Thursday, October 02, 2008

Man on the move

K.R. Malik, the CMD of the SRK Group, is all excited about building one of the largest townships in Kerala: the Skywings project at Kakkanad

By Shevlin Sebastian

K. Rasheed Malik, 47, the chairman and managing director of the SRK Group, had a close friend, Naushad (name changed). “We were closer than brothers,” he says. “We slept on the same mat, ate the same food, and held no secrets from each other.”

When they finished their class 10 exams, at Ezhuvamthala, Ottapalam, the friends decided to go to Pune, where there were other relatives, to earn a living. After doing a few jobs, they stumbled onto the photocopying business.

“We would import the parts from abroad, assemble it, and sell the machines at a handsome profit,” says Malik. “We worked 20 hours a day, and the business did well.”

Thanks to advice from a Marathi business associate, Gaikwad, both of them entered the lucrative real estate market. Soon, they started building projects. In a span of ten years, they became wealthy.

“Naushad and I were amazed at the way things worked out for us,” he says. However, there was no formal agreement between the partners. It was based on mutual trust.

One day, in 1991, however, a misunderstanding arose between the two men. As a result, Naushad walked out of the partnership, taking control of all the assets, worth crores of rupees.

“I could have fought with my friend to get what was my due,” he says. “But, for me, the relationship was more important than the money. So, I remained his friend and started from scratch once again.”

Today, he is once again wealthy beyond his dreams. And he has learnt some valuable lessons from that experience. “Because I did not fight with Naushad, God protected me,” he says.

In his travels, in India and abroad, Malik has observed that 95 per cent of the quarrels between people are over money. “So I tell people that relationships are more important than money,” he says. “When you take the ‘I won’t fight’ option, God will support you. Today, thanks to God’s grace, I am doing well.”

The source of Malik’s wealth, the SRK Group, has executed building projects in Pune, Bangalore, Kochi and Guruvayoor. “So far, our company has completed 40 projects, and has more than 10,000 satisfied customers,” says Malik.

The company makes villas, apartments, service apartments and townships. At present, a township, Sky Wings is coming up at Kakkanad.

Sky Wings hit the headlines, in October, 2007, when Malik gifted flats to seven Indian cricketers: Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, S. Sreesanth, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, and Sourav Ganguly.

Following that, there were calls from people in America, London and the Middle East, expressing interest in the project. “To be frank, the day I gave the flats to the players I earned my money back,” he says. The price went up by Rs 300 per sq. ft. and Malik was able to sell a lot of flats.

However, the turning point in the public awareness of the SRK Group – which began operations in Kerala in 2006 – occurred when singer K.J. Yesudas signed on as brand ambassador in January, 2007.

“Initially, Yesudas was reluctant,” says Malik. “But I convinced him about the high quality of our projects. Today, thanks to him, we have a lot of clients.”

One of them is businessman, Krishna Das, 38. “I was very much influenced by Yesudas becoming a brand ambassador, and decided to invest in the Skywings project,” he says.

Playschool owner, Swayam Prabha, had different reasons. “After going through the brochure, I felt Skywings would be the best township in Kerala,” she says. She liked the beautiful location and the amenities available: three-level parking, proper garbage disposal, a beauty parlour, swimming pool, gym, library, market, ATM centres and coffee shops.

“If there is a bandh, nobody will be affected within the township,” she says. “I was also impressed by Mr. Malik. He is a simple and humble man.”

Malik invested in Kerala because, as he says, “Despite being away for several years, I have always retained a love and affection for my state.” In his travels, he would meet Malayalis who were keen to invest in real estate in Kerala. Malik also realised that Kochi was fast becoming a metro, like Bangalore, Pune, and Mumbai. “The business climate is very good now, and it is the right time to start something here,” he says.

Malik has ambitious plans: three projects in every district. “Initially, buildings will be coming up at Kannur, Palakkad, Calicut, Kottayam, Tiruvalla, Thiruvananthapuram and Guruvayoor,” he says.

As the business expands, Malik has to travel, non-stop, to keep track of all the projects. “Today, I am in Kochi, tomorrow I am going to Mumbai, later to Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai,” he says. However, he always ensures that he spends Sunday, at home, in Bangalore, with his family: wife Khadija, daughters, Sajana, 20, and Shamna, 16, and son, Shah Rukh, 14.

“Business is important, but family is equally important to me,” he says.

(Copyright: The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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