Jul 15 2015 | Q&A

Marathon Group

Single window system and the need for industry status are some of the important policies that have been pending for the government nod since long. The single window scheme will result in quick approvals and industry status will help in securing funds from nationalized financial institutions required for construction purpose. Measures to reduce rate of interest will encourage home buyers to buy homes and subsidies in purchasing land will enable developers to provide homes at cheaper rate. All these measures will help in boosting the real estate sector in India.

Mayur Shah, Managing Director, Marathon Group shares his views with Sandeep Sharma about Marathon Group, core competencies, realty footprint, performance in FY2014-15, emerging realty trends, signature projects, smart cities development, top realty segment, increase in construction cost, shortage of manpower and recommendations for boosting real estate sector growth. Edited Excerpts...

Tell us about your company, objectives and core competencies?
Founded in 1969, the Marathon Group is known for setting up various standards in the real estate sector. After making a humble beginning, today the Group´s business is spread across Mumbai Region in all residential low cost, affordable, high rise, luxury segments as well as in commercial offices including high rise Financial centres & more than 500 acres of land bank for townships. The growth has been possible due to the integrity, dedication and innovation in setting benchmarks in Real Estate. We at Marathon have always strongly believed in ethical business practices and customer friendly approach.

Our strong will to grow and give the best and unique product has been the core reason for the company´s success. Standing tall in the industry with integrity and transparency we prefer to emphasize on creating customer delight with constant endeavor to create mutual happiness. The Group was the first private sector entity to bring in the concept of modern town planning in its projects in the year 1922. The Group was also the foremost developer to build a helipad atop its 25 storey Marathon Heights project at Worli in the year 1996.

The company has five major objectives that it aims to achieve in the coming years:

  • To grow 6.5 time in revenue and 5 times in terms of the area constructed
  • To be in the top 5 list in Customer Satisfaction in Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
  • To be the Most Trusted Developer in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region
  • To provide Best in Class Design
  • To be in top 5 list in Employee Engagement in Mumbai Metropolitan Region

Could you brief us about your company´s footprint in the real estate sector?
´Towards the company´s footprints; ours has been a story of well-weighted efforts and constant perseverance to test what we learned!!!´
The Group´s commencement is a fascinating tale. The owner and founder of Marathon Group, Mr. Ramniklal Shah, was a school principal of SMPL high school in Mulund. Mr. Shah was prompted to take up the incomplete reconstruction of the school building after the building contractor to whom he had assigned the work left it incomplete. This situation triggered his interest towards the real estate field and this opportunity coupled with budding interest later turned out to become a contemporary mega business empire. The Group´s first building was constructed in Mulund and was titled as ´Purnima´. It was a redevelopment project of 40 flat chawl named as Jhaverbhai Ramji Chawl. Since then there was no looking back.

Having shared as much though we began from a humble start the changing dynamics of the realty sector has always pushed us to reinvent ourselves and our way of approaching various aspects of the entire construction value chain which resulted into creating end to end solution in-house. So we have in-house team to take care of the process starting from Land scrutiny, evaluation to acquisition, product development, product design, liason, sales and marketing, Finance, Customer care and Facility managers to help customers in possession and enhancement of the entire living experience with the Marathon Projects.

We firmly believe that in order ´to be able to make an intuitive product its very important to perceive the opportunities that come in disguise of existing challenges and scenarios that seem like a never tended space; which calls for challenging the Status quo and working as path finders in the mist of all that is and all that we envision for´

To us the challenges came in the form of never attempted ventures of building multi-storey buildings when there was prevalence of lesser storey apartments in Mulund, requirement of attempting an integrated town planning effort for Mulund, acquiring not only land parcels that were defunct and had labor issues; but also resolving them in a manner that resulted in a win-win for all stakeholders and many more.

