Tikam recalls.
“Now we have around 2,500 associates and a property sales target of INR9,000 crores [US$1.2 billion] in the 2022 financial year. My responsibility is to ensure our projects are not delayed for any reason. Whether it is the supply chain, the design or the execution, I make sure that all our projects get running.”
From 1992 until 2005, Tikam was Head of the Real Estate Division at Sharad Construction Company in Mumbai. Then in 2005, he met with Lodha Group Founder Abhishek Lodha, who offered him an interesting and challenging career opportunity.
“Lodha is only my second job – before that I worked for 13 years for Sharad Construction. I was responsible for all its real estate development, so I had experience in the procurement of land, organising approvals, the execution and construction, and then after construction, sales,” he says.
We are focused on our core values – our motto is ‘Building a Better Life’.
“It was a small group running just a few projects, but I got full exposure, a 360-degree panorama view of real estate. That helped me a lot.” In 2005, Abhishek showed Tikam his vision. The attraction was instant.
“He wanted to do high-rises in Mumbai and although I didn’t have experience with high-rises, I decided to join him. We took on projects in all areas of Mumbai. We started with just a 40.5-hectare parcel, then we added another 40.5-hectare parcel, then another. That was the journey where we brought multinational people in for the master planning, for the architecture and design. We were really successful in creating this kind of large infrastructure. We have created iconic structures like World One and The Park. Today, they are the highest residential structures in India, and are in a class of their own in terms of luxury.”
India has suffered massive disruption and grief during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Tikam has managed to maintain some semblance of normality for the company. That started with a focus on maintaining safety procedures for all employees and ensuring everyone was protected as much as possible.
“For all our employees, their families and third-party resources, we have made vaccinations available,” he shares. “For our associates, we have initiated the distribution of some COVID-19 kits and immunity boosters. We have collaborated with companies like Marsh and Practo to provide assistance. All Lodha associates can avail themselves of the 24/7 medical facilities, and these facilities will be free for one year.
“Through our Lodha Foundation, we have set up a 100-bed COVID-19 recovery centre at Gamdevi in South Mumbai. Now that the second wave has gone, we are ready if the third wave comes – we will set up another 100-bed recovery centre on the north side of Mumbai. Then next, and the most important, we want to provide vaccinations for all the inhabitants of our developments. Our staff will ensure ease of access to the vaccination process for the residents. So with this initiative, Lodha is taking steps towards combating the situation.”
Tikam looks beyond the worst of the pandemic and sees other challenges, such as price fluctuations in commodities, which have implications for Lodha. “I don’t really see any big challenges, but commodity pricing has gone up for the likes of steel, aluminium and copper.
We follow a very stringent process before choosing a joint venture partner.
That can lead to a surge in the price of our production and construction, which has not increased in the past two years. In the past four to five years, they were normal, but now we’re seeing sudden changes in commodity pricing. “My main focus is basically on the execution of our projects. I ensure that anyone in the company can call me any time and my response is similar for all levels. But my main focus is basically that work should not stop at any site, come what may.”
Beyond the immediate problems of the pandemic, Lodha Group plans to aggressively expand in various micro-markets of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Pune – where it has limited presence – and make the most of digital infrastructure opportunities that Tikam envisages will arise post-pandemic.
There is significant pent-up demand, he says, for larger homes as households upgrade as working from home and home-based learning will likely remain the norm for the foreseeable future.
“Our plans over three to five years will be to increase sales and increase our market share. We feel that after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the opportunities will be immense. People have seen the difference between a small house and a larger house. They want to shift from a two-bedroom to a three-bedroom house, with a small space in the house to take care of working from home.
“So for those who do not have an appropriate house, we have a lot of places where we are doing affordable housing. India has a big demand for housing, and we want to cater to that and participate in its progress. There will be a sudden surge in demand as the pandemic diminishes, because people will upgrade the size of their homes, given that working from home and studying from home are going to continue for some time. We have seen this.”
In the long-term, Tikam is focusing on growing the company’s land bank for development, as well as exploring more joint venture partnerships to build projects.
These joint ventures enable co-investment and combined execution of projects, and provide an entry into micro-markets in the region, leading to better-quality developments and creating synergies that drive greater value. His focus remains on Pune and Mumbai as key markets, while the option to explore lucrative opportunities in other markets remains.
“This is a great opportunity right now in the market, where some builders are stuck with their projects. So that is why we are entering into some joint venture projects in suburban areas. We are also exploring some projects in Pune, which is very close to Mumbai. We consider it a similar project, although Pune is a different real estate market, with geography and other factors that are different from Mumbai.
“We follow a very stringent process before choosing a joint venture partner. A full review with due diligence is carried out to set expectations with the incoming partner. We are very demanding in what is expected, so we ensure the company that is joining hands with Lodha is clear about what we want. We are extra demanding. However, to ensure the best performance in both our interests, the Lodha team ensures that our partners are extended our full support. Most of our projects are enormous and we work on very tight deadlines, so as a Group we are up-front in demanding set expectations that will make the work easier. Over time, our partners have understood and supported our demands.”
We spend a great deal on making sure all our developments are sustainable, and we are aiming for net-zero emissions.
With a positive mindset, Tikam is confident of a bright future for the company, and for India itself as its economy recovers from the pandemic. He is sure the company will play a significant part in that brighter future by delivering on its promise of a better life for residents of future Lodha developments.
“We are focused on our core values – our motto is ‘Building a Better Life’. With our capabilities across our geographies and markets, our price points and consumer segments, and with our commitment to society, we make a significant effort to improve and uplift the areas we work in and the communities we work with,” he points out.
“We always strive to create landmarks that meet global standards, and epitomise the value of our family built on a legacy of trust spanning three decades. We are building the world’s finest developments and always focus on sustainable development. We spend a great deal on making sure all our developments are sustainable, and we are aiming for net-zero emissions.”
Lodha Group: A Time Line
1980 Foundation of Lodha Group by Mangal Prabhat Lodha.
2005 Launch of Lodha Paradise in Thane.
2006 Land acquisition for Palava City commenced. 2010 Phase 1 of Palava City launched. 2013 Lodha Park launched in Worli.
2014 Expanded into the UK with the acquisition of two sites in central London, including Canadian High Commission building at 1 Grosvenor Square.
2015 Lodha Luxury collection launched to offer bespoke residences.
2019 Lodha Crown launched to enter the affordable housing market.
Lodha’s commitment to sustainable buildings and corporate social responsibility, especially energyefficient projects to reduce its carbon footprint, works to provide a better life for its customers and entire neighbourhoods. According to Tikam, these are very important and tangible measures of success.
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