Navin Raheja

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Mr. Raheja's Autobiography in his own words

My

parents Maheshwarnath and Krishna Raheja were both from a small town in Pakistan called Kamalia. My father moved to Delhi after partition and got a job with the government. His life was dedicated to the dream of giving higher education to all his children. But being in the Government also meant that his job was transferable, therefore, we brothers, could virtually not settle in any school for a long time. Nonetheless, my father ensured that all of us had professional degrees.

navin raheja

I completed my bachelor's degree and then my master's degree in Business Economics. I capped this with a postgraduate degree in journalism. My mother inculcated in me both patriotism and ambition. I was strongly influenced by her thoughts and ambitions for me, and therefore I decided to strike out on my own, though I had some offers for employment.

I delved into business in 1978. My first business venture was a scooter agency. Lambretta was a line of scooters originally manufactured in Milan, Italy by Innocenti. The manufacture of this scooter was licenced to Automobile Products of India Ltd. (API) in India. In the meantime the parent company M/S Innocenti also closed down its operations in Italy and the whole plant, machinery and rights of latest model were up for sales and grab. In 1972, the Indian government bought the rights Scooters India Limited (SIL). They introduced a new scooter, Vijay Super, which was one of their major products.

It was a grand success in the initial years when it was launched in 1974 but by 1978, the scooter had failed in India and most of the agencies in Delhi had closed down. It was against this background that I was offered and accepted the challenge of this scooter's agency. I started the business with a meager investment of INR 5000 or so which would buy only one scooter for Rs.4738. This represented all my savings. I had collected this money from my scholarship and part-time business, while I was studying. It was a challenging task. From a sale of just two scooters a month, I was subsequently able to significantly increase sales and within an year, I crossed a monthly sales figure of 48 scooters. My success in scooter sales was seen by Scooters India as an indicator of a turnaround in their fortunes. The result was they appointed more scooter agencies in Delhi. The new business model did not work and by the early 1980s it was clear that the company was failing, as well as my scooter business.

navin raheja

One of my friends drove the last nail in the coffin. One day in 1982, while I was sitting in my office, an extremely old and good friend called me up from Mumbai and told me that he wanted to invest some money in a business, which could multiply very quickly. He promised that he would be able to return the investment within 15 days. I explained that I had no money to spare, however, two days later he landed up in my office in Delhi

At that point I was preparing to send a Demand Draft (DD) for a scooter consignment. He saw the DD lying on my table. The moment he did so, he began to plead that I help him for just 15 days, which would help him turn around his fortune. Being inexperienced and idealistic and he being a friend, I reluctantly agreed to his insistent requests and gave him the money. Using the parameters of those times, it was a substantial sum.

Those 15 days promised by him never came and I never saw the money again. I had to virtually begin my business afresh. That was my first real lesson in life: never lend money to anyone. It is better to lose a person's friendship than to lose both the friendship and the money.

navin raheja

As the scooter agency had failed, I tried my hands at diverse businesses. I had to keep my enterprise from collapsing, and to do so had to look at other avenues open to me. I went into finance, the chit fund business, travel agency, agriculture, computers, became an Indian importing agent for power projects, interstate sales of automobile components, and handicraft exports too. I tried my hands at electronics, taking up the agency of the first colour TV in India in 1982 when the Asian Games were held in Delhi. I tried to get into manpower exports. I even flirted with politics and was privileged to be part of the Congress election campaign with Rajeev Gandhi.

This was a period of self-discovery for me. Although I had given my best, I had met with no great success. In the end, I had to accept two things: the first that I was not cut out for politics; and the second, that I had the makings of an entrepreneur, the determination to scour for opportunity. I knew then that I needed to persevere and that I would ultimately find the right niche.

Just around that time I had my first brush with real estate. It was in 1983, just before Diwali. I made good money. This was the first time for me. Thereafter, I kept on investing and disinvesting in real estate, and found it quite a lucrative side business.

