Raffi Mather and Siraj Mather have started a new firm, Asten Realtors. Their first project is the Rs 400 crore Asten Mall, cum hotel cum high-rise residential building in Kakkanad
By Shevlin Sebastian
In July, Raffi Mather left the family real estate firm, Mather Projects. “It was time to move on,” he says. “But I had a great time and completed 15 projects.” Raffi, along with his elder brother, Siraj, have set up Asten Realtors. “Asten is a city in Holland ,” says Raffi. “I liked the name and decided to use it for my new company.”
And the company has begun with a bang. At the Rajagiri Vidyapeetom at Kakkanad, they are setting up a Rs 400 crore project comprising a residential building, a mall and a hotel side by side.
The 12-storey hotel will have 120 rooms, a swimming pool and three restaurants. “There will be a walkway from the fourth floor which will connect directly to the mall,” says Siraj.
In the Asten mall, there will be five multiplex theatres, consisting of 120 seats each, as well as 300 shops spread across three floors. The food court will seat 600. “We want to lease out the shops,” says Raffi. “If we sell it, it will be difficult to control the mall. That is why we have retained ownership.”
As for the 25-storied residential building, 'Campus Court', there will be 1500 sq. ft. apartments, targetted at the IT crowd, at Rs 65 lakh.
At the 'Campus Court', Raffi's good name has helped. More than half the flats have been sold, even before a single brick has been put up. “These are relatives and friends of my earlier customers,” says Raffi. “I have built a reputation in my 12 years in Mather Projects. At Asten, I want to do even better.”
Meanwhile, one of the prime attractions about the location for the company is that it is bang opposite the Info Park, which is projected to have 1 lakh employees in the next five years.
Also, the centre of gravity is shifting from Kochi city to Kakkanad. “At this moment, there are no apartments to buy in places like Panampilly Nagar, Jawahar Nagar and Thevara,” says Siraj. “On the waterfront, most of the apartments have been sold. Ready to occupy flats cannot be found. So, development has already started shifting to Kakkanad. But we noticed that there are no premier shops, restaurants and entertainment outlets in Kakkanad. So we are filling a gap.”
Raffi is excited by the 2012 McKinsey Report on Global Cities of the Future. “Kochi is in the top 600 cities that will account for nearly 65 percent of global GDP growth,” he says. To heighten the chances of success, Raffi has hired the renowned Bangalore-based architects Thomas Associates. “They are one of the leading architectural, engineering and interior design firms in the country with over 1500 completed projects in South India,” says Siraj. Some of their noted buildings include The Leela Palace, Forum Mall, UB City and Titanium.
But is one more mall in Kochi the way to success, especially now that the humungous Lulu Mall is slated to open in December? “The more malls the better,” says Raffi, with a smile. “Take the example of Singapore. On Orchid Street , the whole area is filled with malls. That is also the case in Dubai, where there are six to seven malls on one street. Just as we go to Bangalore to see the malls, people will come to Kochi for the same reason.”
If there is one grouse that Raffi has, it is the lack of town planning. “There is no point in trying to improve Kochi city because there is no longer any space,” he says. “How can there be town planning in Market Road, Panampilly Nagar or Thevara? Those places have already been developed. Town planning should be done at Kakkanad, Aluva and Perumbavoor. We should look at the next 30 years and not short-term. That is our drawback. Town planners look at the present, and do not have a long-term planning.”
In Singapore , there is long-term planning. “There are mass transit systems, walkways, and parks,” says Siraj. “From the Changi airport you can go into the city through ferries, taxis, buses and trains. There is a master plan and one urban development ministry.”
In Kerala, you have two ministers: one for urban and the other for rural development. “They might be working at cross purposes,” says Raffi. “Then there is housing and law ministries. There are ten ministers and bureaucrats. How can there be a proper co-ordination? There should be one ministry which oversees all these ministries. There has to be a proper master plan. And the bureaucrats should be positive-minded about new changes.”
Meanwhile, thanks to entrepreneurs like Raffi and Siraj Mather, who, despite bureaucratic hurdles, are fuelling the growth that will make Kochi a Tier-1 city in India in the near future.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)