Women’s day special: Rising to the top, against all odds

[] It is a well-known fact that real estate has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. However, of late, women are making their presence felt in all spheres of this industry. On this international women’s day, News profiles a few accomplished women, who are making a difference in this field

Kanchana Krishnan

Director – Chennai, Knight Frank India

You are reading: Women’s day special: Rising to the top, against all odds

Women's day special: Rising to the top, against all odds Kanchana Krishnan

“The real estate sector has changed for the better and there are now more opportunities for women. At least in the organised part of the corporate real estate business, there are equal opportunities and there is a conscious focus, especially in organisations like ours, to bring in gender diversity.

“Despite many positives, women are still significantly underrepresented in positions of power. We still have a long way to go, before we see balanced gender diversity in the sector. Women possess lot of innate skills and have great emotional intelligence and are more empathetic. These qualities bring in a different perspective and can bolster the performance of an organisation,” states Krishnan, an MBA in human resource management from Loyola Institute, with 16 years’ experience in corporate real estate.

“I did not know the basics of real estate when I joined Chesterton Meghraj, back in 2001 and this job gave me a good foundation on the business. Real estate is a demanding industry. One needs to be passionate, have perseverance and the right attitude, to be successful and to stay afloat, especially during bad times. One should be bold and take calculated risks, to evolve. Nothing comes easy. One needs to earn one’s position through hard work and continuous effort.

“I am very passionate about my work and that keeps me going every day. I remember Steve Jobs’ quote: ‘Your work is going to take up a large part of your life. Hence, the only way to be satisfied, is to do what you believe is great work and that is possible, only if you love what you do’. The support that I have received from my family, has helped me to concentrate on my career and perform my duties as a mother, as well. With a 12-year-old daughter, there are days when I feel guilty of not being able to spend enough time with her. One needs to strive hard to, achieve a balance between work and personal life,” says Krishnan.

Hannah Vanitha Raju

Chief operating officer, Catalyst Properties, Bengaluru

Women's day special: Rising to the top, against all odds Hannah Vanitha Raju

“For a long time the real estate industry did not see many women, but with changing times, women are exploring more opportunities, not just in the real estate space, but in other disciplines of work, as well,” says Raju, who has done a Masters in Psychology from the University of Madras and has studied fine art music and mass communications from Ouachita Baptist University, Arkansas, US. She has also completed a course in mental health and Ontario law from Canada. Raju started her career as a family counsellor and has worked in the hospitality, logistics and aviation industries.

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“I launched the residential project of AVM Studios in the capacity of AVP – marketing communications. After that, I had the opportunity to be a part of Catalyst Properties as COO, in the year 2017. They were entering a new market and wanted to replicate their successful business model followed in Chennai, in Bengaluru. It has been nothing short of spectacular, to work in a new market. I take care of operations and focus on creating and managing the image of the company. I love taking up challenges, in the hope of learning something new and achieving goals. I believe in developing my team and myself and always striving towards excellence, in whatever we do as an organisation,” she says.

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Raju feels that people have begun to accept that women have equal potential like men. “As a woman, one doesn’t have an extra edge over anything. It is hard work that ensures success and results, in any discipline of work. Real estate has various segments and today, we see women who are on the top of their game and surpassing all previous milestones,” Raju maintains.

Charu Thapar

Managing director – property and asset management services, JLL India

Women's day special: Rising to the top, against all odds Charu Thapar

Charu Thapar has over two decades of experience in real estate, including 15 years in the field of asset and property management. She is a member of the Asia-Pacific Executive Leadership for PAM, Asia-Pacific Premium Asset Group, Asia-Pacific Premium Residential Group and the India Leadership Council. In her role at JLL India, Thapar, along with her team, manage 221 million sq ft of commercial, residential and retail properties.