In 1988 - 89, I entered into real estate in a big way. The first major project I took up was Qutub Farms. That was how it was then known and it is located in Sectors 57 and 58 in Gurgaon. At that point, I identified this parcel of land and thought it would have great possibilities when the Gurgaon master plan was extended, and it was apparent to me that this was imminent. This was a unique experience. I learnt a lot on how to operate at the ground level. I would sit with farmers, sharing a hookah with them, while at the same time remaining strictly professional when it came to business.

navin raheja

As I began purchasing the land, the rates rose fourfold, all within a period of less than two years. This raised the price of the land to levels that were unaffordable for me and brought to an abrupt end my purchases of land. As I lacked sufficient resources of my own, I was on the lookout for funds. I was fortunate in being able to rope in two extremely reputable business houses. They not only provided the resources that I so desperately needed, but this also gave me exposure and a dream of what makes one successful. I was quick to learn and adopt the best practices from this association. I also learnt a second important lesson of my life; to implement decisions rapidly it is better to be on your own rather than to depend upon others. This lesson was what made me decide to move on.

I decided to go on my own in the mid 1990s. I must admit today that this decision came more from the heart than from the head. The first project I took up was the Pine Gardens project in Nainital. It turned out to be the most challenging project of my life. I had not imagined, even in my remotest dreams, the associated problems that were awaiting me. This project was to be built on a hilltop. I had to transport building materials to the site without a road. I tried using ponies, but this led to a great deal of pilferage and wastage on the road and had therefore to be abandoned. Sometimes, I even had to even drive the mini-trucks myself because transporters were unwilling to take the risk of taking loaded trucks up steep and katchha paths. I even faced problems with local goondas , the authorities, and environmentalists, not to speak of the harsh weather conditions.

navin raheja

I had to overcome innumerable hurdles and challenges in other areas also. Coupled to the problems of project execution were the additional challenges of marketing and selling the flats in order finance the project. With the meagre resources and staff at my command, I really had to struggle for two to three years to complete the project. But having pumped in all my capital into this project and even borrowed money, there was no alternative but to move ahead.

The Nainital project, as I said, did not bring me much money but taught me virtually all there was to learn about executing projects. It was a great learning experience, and once it was completed I continued with one project at a time, concentrating primarily on quality and economic and efficient processes. I also learnt that it is advantageous to remain on the side of the customer rather than to focus only on money.

As I have continued working, each day has proved a great learning experience. The boom of the early twenty-first century and opened up new avenues and gave me the opportunity to execute several projects at a time. Today, my company is one of the largest in the real estate Industry with projects all over India. It is also one of the fastest-growing companies and has posted a growth in excess of 300 per cent over the past three years in terms of revenues. My company's projects are worth INR 30 billion and we estimate revenues of INR 4 billion and matching profits for the current financial year.

navin raheja

Life is not however only about your business and making money; you have larger responsibilities towards the planet. For me, my hobby of wildlife and tiger conservation from the early years of my life has kept me exposed to nature. Even today, I spare a few days every month and a few hours every week working towards my goals for wildlife conservation. This makes my work more satisfying and brings me contentment. I can say with confidence that I have achieved significant goals in my mission.

I have also endeavored to fulfill my mother's last wish. I have carried her mission forward in the form of a Krishna Mahesh Gayatri Sansthan, through which I am trying to give the underprivileged and poor a meaningful existence. One per cent of the profit of Raheja Developers goes into this mission."

In the initial years of my business career, earning profit was my only motive. But over years, life has turned into a mission to create quality benchmarks, economy, efficiency and price control etc. Every day I get up by 6 AM, clear all my office files and papers and am out for a walk by 7:30. By 8:30 I start my full fledged office work which goes on till past 8 PM and thereafter I attend to committed Dinner meetings.

There is a passion in achieving your targets. My every success makes it stronger and God almighty is always holding my hand to keep me on the move always. It is a race against timetable, given to me by HIM. It is a race to change the life of billions, be it human beings, wildlife or plants life. I am happy, I am contented and I am achieving it.