Prestige Group: Building Trust Over Space

Almost 30 years ago, two brothers  – Irfan and Rezwan Razack dared to moved away from the family’s well established retail business to create their own space. Today, what then might have been frowned upon as a break from tradition, is a company worth a couple of billion dollars. That, in short, is the story of the Prestige Group, India’s second largest developer, which is credited with redefining Bengaluru’s skyline.  The company ended fiscal 2016 with a turnover of Rs 4700 crores.

As you drive through the streets of Bengaluru – the city where Prestige was born in 1986, witnessed an unprecedented growth and is today headquartered; you will find the Falcon dotting the landscape. The mighty Falcon, which is the icon of the Prestige Group, has now come to be associated with world class infrastructure, trust and quality. In fact, the story of the emergence of Bengaluru as the Silicon Valley of India would remain incomplete without a mention of the role of the Prestige Group in creating the enabling infrastructure. Today the group has a presence across all real estate asset classes, from homes to offices to retail, hospitality, leisure business and IT Parks and SEZs.

 Millions of square feet and still growing

As on date, the company has completed more than 195 projects covering over 67 million square feet of space. The company has 65 ongoing projects generating 70 million square feet and 36 upcoming projects aggregating 48 million square feet of world-class real estate across asset classes. As much as Bengaluru bets on Prestige, Prestige, too, bets on Bengaluru with 85% of its portfolio standing on home turf. The company has over 160 properties in Bengaluru alone. More recently, it has expanded its footprint to Chennai, Goa, Hyderabad, Kochi, Mangaluru and Mysore.

 Prestige Acropolis is one of Bengaluru’s first luxury residential developments. Forum Mall is Bengaluru’s first and most successful retail mall. Prestige Shantiniketan is the city’s first wholly integrated township project. The Collection, UB City, built in partnership with the UB Group, is South India’s first luxury mall. Prestige Bluechip Tech Park in Koramangala was among the first of its kind and was built in the early 2000s. Today the Prestige Tech Park, with an offering of six million square feet is among the largest in the city. The group also has huge spaces occupied by a single tenant, like the Cessna Business Park where Cisco occupies 3.5 million square feet. The company also has tie-ups with world-class hospitality brands like the Hilton-Conrad, Sheraton, Marriott. And the list goes on…

Although the group has a strong product portfolio across asset classes, the residential segment continues to be the primary driver of business within the Prestige Group. Even when the markets were fluctuating, the residential offerings from the group did well. There is now a focus on middle-income housing, where the demand is substantial. The commercial segment is not too far behind with high volumes of leasing taking place throughout last financial year and rentals of malls and office spaces making handsome gains.

Awards galore

Small wonder then that the Prestige Group is the only developer from Bengaluru to receive the reputed FIABCI award for their Software and Residential Facilities. Among other laurels, the company’s Investor Relationship (IR) Programme, has been ranked the Second Best in Asia and the Best in India by the Institutional Investor (II) magazine’s 2014 All-Asia Executive Team Rankings. Prestige is the only CRISIL DA1 rated developer in India and has also been awarded the financial rating of A- by ICRA. They are the only developers from India to win the celebrated FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Award 2016 for their landmark luxury residential development, Prestige Silver Oak.

 Banking on trust

But more than all the space that it has created, the group’s most significant achievement, perhaps, has been to convert the real estate industry from one that was treated with suspicion to one that commands trust. As Irfan Razack, the group’s Chairman and Managing Director, himself says: “In the past, real estate was treated with a considerable amount of suspicion and apprehension by the wider public due to the lack of regulatory oversight and a large number of unscrupulous developers who often took buyers’ money and either delivered poor quality final products or, in many unfortunate circumstances, failed to deliver at all. The industry was crying out for ethical, dependable and transparent developers and I am proud to say that Prestige was at the forefront of that revolution and set many benchmarks.”

This ability to build a trust-based relationship with all stakeholders – be they, buyers, architects, suppliers or employees – has enabled the group to become an industry leader. Trust, combined with ethics and high-quality infrastructure at affordable prices has become the hallmark of business at Prestige. The group’s core value is based on the 7 Cs concept – Comprehensive, Capable, Competent, Consistent, Credible, Cost Effective and Confidence. Today, more than the land bank in its possession, the group’s highest performing asset is the customer’s faith in its ability to deliver what is promised.

