'land in Mumbai is the biggest problem'
— Rajesh Vardhman, Managing Director, Vardhman Group
Vardhman Group, with interests across real estate,
infrastructure and finance, is committed to making Mumbai a world-class city by
2020. Rajesh Vardhman describes some landmark projects to Dilip S.
The Maharashtra government has decided to make declaration
of carpet area mandatory. What is your reaction?
I welcome the government's move. In fact, Vardhman Group has been following that
policy ever since my father, B.M. Vardhman, founded the company in 1962. Once
the project is developed, we make all our agreements as per the carpet area when
selling property. We have been transparent in our business transactions from day
What are some of the main obstacles for obtaining clearances from the civic
body and local government?
Generally, when we undertake a project, we come across all kinds of obstacles.
This is especially true when obtaining clearances. Once the plan is ready, it
takes one full year to two years to get all approvals which number between 30
and 40. This cumbersome and time-consuming task involves approaching the civic
department, the collector's permission, the tree-felling authority, the fire
brigade and so many others.
Meanwhile, the cost of the project escalates due to rising costs of building
materials such as cement, steel, aluminum and so on. This obstructs our goal in
providing cheaper housing to consumers who cannot afford costly flats.
What factors do you take into consideration when choosing locations?
We always have a good location in mind when the blueprint of a residential
project is ready, but consumers play a major role in selecting a site. If our
survey shows that locations like Borivli, Andheri, Ghatkopar, Mulund are
popular, that's where we choose to construct our projects. This ensures that our
customers do not go to other developers.
Obtaining land in Mumbai is the biggest problem. A peaceful and green area is
even more difficult. However, for our new housing project in Chembur, we have
been lucky to get land adjacent to the large golf club. We are creating
something extraordinary and beautiful.
Every occupant will get a grand view of the vast green lawns and trees.
How do you go about raising finance for projects?
When it comes to getting finance, we are lucky to be self-dependent. Our
financial needs are met from our own resources and internal accruals. We do not
approach any finance company. With our 46 years' experience in the sector,
raising finance is no big hassle.
What are the negative aspects of the real estate boom?
The increase in prices of building materials has been phenomenal. Due to this
and property rates shooting up, many house-hunters cannot afford to buy a flat.
However, our aim is to meet housing requirements of people belonging to all
classes and provide housing at a reasonable cost to all.
Over the years, Mumbai's development has been chaotic and disorderly. Add to
that its population of 12 million. Does the city stand a chance for a makeover?
Yes, the city does stand a chance for a makeover. However, there are no strong
political policies to bring about the change, and the citizens have shown little
interest. For Shanghai's makeover, large tracks of occupied land were cleared,
entire colonies were demolished, many people were forced out of their age-old
dwellings, and new constructions came up in their place.
But with our democratic system, rules and regulations, I don't think old Mumbai
can ever become Shanghai or Hong Kong. However, if the government forms new
policies that favour the makeover, at least 15 to 20 per cent of Mumbai can be
What is Vardhman's viewpoint on green buildings?
We are glad the concept of green buildings is catching up. In our new projects
we are taking measures to incorporate features of green buildings. We are also
practicing rain harvesting and have appointed a consultant to look into areas
where electricity can be saved. We plan to develop a maximum number of green
What are some of the landmark projects?
Vardhman Heights at Byculla, a beautiful and an imposing housing tower nearly 72
meters high. The top four floors are each 14 ft. in height, giving the occupants
a feeling of living in a bungalow. The balconies offer a scenic view of Haji Ali
and Elephanta Caves For the tower we took special approval from the high-rise
committee—we are the first to get such approval. It has also been approved as a
green building. Another outstanding housing project is Vardhman Nagar at Mulund.
What projects have you completed in the housing and commercial sectors?
We have built a large number of residential projects in Mumbai. These include
Vardhman Nagar, Mulund and Adarsh Nagar, Andheri and Thane. Some of our big
residential projects contain a cluster of 10 to 17 buildings.
In the commercial sector, we have Vardhman Industrial Estate, one of the main
hubs for diamond jewelers. Then we have constructed an industrial estate at
Andheri and at Masjid Bunder you have Vardhman Chambers. We are developing a
unique project called 'Jewel World' in Zaveri Bazaar on Kalbadevi Road - one of
the city's best commercial projects
which is also the first jewellery mall in Mumbai and Maharashtra. In the
expansion phase, we are also coming up with similar malls at Borivli, Mulund,
Ghatkopar and have finalised locations for more jewellery malls at Bandra and
Santa Cruz—all these are in the initial stage of discussion.
Which are the news ones you plan to undertake?
We are developing a housing property in Chembur, overlooking the gold club. The
flats are designed in such manner that each one has a lovely view of the green
gold club, with lawns and trees. No other building will come up in the vicinity
to block the view.
We are also developing commercial complexes at Mulund and Kurla, and residential
projects at Ghatkopar, Thane and Borivli. At Malad, work has started on a
residential-cum-commercial project. Other projects are coming up at Kandivli,
Andheri (a big township near Navrang cinema), Santa Cruz and Khar. In south
Mumbai we have developed projects at Lal Baug and Byculla.
[May 19-25, 2008]