PANAJI: As the two-year slowdown in the real estate sector continues across the country, Goa's story remains no different and director of Highland Constructions Pvt Ltd Devadas Naik has been forced to shelve his plans of taking the over 20-year-old company public. Rather than rue the lost opportunity, Naik has chosen to diversify his business interests.
Aware that the construction business model has its ups and downs, Naik chose to diversify into hospitality and farming. "I diversified into hospitality long ago because business has to run on Plan A and Plan B. I also bought a hill in Virdi where I planted 15,000 teak trees five years ago and 5,000 rosewood trees," Naik said.
Naik's tryst with farming does not end with his tree plantation drive. He has invested in a 20-acre farm in Belgaum where mangoes and palm trees are grown which is then picked up by Godrej. "I am into vineyards in Nasik—Vallonne Vineyards which has a French setup. The land is mine and I have a minor stake in the company also," the entrepreneur said.
Naik now nurtures hope of setting up a finishing school-cum-incubation centre to train entrepreneurs.
Diversification comes naturally to Naik, who began his entrepreneurial journey in 1975 with a 13,000 bank loan to start a tea and coffee blending company. He then started Highland Constructions in 1991 with the idea of creating homes for the aspiring and needy. "I am creating homes but it is not going to the right audience. Maybe the government and the ease of doing business are not conducive," Naik said cautiously.
"In the current scenario, I don't see any growth. I wanted to take this company public but I don't think that will happen," Naik said.
An alumnus of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, USA, Confederation of Indian Industry and the Global Innovation and Technology Alliance programme, Naik finds that entrepreneurial skills and initiatives are not valued. "Our lending is all based on collateral. It is not based on your ideas, your project, and the viability of it. Ideas are respected in Europe that is why entrepreneurs are respected in Europe," he said.
While the reasons for the slump in Goa's real estate sector may be slightly different, the solutions are very clear—a functioning government that delivers and creates a level playing field for entrepreneurs.
"There is no governance in Goa. When there is a problem, I need counsel where I can get remedy immediately but this doesn't happen," Naik said. "Land and capital must be made available and I am not asking it for free, I just need comfortable access."