Forum Projects came into existence in mid seventies and is one of the largest and fastest growing business houses operating from Kolkata. Driven by the pioneering, prudent and ambitious vision of its founder, S M Shroff, the group is now led by his young and dynamic son, Rahul Saraf. The core strength of Forum Projects is to build the right development mix based on location, market scenario and the needs of the society.
“The residential segment offers great opportunity. Low cost housing with smart home facilities has a huge market. There has been a change in recent years with double incomes and home loan facilities available for professions to look more and more into investing in homes. At the same time niche projects offer a huge growth potential.”
Rahul Saraf, Managing Director, Forum Projects Pvt Ltd shares his view with Sandeep Sharma about his company, signature projects, hot realty segments, realty prospects, green building development and solution to India’s housing problem. Edited Excerpts…
Could you tell us about your achievements and activities in the realty space?
Forum Projects develops spaces in which life resides. The company since its inception has followed a simple strategy to cut through the multitude of real estate developers and develop the right development mix based on location, market scenario and the needs of the society. The endeavour is to create not only a financially viable development but also landmark projects based on innovative ideas that will set high standards within the industry.
Which are the geographies and verticals you are targeting for growth and why?
The Forum Group has chosen three high-growth verticals – Retail, IT and Office, and Residential and Hospitality – for the next phase of expansion, with developed space totaling over 3.5 million sq ft. We are concentrating in the east and see a huge opportunity in industrial towns. These are wanting in infrastructure and lifestyle. Mixed used developments which have residential, retail, hospitality and medical infrastructure is our calling. Current upcoming projects are in West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand.
What kind of potential do you see for real estate development in India?
The residential segment offers great opportunity. Low cost housing with smart home facilities has a huge market. There has been a change in recent years with double incomes and home loan facilities available for professions to look more and more into investing in homes. At the same time niche projects offer a huge growth potential.
There are several established and developing industrial hubs in the country today. The people involved in the industry of such regions have both the ability and aspiration for a higher quality of lifestyle. However, social infrastructure is so far absent. Integrated mixed-use developments have tremendous scope in these areas moving forward.
Which are your signature projects till date and what makes them so special?
While we have done many projects specific to client briefs/requirements but our landmark projects have been Infinity, Forum, Forum Mart and Technopolis.
With Infinity we created Kolkata’s first and India’s second futuristic building. It has played an instrumental role in converting the Salt Lake Electronic Complex into Kolkata’s IT Hub
Forum, Eastern India’s first integrated mall brought back the pride and joy to Kolkata with a complete offering. It was the first mall in the country to integrate shopping with cinema. With the extension in 2010 called Courtyard, it took Kolkata international. Adding 350 car parks in a multi level park and international brands on 3 levels, changing the face of shopping in Kolkata once again.
Technopolis, Kolkata, India’s First Green IT Infrastructure was the 1st Building in the world to earn carbon credits and change the “colour” of the building industry. Today there are over 1000 green buildings registered in India. Technopolis is Gold Certified by United States Green Building Council under the LEED rating system.
Forum Mart, Bhubaneswar, was the international scale mall development in a Tier 3 city where Big Bazaar made its entry in a tier 3 town. The response and numbers it experienced changed their view on their business model, and retail began to look at markets beyond metros.
Apart from building landmark solutions for select clients, Are you also looking at exploring affordable or luxury housing segment in India?
We find both verticals very interesting and have recently announced to give Kolkata, and India, a new icon – a sculpture in the sky. Christened ATMOSPHERE, this luxury residential condominium project will consist of two tall towers; hanging between them, at a height of 500 feet, is ‘Deya’, an iconic piece of public art that will also house an exclusive club for the residents of Atmosphere.
Similarly in the industrial belt of Kolkata – Howrah, we have launched affordable housing in a mixed use development.
What's your take on the green building development in India? What's stopping the real estate companies to go in for green building construction in a big way?
The construction sector is the one of the biggest polluter of environment and now more and more builders are looking at addressing this issue. We largely build spaces which are either multi tenanted or sold of and it is difficult to control these environments. But what we can do as responsible builders is to incorporate systems which are environment friendly such as rain water harvesting, use environment and energy efficient material which are also recyclable, systems which efficiently manage the use of water and so on.
Do you see any real estate price correction happening in the next 6 months?
No. While there might be regional correction in places that have seen rapid price escalation in the past few years, Indian real estate as a whole looks strong. What’s key is that the industry salvages its currently tarnished reputation by building responsibly, on time, and with facilitating the end user’s lifestyle in mind.
Do you have any plans for diversification in the infrastructure development space?
No. We are quite happy being a real estate developer, and have are hands quite full in the medium term. Primarily, our goal is to first consolidate our businesses in the East before considering diversification.
In view of the recent fuel price hike, do you expect increase in bldg material prices?
Steel, the biggest raw material component in the construction business, has historically seen its prices linked to global fuel prices. Of course, demand and supply play direct and substantive roles as well. However, not sure if the Indian fuel price hike has any bearing on global fuel prices, and whether it is instead a basic local price correction.
What’s the solution for India’s ever growing housing deficit?
Cheaper construction costs fueled by cheaper raw material prices. Internationally, rising home prices allows developers the scope for better building materials, and investments in technological advancement for building processes. In India, that upside is passed onto the land owners with rapidly escalating land prices. This needs a correction. The answer is not to lower labor costs, but to find innovative processes to make capital and labor more cost effective.Order your copy now !
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