Managing director of Ceebros Property Development, C. Subba Reddy and his daughter Swetha talk to Priyadarshini Paitandy on building dream houses and eco hotels
Glossy cabins, picturesque wooden bridges and pools filled with darting fish — C. Subba Reddy's office resembles an oriental spa. It may be restful on the surface, but there's plenty going on inside, quite like the owner of the property. Reddy is surprisingly relaxed, despite shuttling from room to room answering phone calls. And, the conversations mostly revolve around acres and square feet.
Managing director of Ceebros Property Development, he's completed nearly 250 independent projects over the last 31 years. “It has been a successful and satisfying journey because we share a good relationship with our clients, builders, purchasers, vendors and everybody who is involved in the process of building a home,” says Reddy. He believes that to be well accomplished it is important to accept and correct mistakes. “I make it a point to meet the buyers and also write to all my clients after the completion of each project, asking for their feedback and making the changes they require,” he adds.
He talks of how real estate has become increasingly organised over the past decade. “Earlier, when someone bought an apartment he had no protection. But now the Government's coming up with a regulation which will control all real estate activities. It makes builders accountable and ensures projects are handed over when promised.”
Talking about the most integral part of their design structure, the developer says their focus is maximum utilisation of space, landscaping and ventilation.
Reddy entered the field by chance. After having completed his Bachelors in History from Loyola College he was wondering what to do when a family friend-turned-mentor, K.V. Subbu Reddy suggested that he give real estate a shot. “I was 23 when I started. I thought I'd do hire purchase, PWD contracts but my mentor suggested I do up the family house in MRC Nagar. So I built it and sold it and found the process to be interesting. In 1979 I sold a house behind Taj Coromandel for Rs. 70 a sq. feet and in 2007 in the same vicinity sold a house for Rs. 7,000 per sq feet. Never mind the escalating prices the builder believes that in Chennai anytime is a good time to invest in real estate …provided the price, location and building are right.
Even though construction is his bread and butter and that's where his heart lies, he had always been interested in the hospitality industry. This is why he started the 105-room Raintree hotel on St. Mary's Road in 2005. In 2008, his elder daughter Swetha began assisting him in the family business. “When I first joined work, my father said you won't have much to do so just observe. I spent time in each and every department of the hotel,” she says adding that she always knew that this is what she wanted to do. “ When I was about three years old, he had his office at home. So I've watched him work and deal with suppliers and buyers. I've even accompanied him to various sites so that's how my interest developed.”
Ask them how it is to work together and they laugh. “We discuss, we argue and we come to healthy conclusions,” says Reddy. “He takes my suggestions seriously. Yet there are times when he says, ‘I told you so!'” smiles Swetha.
Swetha, who has a degree in business studies from a university in the U.K., handles the hospitality wing of Ceebros. Spurred by the success of their first hotel, the father and daughter launched the new 230-room Raintree on Anna Salai last July. “I look into all the aspects — from sourcing materials to design. Recently, I rebranded the hotel,”
While Reddy is busy with building luxurious complexes and apartments, Swetha is all set to bring about changes in the old Raintree. Lemongrass, the popular Chinese restaurant will shortly be renamed Chap Chak and have an Asian street side dining concept. “We will start renovating in phases by January.”
Talking about the eco-sensitive concept of both business hotels, Swetha says, “In the construction stages itself we take care of the type of materials used, lights, waste management, water conservation… We have three windmills and use the power from them to run the hotels.”
Ever since Swetha took over in 2009, the hotel has won numerous awards and recognitions, the most recent being the D&B-Axis Bank Business Gaurav SME Awards - 2011 for the Best Small Enterprises in Hospitality Sector.
The father is no doubt thrilled that his daughter has understood the nuances of his business. And by May 2012, his younger daughter Sruthi will join the team, after completing her Masters' degree in Interior Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design. And much like the pillars that support his buildings, he believes his daughters too will strengthen his family business.