Udupi: Established in 2004, Kirthi constructions, a family managed construction company has managed to spring pleasant surprises over the years with unmatched quality, exquisite design and infrastructure by remaining relevant in the market through brand building. In an exclusive, candid tete-a-tete with Alfred Pais from NewsKarnataka.com, suave Managing Director, Sudhir Shetty of Kirthi Constructions expressed his views on his firm's seamless, steady growth and future plans.
How do you see your company in five years time from now?
Right from the company's inception in 2004, we have witnessed staircase kind of growth with continuous improvement in the kind of projects. Initially, we used to handle projects with area around 35,000 sq feet where as now, we find a fourfold increase. The trend will continue in future with Villas and world Class Township on anvil not forgetting the social responsibility of affordable housing too.
Why should a client opt for a Kirthi home with so many options available for him?
We have been building Kirthi brand right from the start and it has been a conscious decision to grow slowly. Our prices are 20% higher compared to the rest in the market as our homes are meant for niche clientele with pleasant surprises built in. Quality, empathy, value addition are the key factors where we stay ahead of the rest and always surpass customer expectations. The ‘word of mouth’ has been a major contributor in our growth story which has given us a satisfactory clientele and affirms our status in a small marketplace like Udupi. Our service does not end on handing over the keys but we support customers on maintenance though at an extra cost which customers are willing to bear.
How do you counter competition when your flats are a little heavier on pockets?
We have healthy competition in our town where we respect each other and each builder works within his own space. We do not compromise on price as we ‘factor in features’ in our expansive homes and stay ahead of the rest from start to finish keeping our clients happy. Satisfied customers staying in their dream homes promote our business to a great extent.
In the recent past Udupi faced drought-like situation. Do you have plans to incorporate water harvesting in your projects?
The results were not satisfactory when we tried water harvesting in the past. Experts feel it does not work in coastal areas as we live at mean sea level and also due to sandy soil texture. Instead, we resorted to water treatment plant by supplying treated water to our clients with a separate overhead tank and pipeline which they refuse to accept for reasons unknown. In general, lots of water gets wasted in washrooms and hence wanted to use the treated water but feel that every new concept takes time to sink in!
Your dream project?
Every project is a dream project and remains close to heart. But if I were to choose, I would opt for 'Kirthi Momento', which catapulted me among the top three in the town and customers looked in awe when I completed it. It gave me personal satisfaction where everything was meticulously planned with almost 80% free space around.
Influence of family on your business?
Well, my father who was a builder himself during his time helped me understand nuances of business before my entry to create own identity. While I ran errands for him then, now I handle finance too, but the learning has not stopped! My supportive wife plays a vital role in our company’s management and growth. Even children pool in ideas that match current trends to offer something new to the customer.
Does your technical background help?
Most builders are entrepreneurs where as my engineering background helped me to be a technocrat. I feel more like a technocrat-entrepreneur (smiles) saving costs in a risky industry where one can be run over!
Your views on the real estate bill?
The real estate bill is good, except for the draconian powers like imprisonment and 10% fine on project cost which might legalise extortion through blackmailing. If implemented in true spirit, it will help good builders as fly by night operators will disappear for good, in simple terms separating the wheat from chaff. The project cost would definitely rise but everything will fall in place after the initial hue and cry, situation very similar when national building code was introduced a few years ago.
What changes do you see in the construction industry from 2004 and now in Udupi?
Over the years, the flat culture has taken over with initial inhibitions about earth quake disappearing (laughs). People are selling their villas to occupy luxury homes exceeding 2000 sqft. Technology has replaced labour in vital areas and has helped in saving costs while improving delivery mechanism in many areas, for eg., painting and earth moving. In a town like Udupi, people still look at builders having swanky cars and offices, wearing diamond and gold ornaments which is surprising, unlike in cities like Mumbai and Bengaluru where they may not see the builder at all! The small town culture treating builders like demigods give rise to different problems. Priorities of customers from abroad and other cities differ, compared to that of locals, though we try to accommodate all, as customer demand drives cash intensive industry of ours.
You did brief about pleasant surprises, do you have any on a lighter note?
On the positive side we accommodate features at no extra cost which customers do not expect, like recently we provided a video door phones having cameras and recording facility. We used 800x1200 tiles for flooring against 800x800 tiles despite serious cost implications.
On the flip side, for less than 100 invitees during my own house warming, the key words whispered in advance were to spare us from gifts/presents and comments on Vastu. When sand prices rose exorbitantly, we incurred ‘losses in our profits'!