We have been able to do all this and much more under the patronage of my father and with the rock solid support of my elder brother Mr. Chetan Shah, Civil & Structural Engineer, B Tech IIT & M S USA; building multiple award winning structures over the years that have become hallmark of many firsts initiated by the Group in the business of Construction namely-

India´s ´First Residential High-rise with Helipad´- Marathon Heights, Worli

  • ´Best Urban Design and Master Planning of walk-to-work culture´- NextGen campus, Lower Parel- Construction Source India 2009´
  • ´Excellent Interior Design´ - Marathon Era, Lower Parel by Economic Times ACETECH 2010 for the Premium Segment.
  • ´Best Commercial Project of the Year´ - Marathon NextGen Innova, Lower Parel by Accommodation Times 2006-07
  • ´Best Affordable Housing Project- 2010´- Marathon Nagari
  • India´s First Real Estate Group to implement Successful E-registration for residential units at Marathon Nexzone, Panvel
  • Recently, Group has been awarded as the ´2nd Most Trusted Developer in Mumbai Metropolitan Region´ by NDTV Prop-Equity Survey 2014
  • ´Best Upcoming Green Project of the Year´- Marathon Futurex, - Construction Times Builders Awards 2015

This year the focus is intense on building homes that are intuitive, offer value for money and address the housing needs in a manner that is not only characteristic of what today´s customer is expecting but is also an epitome of our vision towards future.

We were the first developers to construct a high rise in Mulund. In 1972 we constructed a seven storey building titled Poonam. This was the first seven storey building in Mulund. Until then it was a common practice to construct three to four storey building. We then constructed Antariksha, an 18 storey building in Mulund when seven storey buildings were common in the city. In 1995 we constructed a 25 storey tower in Lower Parel titled Marathon Heights. The unique part of the project was it had the provision of a helipad on top, a rare feature amongst buildings during those days. This project was a turning point for our company after which we have continued building high rises. In 2003 we constructed the Marathon NextGen Campus on the Piramal Mill land. This was the first mixed use mill land development project. In 2009 we constructed the Marathon Futurex complex, one of the tallest and India’s first IGBC Gold Rated Commercial Towers. In 2010, we constructed Marathon Nagri in Badlapur in the affordable home category. Then in 2011, we constructed Marathon Nexzone, a premium township project in Panvel. These have been the key turning points for the group.

How did your company fare in FY2014-15 in terms of business generated, growth rate and your expectations from the current financial year?
The Company has done good business in the year 2014-15. While the industry in general was going through a low phase; at Marathon we struck some major deals in the commercial real estate space & thus had grown 50 % growth on top line The current year financials have been good till now. It started on a very good note with some positive changes been brought about by the new government. Also, within first six months, there were three instances of rate cuts being announced by the RBI. This move was aimed at bringing down the interest rates. We expect the government to continue with its positive moves in the months to come. We are also expecting the government to clear some important policies such as single window scheme and allotting industry status to the sector in the months to come.

Could you provide us insight about the emerging trends in the Indian real estate sector?
Being Indians our housing needs are characteristic of who we are at our roots; essentially an extension of who we are at heart. So yes somewhere the emerging trends are moving towards understanding our customer´s needs much more than what just an apartment would or can offer. There is a very deep requirement for us as a sector to tap into it; to be able to build homes that do justice to the entire experience of life lived amongst its walls. The real estate in India is being redefined at a rapid pace. Today people are aware of the lifestyle residences that exist abroad and the state of the art technology that is undertaken to construct them. Developers have attempted to bring in the same foreign technology in the country and have created residences at par with global standards. International interior designers and architects are much in fashion today. Apart from technology, developers are also innovating new themes and styles to their residences. In Mumbai lifestyle apartments with series of amenities and facilities and townships are in trend.

Could you share with us your experience about any of your signature projects?
The group has developed Marathon Futurex, one of the tallest commercial green building which is also our signature project. The project is special as the concept is in sync with the company´s ideology of using resources in the best manner without wasting them.

One thing that has remained a common aspect across my experience of building all our projects; has been ´the constant endeavour to attempt something new; something distinct from the clichéd expectations ´ that is simple intuitive, logical and usable. At the end of the day to be able to really appreciate an offering its important to be able to use it´ and use it with wisdom if I were to say!!´

While constructing Marathon Futurex we began with a detailed research to study the concept of solar envelope. In this project we researched thoroughly the sun´s relative motion and made the design of the building to utilize the maximum sun-light throughout the year. This was possible through the Low emissivity (low e) glass. The low e-glass allows the sun´s heat and light to pass through the glass but blocks heat-generating ultraviolet light, requiring less artificial heating or cooling to keep a room at the desired temperature.

