Interview | Swati piramal Mumbai

‘Green spaces are a luxury in city’

Dr. Swati Ajay Piramal, vice chairperson, Piramal Group, apart from her commitment to science and technology, is passionate about flowers and gardens, and building innovative living spaces. She spoke to The Hindu about her idea of Biophilia and how it is India’s time to take the lead in the world. Excerpts from the interview.

How did the idea of Biophilia come to you?

Two years ago, we organised a flower show at Piramal Vaikunth, our real estate project in Thane. Over 50,000 people came to see it. I then realised we are genetically hardwired to a concept called Biophilia, which is connection of human beings with nature. Biophilia is a philosophy that builds this connect. I am committed to it and I insist that every project of ours has 50% green space.

Your approach is different from others in the real estate space. Why are you doing this?

As a family we realised it much earlier, when we created some of the best buildings of India. You must have seen our office buildings in Lower Parel (Piramal Towers was one of the first corporate office complexes in the area). At that time it was a mill area. It was dilapidated and we converted it into a green and resurgent place. It became the abode of new industry. Earlier, people were hesitant to write Lower Parel as their address, but today, it is the hub of restaurants and high street. That gave us a very good experience and understanding of what nation building was all about.

The group’s real estate business is my son Anand’s project. His idea is to build buildings that can stand tall everywhere in the world. He realised this when he was at Harvard. His anthropology professor had told him about urban planning, design and this concept of Biophilia. My son wanted to come back and implement it. That is why our projects are different and do not look like anything else in the world.

Why have you developed 60 miniature fairy gardens at the Piramal Mahalaxmi project?

This is part of our commitment to Biophilia. A fairy garden is a small, imaginative idea everybody can implement in their homes. We will teach people how to do fairy gardens and will tell them how to grow micro greens, which are good for health. Green is all about health, wellness, happiness and a connect with nature.

Where did you get this idea?

I am passionate about Botany and flowers. My interest started from the wellness space because I am a doctor. Last year, we did the first Indian garden at the Chelsea Flower Show and won a medal.

One of the fairy gardens is special to you because it was a gift for your daughter-in-law Isha. Tell us the story.

It was Anand and Isha’s first engagement anniversary. I was thinking of what to give them. I realised Isha likes small things, and so I thought of creating something unique. There is no concept of a Japanese fairy garden; there is only bonsai. So I got a little water pot with a pipe on it, seen in every Japanese temple. Somebody had crafted a piece of wood; I bought that and created a Japanese fairy garden. I gave it to Isha and Anand, who liked it very much. And then I showed it to my friends in London and New York, who were surprised to see a Japanese fairy garden.

Mumbai has become a concrete jungle. What is your message to builders?

Developers make use of maximum floor space index and make the project crowded. They promise some view and then a whole new building comes up. They do all kinds of claustrophobic things. Today, for people, green is a luxury. I think our city in particular has very little greenery and it has to increase. When 50,000 people came to see my show in Thane, I realised that this was something they needed. They brought their children and their relatives in wheelchairs, and it was like attending a festival. That is when I realised they are connecting to flowers and greenery.

What is the vision of the group for real estate?

Real estate is just one part of it. We are into financial services, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, glass and information management. We are a conglomerate. I was recently at Rashtrapati Bhavan for the Prime Minister’s swearing-in ceremony. What we felt there despite the heat of Delhi, was the aspiration of New India. Abhi toh apna time hai, this is our time in the world. We have a good leader who is running a stable government with a strong idea of development. Since real estate is a good employer, we hope things will be easier. We can build the fastest real estate in the world if our regulations become easier.

Infrastructure is key to development. In Mumbai, nothing has happened for 15 years. What needs to be done apart from the Metro, the Trans Harbour Link and the Coastal Road to make the city liveable?

Mumbai needs much more infrastructure. Attention needs to be given to it. We are paying maximum taxes but getting very little in return. To be an international city, we need to have infrastructure like London, Tokyo, California and New York.


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 4:29:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/green-spaces-are-a-luxury-in-city/article27474567.ece

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