Inside Unreal Estate: Book Review

As a matter of fact, Indians love real estate but the information available about it is largely limited to marketing & promotional material, word of mouth and general observation. Hence, investments made in the sector by individuals is generally not based on factual analysis of demand and supply. The book is written by a real estate practitioner Mr. Sushil Kumar Sayal who has had a very successful career in notable organizations including Bharti Realty which he finally joined in the recent years. It’s almost a professional autobiography of the author and his experiences throughout the mature part of his career.

The beginning is filled with general information and the current circumstances about the sector which investors are expected to know from following popular news. But after the first few pages I quickly realized that I was in for a treat. I can safely say that this by far the most informative book I have read about Indian real estate so far. The real interesting part begins in the third chapter where he begins to talk about K.P Singh (DLF) and how he began his journey. He describes the conventional wisdom of businessmen at the time and how in contrast to today, they thought backward integration was a good thing to improve margins for the long-term. He goes on to describe how the unorganized real estate sector functioned in great detail with a special focus on structural issues such as complex regulations, construction quality and the sheer lack of compliance. In a sector which was laden with delays, scams and crimes, his ventures tried to incorporate ethical business practices which will give them a long-term advantage as a brand over their competitors. For example, they chose to follow international standards and stressed on maintaining brand equity.

For those who are curious about how deal-making works at the higher levels, his experiences will give you great insights. His professional journey which took off with the real estate arm of the Great Eastern Shipping Company, where he throws light about various things about Delhi real estate because primarily that’s where they operated. At the bottom of the pyramid where people think of large corporates as goliaths that cannot face any problems, the truth is no different for them. Sushil Kumar Sayal goes into the details of the troubles they faced in all stages of executing their projects right from bidding for land, assembling a team, getting the building up and making profits. There were several times where he has mentioned that due to market conditions and errors in judgement, it costed them money. The company for which he was working for, got subsequently taken over by a corporate raid which led to a change in management and hence a change in his career path in the near future. An important takeaway from this episode is that mergers and acquisitions can cause a lot of friction in the working culture of the combined entity. This usually leads to dissatisfaction among the target company hence subject to a lot of stirring controversies. He recounts the involvement of Deepak Parekh (HDFC group Chairman), Mahindra and others were involved in the deal.

Going forward, Sushil Kumar Sayal played a pivotal role in transforming the asset and capex heavy business model into an asset light “Real Estate Asset Management (REAM)” model which was new at the time. Excitement was running so high that their business which had no assets on the balance sheet or substantial revenues was valued at approximately ₹1500 crores purely on the potential of the founders and the business model. Although they met with great success in the initial years, he hit a wall as he felt saturated and wanted to assume a bigger role in the sector. Towards the end, he mentions his encounter with Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal who hires him and puts him in charge of Bharti Realty.

Throughout the book, the author shares his extensive knowledge on the real estate markets and also other asset classes like stock markets from time to time. He does not hesitate to pen down his opinions on different business houses, his own strengths and weaknesses. After reading it, I am certain that your knowledge levels would’ve risen and you’d be happy to have invested a small sum of money for it. It will help you understand real estate from a demand / supply perspective. He clearly highlights the ongoing recession in the housing space as large corporate builders sit on massive inventories which will take years to clear off. Also, how malls were perceived as eternal money minting projects by landlords and builders. The blind race to build malls has ultimately resulted in closures, rental defaults and downward correction in rental yields across the sector in large and small cities alike. The future is apparently positive, is it to be taken with a pinch of salt? Read the book and decide.

All in all, the author’s message is very candid: Every company and investor is ultimately a market participant and thus is subject to its conditions.

If you are bullish and want to get optimal exposure to stocks within the real estate space, you can visit our Thematic Investing Platform to explore them or click on the most obvious themes mentioned below:
1. Real Estate Tycoons
2. Home Loans

Tejas Khoday

Tejas Khoday

Tejas is the Co-Founder & CEO @ www.fyers.in, the youngest team to get NSE’s broker license. FYERS was started as a mission to enhance the terrain for traders and investors in India. He previously worked at Zerodha, Futures First & has been a professional trader for several years.

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  • Talebhussein
    Reply

    Good amount of effort to write this book review I see.. thanks for suggestion to read Mr. Tejas

  • Sudheep hv
    Reply

    Well Said Mr.Tejas. Thanks for the post.

  • Tejas Khoday
    Reply

    Thx Taleb

  • Tejas Khoday
    Reply

    Pleasure Sudeep..

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