Strong after-sales and communications

Moreover, a sound after-sales strategy has further strengthened Prestige’s leadership position in the market. At Prestige, all client queries, past or present, are dealt with a similar sense of urgency and commitment. Past clients are not forgotten. Thus, the relationship with them doesn’t end with a sale. It is in line with this philosophy that the Prestige Property Management and Services (PPMS) was set up in 1996 to provide high quality maintenance and post construction care for all Prestige developments. The Prestige Group can be credited to be the first builder in India to come up with a dedicated company for post-construction care. The 950-member team consists of highly skilled workers who are specially trained to maintain the impeccable standards that are the hallmark of all Prestige developments.

In order to keep every customer, both in the country and overseas abreast of all developments, the group has created ‘Falcon News’, which is not just an award-winning magazine, but is one of the group’s strongest communication tools. It has grown to be recognized as a magazine in its own right with a circulation of over 27,000, targeting customers and all other stakeholders.

The company also publishes a luxury magazine called ‘The Luxury Collection’ which highlights the latest trends in fashion, luxury and lifestyle, with special focus on international and national luxury brands within The Collection, UB City – South India’s only luxury mall and a joint venture between the Prestige Group and the UB Group.

Additionally, Prestige puts a lot of thought, creativity, innovation and planning into each and every marketing and advertising campaign for its various offerings. The communication practices are based on the principle that a client must feel the property that is being launched. They are designed as works of art, taking them way beyond a plain vanilla marketing pitch. Testimony to this is the fact that the company has received several awards for its innovative approach.

The company has a strong online presence and all details and developments related to the company can be found on its website. Moreover, the Prestige Group provides an application where homebuyers can track the progress of the projects that they have invested in. This creates transparency while making the company more accountable to its clients. Billboards across the city also give information on Prestige’s latest offerings, further creating top-of-mind recall for the brand.

Clearly, a brand is not built over a day. Yet, age alone cannot build a brand. The Prestige Group appears to have got the formula right.

Mr. Irfan Razack, ‘Falconer’ of the Prestige Group

A man of many facets, Mr. Irfan Razack, the Chairman and Managing Director of the Prestige Group, has been the chief architect of the company’s growth. His leadership skills were on display right from his days as a student leader at St. Joseph’s College, Bengaluru. In recognition of his achievements of those days, the St. Joseph’s Old Boys Association has honoured him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Those who know him well will tell you that Irfan can spot opportunities where none apparently exist. He has the courage to take the untrodden path and the determination to see his vision through. In his march forward, Irfan has been ably assisted by his brothers Rezwan Razack and Noaman Razack.

His leadership acumen received national recognition when he was declared ‘Professional of the Year’ at the Real Estate Excellence Awards 2008. He has been Honorary Secretary of the Al Ameen Educational Society for 21 years, the President of Bangalore Commercial Association (BCA), and the Chairman of the Real Estate Committee of CREDAI, Karnataka for 4 years. In the past, he has served as Vice-President of CREDAI National and is currently serving as Chairman of the same.

Irfan has been a special invitee to the southern regional council of Confederation of Indian Industries (CII). His views on the real estate business is much sought after across various forums.

While Irfan propels the Falcon to newer heights, he keeps himself rooted to the ground. A concerned citizen and a caring individual, Irfan spends both time and resources on philanthropic and social causes. His dream of contributing more towards the education segment led to the ‘Educate India Foundation’, another Prestige initiative through which he co-founded the Inventure Academy (estb. 2005), a leading K-12 International School in Bangalore.

A past President of Rotary Midtown, Bengaluru, he is still actively involved in the club’s activities, and is also a Paul Harris Fellow. Among his many initiatives is the Rotary Midtown Prestige Citizen Extraordinaire Award to honour citizens of Bengaluru who have contributed to society in a significant way. In 2015, he was also inducted as a member of the esteemed Arch C Klumph Society – a special fellowship offered to only a privileged few from the Rotary Foundation.

