One year into his tenure with what was then his father’s cement company, Shyam Rao realised he was in the wrong place. “It was, at that point, the largest business of our portfolio, although construction was our flagship company,” he recalls.
“But it wasn’t my calling.” Instead, Shyam was compelled by My Home Constructions, the real estate arm of the business. “This was a 100% family-owned company, but it needed change in terms of how it was run,” he concedes.
“By comparison, the cement company was more institutionalised; it had more corporate structure in place. That’s actually why I joined it, but it turned out to be the wrong path.”
With his work cut out for him, he took on the challenge that would change his life. Shyam is driven by a passion for enabling better living. Given that he’s now the Managing Director of My Home Constructions, a leader in Hyderabad’s real estate market, it’s just as well.
“Enrichment, particularly in terms of social life, is a key motivator of mine,” he says. “We’ve delivered homes to more than 15,000 families so far, and we’re always striving to better that.”
Of all the goals on his to-do list, that is among the easiest, thanks to the surfeit of need knocking on his door. According to Shyam, real estate in India is booming. “There’s just so much demand,” he explains. “And as ever, the key is to be in the right place at the right time with the right product.”
For a company that’s grown to handle 2.6 million square metres of residential construction sites, the right time is now. “It was a small company when it started – first property, then real estate, construction and so forth – but now we’re one of the largest in terms of single cities in the country,” Shyam smiles.
“In the past four or five years, we’ve seen massive growth in the commercial portfolio business across the market. Commercial space in Hyderabad has grown from 2–3 million square feet [186,000–279,000 square metres] in 2014 to 12–13 million square feet [1.1–1.2 million square metres] in 2019, occupied by the likes of Google and Amazon, which are currently booming in India.”
Residential is a traditionally strong portfolio for My Home Constructions, but since 2014, commercial has closed the distance. “We’ve taken that space on bit by bit,” Shyam says.
“Today, we have about six million square feet [557,000 square metres] of finished commercial space that’s owned by the company. For the past five years, we’ve delivered about three million square feet [279,000 square metres] on average which, at a country level, is a pretty strong number.”
It takes time to build
If the past half-decade or so seems like a boom time for My Home Constructions, that’s because Shyam and his team have stuck closely to a 10-year plan that was formed in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. “That was when everyone was talking doomsday, especially with the whole subprime crisis,” he remembers.
We’ve delivered homes to more than 15,000 families so far, and we’re always striving to better that.
“Sentiment around real estate was very weak.” But those were grounds for the transformation of My Home Constructions. “It was a time to reflect on what had to be done across the next 10 years to get out of that place,” he shares.
“And being a real estate company in India, the sector was quite unorganised.” Slowly but surely, the company knocked itself into shape “to a very transformed, fully institutionalised corporate entity”, as Shyam puts it. “I think that’s been one of our greatest achievements.” A
Matter of taste
However, it’s not without its challenges. Part of what made India’s real estate scene such a maze were the major differences from city to city. “What works in Hyderabad doesn’t work in Chennai and what works in Chennai doesn’t work in Mumbai,” Shyam explains.
“The markets are very independent, so we’ve done our best to understand what’s important to each.” My Home Constructions has also observed these differences on a global level and recognises that what works in New York might not necessarily work in New Delhi. “You can’t just ape what’s happening in the Western world and put a glass building in Hyderabad,” Shyam says.
“You can construct with plywood walls that you can bang through in the West, but in India they don’t accept that. They want a solid wall, even with their bedrooms.”
This has led to stronger partnerships with suppliers such as Aparna Constructions, which provides tiles and uPVC windows, and Blue Star, which handles mechanical, electrical and plumbing. “Our suppliers want to ensure they have business with us, which from my perspective is a tremendous achievement,” Shyam confirms.
“It’s all about trust and communication because, at the end of the day, if a business is doing well, so too will its partners.” Since My Home Constructions has chosen to focus solely on Hyderabad, much study has gone into what works in that market, particularly in a commercial sense. The company is currently prepping a 2.3-million-square-metre integrated business park in Kokapet worth almost US$2 billion.
You can’t just ape what’s happening in the Western world and put a glass building in Hyderabad.
“We have a huge land bank here, enough for about 200 million square feet [18.6 million square metres],” Shyam says. “We’ve realised there’s no point in doing smaller pieces of land development because, even though you create value around that project, you don’t create any future potential.”
Instead, My Home Constructions focuses on larger blocks with long-term business outlooks, such as Kokapet. Meanwhile, townships have become the anchor of its residential offerings. “Again, you want to create locations that can be utilised into the future, so we have 2–3-million-square-feet [186,000–279,000-squaremetre] projects going on all around the city.”
It’s all in accordance with the 10-year plan in which Shyam took into account the cyclical, five-year nature of real estate. “There are a lot of factors that can go for and against you,” he says.
“Projects run on three- to five-year cycles from start to finish, but because of the supply and demand aspect, you can’t always envision how things will go.” Land, Shyam believes, is the most valuable asset, so investment in land was one of the company’s biggest strengths. “That set us apart from the competition because we invested in land and held onto it for a longer time, and now we’re yielding the benefits.”
The GFC was also an opportunity to migrate its operations to the powerful SAP system. “We were one of the first construction companies to implement SAP across our entire business process,” Shyam says.
“Right from construction to sales, PR and accounting.” A decade on, Shyam believes the SAP foundation gives My Home Constructions a marked advantage over the competition. “If I want to look at my sales numbers or what’s outstanding, or what my credit cashflow systems are, everything’s mapped in SAP,” he explains.
“We’re one of the very few construction companies in India to run things end to end on that platform, but it’s one of our key strengths.” The move to SAP turned the company from a people-driven business to a process-driven one that delivers ground plus 30-storey buildings in 24–36-month time lines as opposed to the five years such a job would conventionally take.
“When you’re a family-owned business like My Home, you have the problems inherent in a people-driven company,” Shyam admits. “But our Chair’s vision has always been very clear – and we all tend to agree with it – that as we grow in size, we have to become an institution and not a family-owned business. A switch to process-driven systems makes that possible, and that’s what we are today: a processdriven company. I think I can proudly say that.”
Making a difference
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, My Home Constructions hasn’t missed a deadline. “We celebrate our 35th anniversary this year and, in all that time, one of our biggest strengths has been our deliveries,” Shyam says.
“We always deliver three to six months ahead of schedule, and have done for all those years.” It’s the kind of reliability on which the company has built its reputation. When Facebook established itself in Hyderabad, My Home Constructions was its first port of call. “Facebook is one of our tenants,” Shyam reveals.
“Qualcomm is another. I think they’re in one of the best commercial projects in Hyderabad, and it’s heading in the right direction.” Whether it’s a multinational technology giant or a family buying their first home, Shyam is focused on customer satisfaction. “That’s one of our key drivers,” he points out.
“When one of our tenants tells us that being a part of My Home has helped them, it gives my team and myself great satisfaction.” Beyond his team, Shyam believes the company’s socially responsible work provides the Hyderabad community with a certain level of enrichment in terms of a social life.
“The community sharing and bonding that families share, that gives us immense pride,” he smiles. “We strive to try and change things, to make a difference.”
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