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Last Updated : May 22, 2019 02:28 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Sahil Vachani: Building Max Group's real estate dreams

The 36-year-old has led a turnaround in Max Ventures, and has just opened the Group's first real estate property

Prince Mathews Thomas @prince0879
 
 
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The first thing one notices while entering Max Towers is the statue in the courtyard. It is of a man doing a version of halasana, the plow pose in Yoga. While installing it, there was a debate on how to position the statue? In the end, it was decided to place the art form, created by South African artist Angus Vanzyl Taylor, in such a way that a visitor would first see the man's rear.

It may seem like an unusual decision, but Sahil Vachani knew it was the perfect way to portray Max Towers.

"We want to position the building as a fun place to work. We want to offer a space with the philosophy of work well. We want to bring in the environment to work well," says Vachani, who is the managing director and CEO of Max Ventures and Industries Limited.

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The Rs 600-crore Max Towers is the first real estate project of Max Ventures, also marking the entry of parent Max Group into the sector.

Bringing the focus on the “work well” part is, Vachani likes to call it the “software” of the building. This includes amenities like creche, an auditorium for hosting talk-shows and movies, restaurants, laundry services and even a garage. In the near future, those working here can also buy groceries and vegetables before heading home after work.

"We have created an infrastructure that fosters collaboration and networking," says Vachani. The CEO often doubles up as the venture's salesman-in-chief, proudly taking visitors through the features of this 21-floor building located on Delhi-Noida corridor.

The building was inaugurated in April, within two years of firming up the land lease. As proud he is of it, Vachani also understands the importance of Max Towers in the overall vision for Max Ventures.

Since he joined Max Ventures in 2016, Vachani has been leading a turnaround in the company. Much of its revenues comes from speciality films, a manufacturing business that is at odds with the otherwise “service-bent” of the $3 billion Max Group. Max Group gets most of its revenues from insurance and healthcare.

Vachani led two crucial transactions that helped in bringing in equity and expanded the speciality films business. From Rs 660 crore in the 2017 FY, the company's revenues are expected to be close to Rs 1,000 crore in the 2019 financial year. Margins, though, have remained squeezed because of high fuel costs and oversupply in the industry.

Despite the improvement, the stock of Max Ventures has lagged its peers and is now trading close to its 52-week low. The company's market cap is just about Rs 620 crore.

The real estate bet

Vachani wants to change that and is banking on the real estate venture to do that.

"While in our manufacturing business, the capacity expansion is kicking in and revenues should go up by 50 percent, in the coming years, the share of real estate will increase," he said. The company expects to earn Rs 100 crore from lease rentals this year alone.

After Max Towers, the focus is on Max House – the Group's Okhla office in Delhi that is being rebuilt. "While Max Towers has six lakh square feet, Max House will have 3.5 lakh square feet. That is nearly a million square feet of space. And we are exploring similar opportunities in NCR," says Vachani.

Apart from the financial opportunity, the 36-year-old is looking at real estate as a chance to create a brand at a time when many of the big industry names have been hauled up by consumer courts or are fighting insolvency in bankruptcy tribunals.

And, he is strongly seconded by Max Group founder Analjit Singh.

"What we bring is performance and integrity. So many realtors have stolen away customers’ money. There is a lack of transparency," says Singh.

He points out at the Group's insurance business, Max Financial Services Ltd, which has become the country's largest non-bank insurer, as an example of being a differentiator in a crowded space.

And, in Vachani who is married to Singh's younger daughter Tara Singh Vachani, the Max Group founder says he has found a “star” to emulate the insurance arm's performance in real estate.

"It is a difficult venture. At the same time, in Sahil, we have someone with a unique combination of strong business acumen, focus on delivery, and also humility," says Singh.

Is that just an indulgent father-in-law speaking?

May not be.

sahil vachani

 

Building business

Vachani comes from a business family. His grandfather was the founder of Weston Electronics, a home-bred brand that ushered in the television era in the country. Vachani joined one arm of the family business.

After completing his studies in the US, he had a stint in investment banking in London. After that, Vachani joined Dixon Technologies, a family firm that was into contract manufacturing.

Vachani set up a new vertical that specialised in making washing machines for white goods brands. He built it as the largest manufacturer of washing machines in the country before selling his stake to join Max Group in 2016.

At Max Ventures, too, Vachani has shown the penchant to grow businesses, this time in the real estate sector. It was not a smooth ride. The land, on which Max Towers today stands, was under a dispute. The Towers was earlier a part of a larger project, which included other commercial and residential buildings by a builder.

But, when the builder went bankrupt, Vachani took upon himself to not just clear the way for Max Towers - by getting clearances from the Noida authorities - but did the same for the project's other neighbouring buildings that belonged to Berger Paints and Manikchand.

Vachani also built the infrastructure, including parking area, basement and landscape, which were supposed to be done by the developer. This has helped Berger and Manikchand to begin work on their towers.

Vachani has shown interest in buying the rest of the project's buildings, which include residential towers. "This cluster will become an ideal place for office-goers. Imagine having your office - with all the amenities - home and a senior living space for your parents, all neighbouring each other," says Vachani.

Future role

Last year, Vachani was appointed a director on the board of Max Financial Services, as a representative of the Owner Sponsor Group, led by Singh.

The Max founder is clear about the role Vachani and Tara will play in the future. "They will take the role of face of sponsors," says Singh about his succession plan.

Tara had led the Group's entry to senior living. She is now the MD & CEO of Antara Senior Living, which started off with its property in Dehradun.

Vachani is cognizant of his role but is taking one step at a time. "It is an exciting time," he says.
First Published on May 22, 2019 12:23 pm
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