Irfan has received recognition from the United Nations University International’s Leadership Academy (UNU/ILA) in Jordan. He was also voted as one of the Best CEOs in Asia (Best In India) in the reputed Institutional Investor (II) magazine’s 2014 All-Asia Executive Team Rankings. Considered among the most respected businessmen in India today, Irfan was conferred the Bharat Ratna Sir M. Visvesvaraya Memorial Award 2015 by the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

 In Irfan’s words

At Prestige, growth and expansion is constant, as change is constant. So, we have to think creatively all the time to see how new initiatives can be taken up.

Last year, we actively got into the warehousing market and have been pursuing this asset class more aggressively this year. We are also focusing on several new launches in different parts of Bengaluru as well as in Chennai and Mangaluru. We are launching 2 to 3 large-scale IT developments in Bengaluru. Simultaneously, we are also in the process of finalizing a piece of land in Pune for an IT Park.

New investments are a continuous trend but the current assets in the retail, hospitality and IT Parks segments need to get completed. While we are always on the lookout for fresh opportunities that may come along, we would also like to consolidate our position and complete what is on hand.

 His advice to fellow builders

Ensure that your property is in the right location with the right pricing. That is the main criteria. Apart from that, your reputation, track-record, relevant government clearances and clean documentation will go a long way in gaining the trust of the customer. Also, in a bid to make more sales, do not price your product too low. In a market where there is sufficient supply and every developer is working with thin margins, if you end up offering prices below the average market price, at the end of the day, you will run out of cash and, in spite of well-meaning intentions, be unable to deliver the goods.

Finally, it has taken the real estate industry many years to gain respectability. Over the years, we have managed to grow into a booming industry and this has happened because of several big players – ethical, dependable and transparent developers, who have managed to change the face of the industry. Today, the real estate industry is one of the strongest drivers of employment in the country.

My request to young, upcoming developers would be to be honest to their work and deliver on their commitments to their customers, so that they can bring respect to our industry as a whole. The strategy over the next few years for developers should be to marry their project specifications with the actual demand to create sustainable businesses.

 Upcoming projects

There are several projects lined up, like Kingfisher Towers – an uber luxury residential project next to UB City and one of the most anticipated developments from the company. Also, there is Prestige Lakeside Habitat located in Varthur, Whitefield, and spread over 102 acres. It features 3428 apartments and 271 villas. The family-friendly development offers one of the best environments for community living. The highlight of the property is a Disney-themed landscape that creates an ethereal, fairy tale-like aura for all residing there. Disney-inspired rooms consist of Disney-branded furnishing, home décor products, colour palettes and more, bringing alive the complete Disney experience for families. Prestige Lakeside Habitat is a huge milestone for the Prestige Group as it is the largest residential development by the company till date, in terms of acreage and the total number of residences, apart from being the biggest upcoming residential township development in the country today.

 Some landmark properties

  • Prestige Ozone: One of the first gated villa communities in Bengaluru
  • Forum Neighbourhood Mall: South India’s first real outlet mall featuring international and national brands
  • The Collection, UB City: South India’s first luxury mall (In partnership with the UB Group)
  • Prestige Golfshire: South India’s first golf villa development, including the world-class 5-star, luxury resort hotel, The JW Marriot, set against the picturesque Nandi Hills. Spread across 275 acres, the property comes complete with ultra-luxurious mansions, a Clubhouse (Falcon Greens), a luxury spa (Quan), a private lake and an 18-hole, championship-sized golf course.
  • Prestige Shantiniketan: South India’s first wholly integrated township development including residential, office, retail and hospitality.

On the hospitality front, the Prestige Group has been credited with introducing some of the most reputed international brands in the world to South India, such as the Hilton Group and Marriott International in hotels; the Banyan Tree in resorts; and Oakwood for service apartments. In association with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the company launched its hotel, ‘The Aloft’, in Cessna Business Park in 2014 and will be launching the Sheraton Hotel in Prestige Shantiniketan, in the near future. The company’s world-class projects have also attracted renowned clients such as Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Oracle, IBM and Cisco to name a few.