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56-Irfan-Razack Empire builder: Irfan Razack | Bhanu Prakash Chandra

Irfan Razack is a stickler for quality and a patron of change

  • Razack was among those who figured out early that Bengaluru was a brimming cup. He says the IT city has reached its growth limits.

Irfan Razack saw the Rashtrapati Bhavan for the first time when he was a college student. “I was amazed by the grandeur of that place,” he says. The Lutyens masterpiece left such a lasting impression on him that he went on to make some of the iconic buildings in Bengaluru’s urbanscape. His Prestige Group developed properties like Prestige Shantiniketan, Prestige Golfshire Club, The Forum mall and UB City.

Bengaluru’s skyline is now dominated by the landmarks Razack, 64, has created. “We wanted to focus on a mix of commercial and residential projects ever since we started our business, and we have been successful in that,” he says. His father, Razack Sattar, ran the popular tailoring shop, Prestige House for Men, in Bengaluru. Irfan and his brother, Rezwan, helped him in the business. It was Rezwan who started the property trading business in the mid 1980s. Later they got into construction.

“The initial capital was internal accruals and a bit of borrowing,” says Razack. “From there it moved into private equity, and we went in for an IPO in 2010.” Prestige Group has completed 210 projects, covering more than 80 million square feet. It is currently building 53 projects, covering 54 million sqft. And, there are 35 upcoming projects.

Real estate is not an easy business to be in. “There are many people who will try to pull you down, and there are times when you hit roadblocks and make mistakes,” says Razack. He has his own ways to overcome such challenges. “One has to look at it in a very positive manner,” he says. “We brought professionalism into the real estate business which was earlier looked at in a very different way.”

Razack never hesitated to take initiative to bring in change. When he realised that there was a dearth of skilled people in the construction sector, he collaborated with Mumbai-based Rustomjee Group to start vocational education centres. The first one has started functioning in Bengaluru, with training programmes in construction, automobile, hospitality and health care.

While such thinking keeps him ahead of the curve, his attention to detail makes his projects grand successes. “Razack has a razor-sharp memory,” says Arunjot Singh Bhalla, managing director of RSP Design Consultants. “Once we were discussing a project and he remembered each and every point that I had given during a meeting a few years ago on the same project. He even backed it up with a note which I had written on that project.” Bhalla has worked with Prestige on many projects.

Razack was among those who figured out early that Bengaluru was a brimming cup. He says the IT city has reached its growth limits and gone beyond its holding capacity. He still remembers how different it was during his childhood. “In those days Bengaluru had a lot of open spaces and grounds. When we design our projects we give a lot of emphasis on open spaces because open spaces are the ones where the environment comes in and one can build an environment for children to nurture their minds,” he says.

And, he is not happy about what the authorities are doing. “What saddens me the most is that so much money is spent but it is not spent wisely and properly, and is wasted. If quality is not there, we keep on spending money again and again. We cannot afford that because India is a country with limited resources. The vision and the will should be there,” he says.

This concern about quality is a guiding light in all his projects. While he strongly believes in the affordable housing segment, he feels that quality should not be compromised for the sake of short-term gains. “As the population is growing, many people would like to go for affordable housing projects. A builder should not offer substandard projects, but should maintain quality in a smaller space,” he says. Razack firmly believes that there are plenty of long-term benefits in real estate. “Real estate is not like a perishable commodity. It offers huge benefits in the long run as the prices go up as inflation catches up,” he says.

Razack has not forgotten his modest beginning. He is generous towards a good cause and is a very humble person, says Ramani Sastri, chairman and managing director of Sterling Developers. “He used to tell me about his experiences at his father’s tailoring shop—how he had taken measurements of many prominent people. Also, he is very caring. I am a vegetarian, and whenever we eat out he ensures that the restaurant has a vegetarian menu,” he says.

Razack’s daughter Uzma is a director of Prestige Group. He encouraged her to take an interest in the company from a very young age. “As a child, I used to accompany my father and uncle to the groundbreaking ceremonies,” she says. “When I left for my graduation in London, Prestige was a successful company with around 300 employees. By the time I returned, it had grown into a giant entity.” When she started her career with Prestige, she did not get any privileges. “My dad insisted that I be with the team and succeed in working along with everyone seamlessly.”

Many falcon models adorn Razack’s office in Bengaluru—some in perching positions and some flying. Falcon is the symbol of Prestige Group. “It personifies strength and foresight,” says Razack. The virtues have stood him in good stead.

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