India’s real estate industry has always been rather tradition-bound – but with newer technology continuously being introduced, many of enterprises have been adapting to these changes. Tech-savvy millennials are dominating the market, and the real estate industry is now morphing into alignment with technological advancements. Ensuring that specialized retailers get the exact spaces they require along with scalability options, ANAROCK Retail provides highly evolved tech-enabled property consultancy services.
In this interview, Anuj Kejriwal, CEO & Managing Director for ANAROCK Retail talks about heading India’s most tech-enabled retail real estate consultancy services.
- Tell us about the company.
ANAROCK Retail taps into India’s $700 bn. retail market via its expert retail consultancy services. The firm is the result of a partnership between ANAROCK and Faithlane Property Consultants, which I had formed after exiting my role as National Director for a prominent international property consultancy. At ANAROCK Retail, we use our deep market reach in this domain to bring top retailers and owners of India’s best retail spaces together after crafting the most optimal arrangements for both sides. With our team of highly knowledgeable market experts, we have successfully bridged the retail real estate gap. By leveraging ANAROCK’s highly tech-enabled property consultancy services, ANAROCK Retail has created the ultimate retail real estate leasing solution in India.
- What were the initial challenges you faced?
Retail real estate is a highly competitive space and there are a multitude of firms active in this arena. However, as we are established players with a strong record of successful leasing mandates, we managed to edge out the competition in very little time. Our aim is to bridge the disconnect between retailers and the spaces they need. Many mall owners have been unable to align their products and strategies to the new retail environment, and often need to be convinced that using ANAROCK’s technology-driven services is the best way forward for them.
- Which was that point that triggered the growth of the company?
In recent years there has been a huge demand for retail leasing consultants who can assure successful matching of both mall owners and retailers. ANAROCK Retail hit the ground running as we had innumerable on-going mandates which needed to be serviced. As such, there was no definite point at which we entered the growth phase – it was growth from the word ‘go’.
- What is the reason behind your company’s long-standing success?
Among many other factors, our success also lies in ANAROCK Retail’s ability to turn around the performance and fortunes of ailing or badly-implemented malls. 2017 it witnessed large-scale mall closures and nearly 5 million sq. ft. of retail space was wiped out. These malls can technically be considered ‘dead’ and the developers are constantly looking at opportunities to revive them as retail entities, rather than converting them into offices and mixed-use projects. In most cases, developers did not invest in strategic research of the tenanting equation, adequate leasing expertise and the right mall management partners. It is, in fact, possible to revive a mall if a professional firm like ANAROCK reworks the equation at the DNA level. In other cases, the available space can still be turned profitable via focused mixed-use tenanting, ‘reverse modelling’ or a complete revamp of the business model.
- What are the products/services the company focuses on? How are your services different from those in the market?
ANAROCK Retail offers bespoke, customized retail space leasing solutions to mall developers, high street retail players and retailers. Our strength lies in our highly-experienced team which leverages ANAROCK’s proprietary technology solutions to close client requirements quickly and for optimal profitability of all concerned parties. We advise mall developers and retailers on the best strategy right from their entry into the market and throughout the lifecycle of their retail business. Of course, ANAROCK’s inherent strength as India’s premier real estate consultancy services provider is a major advantage that opens doors and closes deals.
- How do you decide to take the company a step further in terms of your products/services?
We will focus on building our team strength, expanding into newer geographies and upping the ante on technological innovations in retail space planning, leasing and advisory.
- How do you think is the real estate market evolving?
Of the 65 mn sq. ft. of new mall supply hitting the Indian market by 2022-end, nearly two-thirds (40 mn sq. ft.) will deploy by 2020-end itself – and not just in the metros. This new supply is also driven by the increasing interest of institutional investors – including PE players – who invested almost USD 1.9 bn into Indian retail between 2015 and Q1 2019. In fact, over 60% of this investment corpus was infused in the last two years (2017 and 2018) alone, making these the best years for the retail sector in recent times. Notwithstanding the decline in deal activity in the second half of 2018 following the NBFC-induced liquidity crisis, the retail segment attracted investments of almost USD 115 million in just the first quarter of 2019.
- Which are the new areas that are being explored in the real estate market?
PropTech has disrupted the retail sector in India – specifically in mall designing or creating avenues for enhancing customer experience. From basic AutoCAD drawings, architects and designers have moved to software such as ‘Revit’ and ‘Archi Cad’ to enhance overall mall designs to ensure a superior customer experience. Architects and designers use these tools to visualize and plan the placement of stores within the mall to increase visibility. Currently, the use of technology in the retail sector is largely limited to designing or creating customer experiences. Its scope for leasing of mall spaces has not been fully explored as yet, and this function continues to be done offline – either through real estate brokers or via the developer’s own channels – based on the requirement and availability of space. Globally, the trend is to adopt PropTech in just about everything, including leasing and lease management. This approach leads to enhanced ease and profitability.
- Can you share your views on RERA, GST and Demonetization? How is it impacting the businesses?
RERA, GST and demonetization were necessary to usher Indian real estate out of its almost traditional opacity and into a new era of transparency and accountability. They have doubtlessly induced short term pain, but the reward will eventually be of long-term gain. The market must and will adjust to these new realities and become a better place to operate in for all stakeholders.
- What do you think are the responsibilities of an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship for its own sake is pointless and inherently fruitless. It must be backed by a definite goal, an innovative approach to disrupting the status quo, and most importantly by sufficient knowledge and expertise.
- Can you please brief us about your professional experience?
Prior to launching Faithlane in and its subsequent merger with Indian real estate industry stalwart Anuj Puri’s ANAROCK Group. I was National Director for Retail Services at a prominent international property consultancy. In this capacity, I set the strategic direction for its retail division and drove revenue growth for the West India market. Simultaneously, I oversaw this IPC’s retail business in Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata, and was key relationship manager for several of India’s largest and leading retail chains and retail real estate owners. My professional career spans 15 years and includes Retail Capital Markets functions such as strategic divestment of retail real estate assets to institutional buyers and HNIs.
- How do you look after your employees? What makes your team unique?
We don’t have employees – we have a team of highly-empowered and experienced retail professionals and everyone shares leadership responsibilities. When such a team works cohesively and gets as much as they give, there can be no other result than success.
- Can you tell us which your favourite book is? And your favourite part of the book (if any)?
Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill.
- One person who you admire the most?
Kishore Biyani, Founder and CEO of Future Group \
- Which is the most inspiring quote you have read?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
- Constant vigilance- a need or a strategy? Please share your views.
The retail market needs constant vigilance, analysis and interpretation. However, if you have a team that needs constant vigilance too, you need to get yourself a new team. At ANAROCK Retail, the only vigilance needed is outward-facing, not internal.
- It’s a rat-race out there. How do you cope with that?
In a rat race, cats are the clear winners. So, in my opinion, the best strategy is to emulate the qualities of a cat rather than participate in the rat race