Ravi Menon: Taking the SOBHA LEGACY AHEAD
Ravi Menon joined Sobha Developers in June 2004 as a Director and was designated the Vice Chairman in January 2006. He was appointed the Chairman this year in June 2012. Born in Kerala, he did his graduation in civil engineering from Purdue University, USA with a distinction. In a span of eight years, as an executive member of the Board, he has contributed significantly to product execution which has resulted in the Company’s delivery levels increasing from 6 Million Square Feet in the financial year 2004-05 to over 50 Million Square Feet in cumulative during 2011-12, a new milestone in the history of the Company and the construction industry in India as a whole. During the same time, the turnover of the Company increased from Rs. 6,248.34 Million in the financial year 2005-06 to Rs. 14,144 Million in the financial year 2011-12, an increase of around 125%. He has played a pivotal role in devising the corporate strategy, diversifying through product lines and entering into new geographies thereby strengthening the foundation of the Company. He has been actively responsible for the launch of new product lines and attainment of the highest standards of quality. Under his leadership, the Company has consolidated its operations and become a widely recognized and acclaimed brand.
A man of details, he has brought about tremendous value addition to the organization in terms of creating Project Management Information Systems, detailed Technology Manual, elaborate Quality Evaluation Procedure, Customer Care Structure, Innovation Culture, and Sobha Academy, which is focused on the Technical and Behavioral development of all employees. He has been instrumental in strengthening the execution by focusing on micro level tracking of cost, quality and time. Highly organized, he aims to transform Sobha into a system driven organization by documenting each and every process of the Company. His objective is to transform Sobha Developers into an organization of the future. For his dedicated service and achievements, Ravi Menon has been bestowed with the ‘Young Achievers’ Award’ at the Real Estate Awards 2012 and the ‘Star Realty Magnetic Young Icon’ award at the Star Realty Awards 2012. Ravi Menon in a conversation with Bejoy George talks in detail about Sobha and what makes his company distinct.
Sobha is known for its quality. How do you ensure the same?
Sobha Developers was established in 1995 with a clear vision to transform the way people perceive quality. Today 302 projects later, Sobha is a brand trusted for perfection.
Sobha has an in-house Quality & Safety Department, comprising experienced German master craftsmen, that ensures the quality of the product at every stage of construction.
It is our assiduous attention to details, constant innovation, meticulous execution and strong adherence to international standards that helps us differentiate from others and add significant value to our products.
What are Sobha’s broad product verticals?
Sobha is primarily focused on residential and contractual projects.
The Company’s residential projects include presidential apartments, villas, row houses, super luxury apartments, luxury apartments, semi-luxury apartments and plotted development along with amenities such as a clubhouse, swimming pool and shopping complexes. In all its residential projects the Company lays strong emphasis on environmental management, water harvesting and high safety standards.
On the contractual side, the Company has constructed a variety of structures for corporates including state of the art offices, convention centres, software development blocks, multiplex theatres, hostel facilities, guest houses, food courts, restaurants, and research centres. Some of Sobha’s prestigious clients include Infosys, Taj, Leela, Dell, HP, Timken, Biocon, Institute of Public Enterprises, and Bosch amongst others.
We understand Sobha has constructed over 50 million sq. ft. of space. Can you provide us with the latest data in terms of completed projects?
As of September 30, 2012, in the past 17 years, Sobha has completed 81 residential projects and 221 contractual projects covering about 53.73 million sq. ft. of space.
How many projects are in the pipeline as on date?
The Company currently has 39 ongoing residential projects aggregating to 24.54 million sq. ft. of developable area and 17.35 million sq. ft. of super built-up area, and 41 ongoing contractual projects aggregating to 9.93 million sq. ft. under various stages of construction.
Please elaborate on Sobha’s backward integration model.
The backward integration model is one of the key competitive strengths of Sobha. This literally means that the Company clearly has all the key competencies and in-house resources to deliver a project from conceptualization to completion. Backward integration includes an interiors division with one of India’s largest woodworking factories, a metal works and glazing factory, and a concrete products factory.
The Interiors Division is engaged in wood work and manufacturing wood or wood based products of international quality, superlative finish and incredible durability including doors and windows, wooden floorings, ceilings, panels, pillars and staircases, and custom built furniture for commercial and residential use. In addition, this division also includes an in-house wood working design studio and a dedicated design team that provides interior design schemes and production specific drawings.
The Glazing & Metal Division carries out metal fabrication work such as aluminum windows and doors, structural, and architectural glazing. The fabrication activities are carried out at the factory premises, whereas assembly and the installation are carried out at the project sites.
The Concrete Block Making Division manufactures concrete blocks, pavers, kerbs, water drainage channels, paving slabs and related landscape products.
What is the architectural design expertise that Sobha has?
Architectural Design is the process of integrating the Client’s functional requirements with the Architect’s ideas and the environment. Sobha’s Architectural design studio comprises of Architects, Graphic Designers, Model Makers and 3D Visualizers and is equipped with the best of technology.
The design process begins after the technical feasibility study of a potential piece of land. Once found feasible, conceptual plans are prepared. On approval of concept plans, drawings for marketing and statutory purposes are prepared.