“In our personal or professional lives, we face many challenges, such as illness, injury, or even a new venture, that test our mettle. My family is my energy source and my work is my passion. I am lucky to be in a position, where my energy source feeds my passion and vice-versa. I have taken conscious steps, to maintain a balance between the two and seek support from family proactively, whenever required. I believe that empathy is a key personal trait that has to be nurtured. One must banish guilt from one’s life,” states Thapar, who studied at the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition and then did a two years’ General Management Training program with the Taj Group. She also worked with Cushman and Wakefield as a managing director – asset services and client solutions.

Sharing her success mantra, she says, “At work, it is important to surround oneself with experts in all the key roles, to get the work done. Work takes longer, when it is not structured. Hence, having systems that keep one organised, goes a long way in supporting one’s work/life balance. It is important, to judge a team’s productivity by their results and not the amount of hours they spend at their desks. If you learn from your mistakes and improve your processes, then, you will find that you have more time for the good stuff.”

Thapar believes that there are no advantages or disadvantages to being a woman. “Some clients may ignore you but at other times, you may also receive special attention and so, it balances out,” Thapar sums up.

Sunaina Gera

Director, Gera Developments Pvt Ltd and CEO of Gridlines Pune

Women's day special: Rising to the top, against all odds Sunaina Gera

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“Today, we see more women in various aspects of the real estate business, who are aggressive, ambitious and hardworking. Although we now also see women on site in the real estate industry, this number is still less,” says Gera, a graduate from St Stephens in Delhi, who also studied interior designing at Pune and is a LEED-certified professional. At Gera Developments, Gera led various departments in product development, design and project execution, before following her entrepreneurial instincts to found Gridlines, two years ago.

Gera’s first tryst with leadership was at Gera Developments’ Park View project, in Kharadi, where she steered an entire team with respect to the design, procurement and execution of the project. She has over 75 interior design projects to her credit.

“I am happy that in last two years, Gridlines has done various interesting projects and the company has grown immensely. Focus on priorities and multi-tasking, are necessary in today’s world and most women in the work-place do it just as efficiently. Earlier, when my daughter was in school, it was not easy to strike a balance between work and personal life. However, now that she is grown up, it is different. Women have an advantage at work, as they can combine IQ and EQ (intelligence quotient and emotional quotient). Moreover, if they are passionate about their work, they will be successful,” states Gera.

Gera believes that in today’s competitive global economy, knowledge, passion and one’s capability are the key factors, for success.

“Women may face roadblocks that prevent them from getting growth opportunities in the workplace but with determination, they can overcome the odds. Show assertiveness by being fearless, speak gently but with authority and purpose. Adopt a confident manner, excel in your work and let nobody come in your way,” she advises.

Pallavi Purandare

Vice-president, marketing, Aristo Realty Developers Ltd, Mumbai

Women's day special: Rising to the top, against all odds Pallavi Purandare

“Women have natural instincts that help them to handle complex situations. These abilities have helped women to reach high positions in real estate sales and marketing divisions and play a pivotal role in promoting and accelerating real estate businesses. A woman’s ability to market a product through determination, is much higher as compared to a man,” feels Purandare, whose journey in the real estate industry started, when she joined Aristo Realty Developers Limited as a steno-secretary in 1997, after her graduation from Goa’s St Xavier’s College. She was promoted to the role of a marketing executive, in 2000.

“Since then, I have been in charge of sales and marketing of residential and commercial projects of Aristo Realty, in and around Mumbai,” says Purandare. Her key achievements include marketing of the company’s residential project, ‘Lloyds Estate’ at Wadala, with approximately 450 flats. “Currently I am handling premium commercial projects, such as The Qube at Andheri (east) and Om Chambers at Pimpri, Pune,” she elaborates.

“Initially, it was difficult to cope up with various issues pertaining to sales and marketing of the projects. However, with the support of the team and practical training, I could overcome every challenge. Today, I am able to work independently. The real estate sector / construction business, has traditionally been a male-dominated business. However, women have stepped into this business proven their abilities in various segments. I have been fortunate to have a management that has always respected me and given me opportunities, which has helped me to rise to this level,” she concludes.

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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