Creating this unique structure with special design and amenities is evident in our award winning high rise. Marathon Era & also low cost best project of year Marathon Nagari, our current high rises Monte Vista , Monte Carlo & 62 storey Monte South will set new benchmark in design & Quality.

What do you recommend to the government to boost the real estate sector in India?
Single window system and the need for industry status are some of the important policies that have been pending for the government nod since long. The single window scheme will result in quick approvals and industry status will help in securing funds from nationalized financial institutions required for construction purpose. Measures to reduce rate of interest will encourage home buyers to buy homes and subsidies in purchasing land will enable developers to provide homes at cheaper rate. All these measures will help in boosting the real estate sector in India.

As the country gears up to develop 100 Smart Cities and is focusing on setting up manufacturing hubs as part of ´Make in India´ campaign. What kind of opportunities do you see for your company?
The smart city movement is an innovative answer to the new concept of urbanization in India. This concept has picked up momentum now. Smart city is certainly an environment friendly concept. Indian Smart cities include advanced technologies like traffic control mechanisms, using sensors to monitor water leaks, tracking garbage trucks through global positioning systems to ensure they dump their waste at designated landfills, energy management in smart buildings and complexes. We look at all these factors as major opportunities that provide the developers a platform to depict the best of their capabilities and knowledge in the field. It gives us a chance to build more technology friendly and superior quality properties across various spectrums of our society and provides state of art facilities to the customers. Since it is an initiative by the government itself, we also expect that the government would provide us certain provisions and subsidies that would make our process trouble-free.

According to you, which segment of the real estate will be the top runner in the next five years? And Why?
The need for housing has been rising in Mumbai with every passing day. With shortage of space in Mumbai and Thane and the rising cost of land, affordable housing in the far end suburbs of Mumbai like Dombivli, Badlapur, Kalyan Shil road will gain a prime role. The reason is, mega infrastructure plans are been executed in these locations and this will form a base for the new residential and commercial construction in these locations.

Could you provide us insight about your current project portfolio?
The group has been in existence since 45 years. During this period it has completed more than 80 projects on time. There have been more than 5000 happy families and have 18 million sq.ft of land under development and 2 million sq.ft of business spaces under development.

Currently we are focused on making projects on the growth corridors of Mumbai ´ that are set to drive the future appreciation and growth of Mumbai as a sum total of dynamic growth of its extended suburbs like Badlapur, Dombivali and Panvel.

We have Marathon Nexzone a premium township project in Panvel, Marathon Nagari Nx ´ Badlapur, Marathon Nextown & Marathon Nexworld ´Dombivali.

After the success of our South Mumbai projects like Marathon Era, Marathon Futurex & Marathon Next Gen. We have joined hands with Adani Realty for our Super Luxury Project in South Mumbai ´ Monte South and we have also launched our Small Business Spaces at Marathon Icon that offers a smart and reasonable solution to owning office spaces instead of paying rent on equivalent rates.

What´s your take on the increase in overall construction cost owing to rise in building material and labor cost?
The consistent rise in cost of the building material and labor cost has directly resulted to the ever increasing prices of properties in India. Arrangements should be made to make certain subsidies available for raw materials and labor cost. In order to avail all necessary construction materials, the builders have to borrow large amount of finance and pay a high interest rate for the same. If the government assists the developers with financial help and makes necessary provisions for subsidized interest rates, the developers would majorly benefit from such an outcome. The continuous rise in construction cost puts us in a complex phase and thus compels us to raise the property prices which in turn affects the end consumer.

What kind of solution do you recommend to overcome shortage of manpower in the construction sector?
Technology and training is the only way to overcome shortage of manpower in the construction sector. Today with imported technology many jobs that require human resource can be carried out with handful of people. Along with imported technology, existing manpower needs to be trained to execute the jobs at the construction site.

What is the way forward to fast track infrastructure development process?
Quick decisions, adopting best technology and implementation along with minimum processes is the way forward to fast track infrastructure development process.

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