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CEO Interview with Arvind Subramanian

Managing Director & CEO of Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd.

1. Self & company introduction (by Arvind Subramanian)

As Managing Director & CEO of Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd., the real estate arm of the Mahindra Group, I oversee the operations and business strategy of the Company. Our business spans both integrated cities and industrial clusters under the ‘Mahindra World City’ and ‘ORIGINS by Mahindra World City’ brands; and residential developments under the ‘Mahindra Lifespaces®’ and ‘Mahindra Happinest®’ brands.

Our development footprint spans 25.3 million sq. ft. (2.3 million sq. m.) of completed, ongoing and forthcoming residential projects across seven Indian cities; and over 5000 acres of ongoing and forthcoming projects under development/management at its integrated developments/industrial clusters across four locations. As a pioneer of the green homes movement, we are one of the first real estate companies in India to have committed to the global Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).  

 

2. How has the global pandemic of Covid-19 impacted your company?

Mahindra Lifespaces has a well-balanced portfolio with its three legs – industrial cities, mid-premium residential and affordable housing – giving it stability and resilience to shifts in the market.  However, as with all other industries and companies, we also experienced the brunt of the early disruption caused by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent intermittent lockdowns in India.

Our biggest priority was to ensure the safety and well-being of our teams across the country.  We reached out to our stakeholders – our construction workers, site teams and channel partners - to ensure that they were following safe working practices and yet continuing to be engaged.  We also continued to focus on learning and development activities; team engagement; the strengthening of our capabilities in digital and technology enablement; and boosting our channel partner network. With subsequent phased ‘unlocking’ of economic activities, residential real estate in India has experienced a recovery in both enquiries and sales July 2020 onwards. 

On the flip side, the Mahindra World Cities in Chennai and Jaipur remained operational through all phases of India’s lockdown, enabling eligible on-site companies to continue manufacturing and even export, and supporting Indian and global supply chains and markets. The restart time for companies based out of the Mahindra World Cities was significantly short as a result of proactive preparedness;24/7 on-ground operations support; and the strategic advantages of an integrated ecosystem designed for business continuity.  Some of our customers even diversified into new product categories and entered new markets or gained market share.  We have signed on 7 customers in the last couple of quarters across the IT/ITeS, medical devices, manufacturing, retail, warehousing and logistics sectors, notwithstanding the pandemic. 

Our Mahindra World Cities and ORIGINS developments are today preferred business destinations for 160+ companies from 20+ countries. With the marked geopolitical shifts currently underway, many multinationals are looking to re-orient their global manufacturing footprint, and our industrial cities and parks are an attractive choice.  We are experiencing a steady growth of enquiries from marquee companies who are looking to set up manufacturing facilities in India.

 

3. How are you dealing with the challenges it has brought? Have your operations resumed?

While we have resumed operations and construction activities across our integrated cities, industrial clusters and residential projects, our focus remains on ensuring the health, safety and well-being of our on-site construction workers, employees, customers and other stakeholder communities. 

At the same time, we strongly believe that every crisis throws up both challenges and opportunities.  Our company stands on the shoulders of the Mahindra Group, which brings us global goodwill and trust. We have built a strong foundation of successful, timely and environment-friendly projects; and disciplined financial management, which has been our strength over the past many years.  The thrust is now on scaling our business in our focus markets/geographies, while driving product and process innovation, and creating value for customers and stakeholders.

We are also a pioneer in integrated cities in India with the Mahindra World City in Chennai, followed by the successful launch and growth of Mahindra World City, Jaipur and ORIGINS, Chennai.  Together, the Mahindra World Cities have generated exports worth ~Rs. 101000Cr, and have created direct and indirect employment for more than 52000 persons till date. And while the first few months of the pandemic demanded unwavering focus on planning, multi-stakeholder collaboration and continual adaptation to a rapidly evolving situation, we are now very well-positioned to contribute to the next phase of ‘Make In India’ and ‘Make For India’ via plug-n-play infrastructure and planned industrial ecosystems that have enabled faster time-to-market for both global and Indian companies. 

 

4. Any comments on the post-Covid business ecosystem in India (specific to your industry)?

The Government of India is in talks with more than 1000 foreign companies to shift manufacturing base to India; and is working on EODB, tax reforms, FDI and other measures.  Additional policy impetus towards infrastructure, local manufacturing through ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and technology-driven entrepreneurship will drive demand for well-managed industrial ecosystems that are strategically connected to ports, national highways and talent hubs in India. We are well-poised to harness this opportunity.

Also, global companies have understood the risks of over-depending on one country and hence, are moving towards widening their supply chain network, which is a great opportunity for India, and for the Mahindra World City and ORIGINS offerings. A large and vibrant domestic market for e-commerce will also substantially increase demand for logistics and warehousing, both of which are demand drivers for our IC & IC business. 

 

5. How has IFCCI added value to your company in India? Would you recommend other companies to join as a member?

With Mr. Arun Nanda, Chairman of Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd., also serving as Chairman Emeritus of IFCCI, our association with IFCCI has continued to strengthen over the years.  We have three French companies currently operating out of Mahindra World City in Chennai – Capgemini, Novares and Renault Nissan. As a member of IFCCI, Mahindra World City has built strong connects with over 650 Indo-French member companies in India, and has co-curated multiple events and discussions. 

IFCCI has made considerable strides in promoting Indo-French collaboration and engaging in advocacy, and we would highly commend membership!

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