DELHI: Executives in the offices of the Lodha Group, Mumbai's premier real estate developer, describe their managing director, Abhishek Lodha, as a 'workaholic'. He works late till 1 or 2 am and then beats them to the office in the morning. Lately, however, they are missing his constant presence in the office in Mumbai's Mahalaxmi area. Lodha has been travelling to London frequently these days after the group bought properties worth Rs 3,900 crore in the British capital.
The acquisitions in Britain have taken everyone by surprise, but Lodha is confident about the new foray. The group seems to have a serious plan for the London realty market, which sells 200,000 apartments a year and is growing at the rate of 6 per cent annually. The 34-year-old MD has already opened a 1,000-sq ft office at Chester Square in London and hired Tyler Goodwin, former JP Morgan Global Assets Management managing director, as chief executive for the UK business. Insiders believe that either Lodha or his younger brother, Abhinandan, who is deputy managing director of the group, will relocate to London to look after affairs there.
Many questioned the wisdom of expanding in London. Lodha's riposte to naysayers soon after buying the Rs 3,000 crore MacDonald House late last year was confident: "When we bought the DLF plot, everyone wondered how we would manage it. Whatever we have done is there for everyone to see."
Lodha had raised eyebrows earlier by buying a 17-acre plot at Worli from DLF, the country's largest developer, for Rs 2,727 crore in August 2012.
Clearly, Lodha does not spend much time worrying about big-ticket acquisitions. In the middle of the slowdown in property markets, he has bought land parcels worth Rs 16,000 crore across the country and abroad in the last couple of years when no other realtor has dared to plan so big. These include a plot in Wadala that it bought from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority for Rs 4,053 crore and the Rs 375-crore acquisition of Washington House from the American Consulate in 2012, besides the Worli deal with DLF.
Lodha is the elder son of Mangal Prabhat Lodha, now a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator in the Maharashtra Legislative Assemly, who founded the real estate company in the 1980s. He studied industrial engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, US, and joined his father's company in 2003 after a stint as consultant with McKinsey in the United States.
Lodha roped in Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as brand ambassador for the Park project on the DLF plot and tied up with US-based Trump Organization to launch a luxury residential project. An example of how his mind works came with a project at Wadala. Afraid that the image of the middle-class Mumbai colony would not attract upper class clientele, he renamed the area "New Cuffe Parade", instantly drawing a parallel with the city's tony locality of the same name. For his latest project, the 4,000-acre Palava near the upcoming Navi Mumbai airport, he has roped in Amitabh Bachchan as brand ambassador.
Lodha's ability to sell has taken his father's company to new heights, with sales touching Rs 8,700 crore in FY2013 (Rs 14,500 crore in 18 months till November 2013). Asked where the money for the mega acquisitions had come from, Lodha said in an earlier interview, "We had cash flows of Rs 2,500 crore last year and we will have cash flows of Rs 3,000 crore in 2013-14."