At a time when realtors are talking of a slowdown in sales, 48-year-old Ashok Chhajer is wringing his hands in glee. A hardcore realtor, Chhajer is expecting festive season sales to give a fillip to mid and affordable housing segment that his company, Arihant Superstructures, operates in. The owner of the Rs.700 crore market cap company is targeting 1,000 apartment sales from 15 projects over the next two quarters. Not surprising that Chhajer does not make any distinction between his personal and business wealth. “Till date, all my investments have been in real estate given its robust capital appreciation,” says Chhajer a resident of the tony neighbourhood of Palm Beach in Navi Mumbai.
Coming from a family of money lenders, third-gen Chhajer chose to branch out into real estate very early. “Real estate has not seen any capital appreciation over the past three years, but prior to that, for seven years on a trot, it gave around 20% return year-on-year,” says Chhajer. Arihant's projects are confined to Navi Mumbai and Jodhpur, and last year the company had sold 10 lakh square feet to buyers. Currently, the realtor has 12 million square feet of saleable area. “Our average land cost is Rs.250 per sq ft, while our average construction cost is around Rs.1,850 per sq ft,” he says. Given that Arihant is selling flats at an average Rs.4,000 per sq ft, the margins are higher. “We work with an Ebitda margin of 35%,” points out Chhajer.
The listed entity, which owns over 130 acres of land worth Rs.800 crore, wants to develop the balance 65 acres over the next six years. Inspired by Azim Premji, who transitioned from running a business of vegetable oils to IT, Chhajer believes real estate could see a sea change over the next decade. “Just building and selling flats won’t be the future. We are looking at concepts such as senior living, and ancillary services like facilities management coming of age. It’s still sometime away but we are gearing up to be a part of the transformation,” sums up Chhajer.