O.P. Gupta, Chairman, Ashiana Housing
At 33, Om Prakash Gupta understood how too many cooks can spoil the broth. His first real estate venture—Ashiana Engineers—had seven co-founders. So, besides many egos clashing, not much else got done. When Gupta moved on and built his second venture, Ashiana Housing, he swore to keep things simple. Goals and targets were defined, and had to be met. Today Ashiana Housing is a 120-plus-crore firm, and was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of “Asia’s 200 Best Under A Billion” company.
Though my father was an entrepreneur, I did not learn how to “run” a company from him. But, he taught me the importance of honesty and hard work. Those are essentials for any business. That helped a lot when I started my first real estate venture in 1979, Ashiana Engineers. I co-founded it with six friends. Let’s just say having seven co-founders was reason enough for the firm’s birth and well as its demise. Together we were able to pool in 70,000. It gave us some momentum. Within months, it was obvious this wouldn’t work. We couldn’t ever reach a decision. There were too many viewpoints, too much ambiguity and a lot of clashing egos. Eventually, we decided to go our separate ways.
Though our dream was short lived, I learnt a key lesson—keep things simple. I made that a core part of Ashiana Housing. Here, individual roles were well-defined. Each person knew their goals and what was expected of them.
The company was structurally sound but we had a huge challenge to overcome. We were trying to sell flats in 1985-86 in a place like Jamshedpur. The concept was absolutely new for them. We tried every trick in the book—from hoardings to door-to-door sale. It was hectic, tiring and time consuming, but it worked. Companies like IOC and BPCL noticed us and our 80-odd flats got sold in 12 to 18 months. Here, I learnt that patience and effective marketing go hand-in-hand. Also, advertising needs to be kept simple. The idea is to reach out to people, not intimidate or confuse them.
Selling isn’t enough. Though our flats were sold out, we found out that maintaining them was an issue. Within a few months, the units would begin to look dilapidated and dirty. This was not good for our clients and our brand. Understanding this need was a great lesson. We immediately started Vatika Marketing Limited—a new facility management company—to take care of the flats we developed. A well maintained product says a lot about your brand.
As our brand and market grew, we were often tempted to take up projects in different segments—top end or lower income brackets. We decided to stay focused in the middle income group and chose to develop untapped markets.
Today Ashiana Housing is synonymous with quality middle-income group residential projects. So many people have become first-time home owners with our projects. And it’s worked beautifully for us. Many might consider multi-tasking to be a great trait But, In business, it’s better to be a king of one trade, than be the Jack of many.