This is followed by the preparation of good for construction drawings, which entails preparation of a comprehensive set of drawings, comprising of architectural, coordinated structural engineering and services drawings.
On an average, the count of the total number of drawings for a typical residential building would range between 350 to 400 numbers. And, in order to prepare these drawings, approximately 2800 man hours are spent.
Detailing is the key to the success of our projects. Many of our details are standardized and well documented. Interestingly, about 40 percent of the total set of drawings are detail drawings. And it is these details that help our engineers to precisely construct all the finer components that make Sobha’s buildings truly world-class.
Please explain the measures you take to ensure environmental friendliness in your projects and the different Quality certifications that Sobha has obtained.
We try our best to bring in eco-friendly measures at every stage of development. Our commitment to sustainability comes to life through a well-structured management process that is pivoted around the PDCA principle “Plan – Do – Check – Act”.
Our attempt is to ascertain the Genius Loci, i.e. ‘the guardian spirit of a place’ during the initial stages of identifying land parcels. We observe and identify the specialties of that place and its surroundings and make every attempt to retain the inherent character of the land.
Our buildings are planned along natural contours in order to minimise earth cutting & filling. We, in fact, capitalise on the contours available to create different levels in our plan. This prevents not only soil erosion but also reduces pollution.
In all our projects, we lay strong emphasis on environment management practices like rain water harvesting and recycling of waste. More than 40% of our construction area is dedicated to green spaces. A Sobha home is designed for maximum ventilation and natural lighting, thereby curtailing the use of electricity during the day. For instance, the size of the window and its orientation is planned in a manner that reduces the requirement of air conditioning and prevents the glare through direct sunlight.
We use solar lighting, water efficient fixtures, energy efficient lifts & equipments, reflective ceramic tiles, insulation materials, heat-resistant paints and heat-repellent glasses that are in synergy with the environment. Storm water management techniques are also used to prevent soil erosion. Many of our developments subscribe to the green guidelines laid down by IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Such initiatives are highly appreciated by our customers.
We were one of the first companies in the industry to obtain the ISO 9001 certification. We have also received the OHSAS 18001:2007 and ISO 14001:2004 certifications for our Environmental, Health and Safety Management System.
How do you interact with your customers?
Sobha has an in-house Customer Relationship Management (CRM) team as well as a unique Customer Care Cell (C3). The CRM team keeps customers informed about the progress of our projects and provides any other after-sales services that the customers may require after the completion of the sales process. The C3 provides support to customers during the one-year warranty programme.
Our focus on customer relationship management has yielded significant results over the years, in the form of satisfied customers, higher levels of transparency to customers and improvement of internal processes to deliver a better customer experience. The outcome of this concerted effort is high referral sales.
How do you train your workforce?
Sobha nurtures its talent pool with a myriad of skills and capabilities. It’s the only company in the real estate sector to have a full-fledged training centre – The Sobha Academy. Set up at Bangalore, it is a unique centre for learning that offers both the management staff and workforce specially designed skill development programmes.
In order to make Sobha’s staff more proficient, the Technical Training Department at Sobha designs and coordinates modules which relate to the various aspects of technical operations. These training sessions aim at providing all-round, functional training of the various processes that are followed at Sobha sites, with specific emphasis on critical tasks and detailed procedures.
The Sobha Academy conducts courses for tradesmen, who are the key resource of the Company’s project sites. Fresh recruits are given intense training to make them adept in specific work skills like tiling, granite masonry, gypsum works, water-proofing, electrical, and plumbing works.
The Technician Supervisor Model adopted by the Company for on-the-job training at the sites stresses on the importance of hands-on-experience.
The comprehensive in-house construction handbook on building construction activities communicates the best construction practices to the execution team across the organization at all the project sites. Additionally, a knowledge management system also offers learning opportunities to the employees.
Sobha is known for serving the community. Can you throw some light on Sobha’s CSR initiatives?
The Company believes that for the overall well-being of the society, a comprehensive and sustainable development of rural India is a must. It is in this context that Graamasobha, a unique social developmental programme was initiated by the organisation in 2006 in two grama panchayaths – Vadakkenchery and Kizhakkenchery – in Palakkad district of Kerala. The programme covers key human development verticals like education, health, employment, water, sanitation and housing besides various social empowerment measures.
Various social institutions have been established for the development of the rural poor.
- The Sobha Academy has been created to empower the rural poor to break away from the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance, deprivation and exclusion by providing their children high quality education comparable to the best anywhere in the world.
- The Sobha Health Care Center has redefined the limits of a primary health care institution run anywhere in the country.
- Sobha’s Hermitage is the epitome of humanity, tendering love, care and support to the neglected segments of society – senior citizens as well as young widows and their children.
- Sobha Vocational Training Center (SVTC) with its advanced resources and facilities aims at providing functional vocational training.
- The Sobha Community Center’s core purpose lies in organizing social functions and feeding the poor, several of whom are fed free every single day.
In the history of Indian villages, our initiatives are perhaps the first of their kind, undertaken with so much investment in designing, developing and delivering state-of-the-art infrastructure to the poorest of the poor. Graamasobha stands as a successful model for others to follow to usher development at the village level.