The Ideal Group, which has presence in real estate, logistics, automotive dealership and alloys and minerals, keeps its chairman Srawan Kumar Himatsingka busy full-time. In between managing his `1,500+ crore business group, he lets MARWAR in on how he built it, starting in Kolkata more than three decades ago.
here are MANY reasons to be self-employed. While the desire to be one’s own boss is what motivates many to strike out on their own, for others like Srawan Kumar Himatsingka, it was all about opting for a life where each day meant new opportunities and challenges and being creative and learning something new. “As a young man, I always had the desire to do things differently. Regular nine-to-five jobs never held any appeal for me. Therefore, after completing my studies, I started the Ideal Group in 1982,” says Himatsingka, who is now 69 and the chairman of the Ideal Group that boasts a turnover of over `1,500 crore.
Himatsingka’s family originally is from Singhana, a small town in the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan. He was born in the Dumka district (that was then in Bihar), where he studied till the ninth standard at the Zilla School, and then moved to Kolkata in 1963 with the family shifting base for better prospects, and completed his schooling there from the Hindi High School (now Birla High School). Thereafter, he pursued his graduation in chemical engineering from BITS Pilani.
Striking out on his own
Himatsingka started the Ideal Group with the wholehearted support of his family and close friends. His first office was a 2,000 sq ft rented space at Camac Street, Kolkata with just three employees. The group operated from this office until 1991, before relocating to its current headquarters at 50, Jawaharlal Nehru Road in Kolkata, where it occupies three floors.
In the initial years of business, Himatsingka tried his hand at hire-purchase and leasing of land. A few years later, he ventured into real estate, which then was showing encouraging signs of growth and built his first property, Ideal Plaza, along Sarat Bose Road in Kolkata. Spread across 1.3 lakh sq ft, the commercial complex set new benchmarks in the industry with its dynamic, modern design and host of amenities. In 1999, he shut down the hire-purchase and leasing business to focus solely on real estate, until he felt the need to diversify once again and ventured into logistics services and dealership of commercial vehicles.
Many of the group’s real estate projects in Kolkata have not only been firsts in the city, but also architectural marvels. They range from affordable housing and mid-segment office spaces to luxury residential and commercial properties. Some have been constructed using eco-friendly materials and provided with green features such as water harvesting systems, solar panels and waste composting facilities. Himatsingka believes that such buildings not only uphold the group’s vision of creating value through sustainability, but that living in these buildings can make the residents conservation-conscious too. The group has to its credit more than 50 lakh sq ft of IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) certified and pre-certified green projects.
The Ideal Group has served more than 5,500 happy customers in the process, offering them quality, comfortable homes and efficient commercial properties, with excellent after-sales service. It is currently engaged in projects spread across 8 million sq ft and has a further 12 million sq ft as inventory. An ongoing project that Himatsingka is most excited about is Ideal Unique Centre, a high-rise along the EM Bypass in Kolkata that promises to redefine the city’s skyline post its completion in 2020. He says, “Ideal Unique Centre is our first premium commercial project. One of its most striking features is the column-less, beam-less commercial spaces it offers, giving the owners complete design freedom and flexibility.” Then there is Ideal Exotica, a premium housing complex at New Alipore, Kolkata that has an IGBC Green Homes® certification. Among the group’s other ongoing residential projects are Ideal Aqua View, in Sector 5, Kolkata; Ideal Unique Residency, along Aurobindo Sarani, Kolkata; and Ideal Hill View, along VIP Road in Guwahati—the group’s first project beyond West Bengal, which once completed, will be Guwahati’s tallest, earthquake-resistant building.
In the next three years, the group intends to work on delivering affordable and mid-segment housing—a goal made easier thanks to the government’s increasing focus on real estate, particularly the affordable housing segment.
Beyond real estate
Ideal Movers, the logistics arm of the group, offers its services to some of the leading companies in India. Beginning with a modest fleet of 30 trailers, the company today owns more than 1,850 vehicles for easy movement of material by road. The group also provides heavy-duty cranes on rent to manufacturing companies.
Coming to its other business interests, the group is a trusted dealer for Tata Motors and has been selling commercial vehicles in Bihar for nearly two decades. It has a state-of-the-art motor repairing facility-cum-showroom in Muzaffarpur that is one of the largest in eastern India. When it comes to trading of alloys and minerals, the group supplies raw materials like raw dolomite and high-carbon ferromanganese to steel plants across India.
Himatsingka has his son Nakul to help him with the business now. A graduate from the prestigious NYU Stern School of Business, Nakul is currently the managing director of the group, having joined hands with his father in 1998, initially overseeing construction work at project sites. Over the years, he has successfully spearheaded the other aspects of the real estate business including design, sales, marketing and finance. In addition to being at the helm of landmark real estate projects introduced by the group in the last few years, he has helped it to successfully diversify into new areas like trading of alloys and minerals, equipment rentals and fitness (through Skulpt, a gymnasium founded by Nakul’s wife Divya).
An ideal family
Today, the Ideal Group enjoys a pan-India presence thanks to its multiple business verticals and network of offices across the country. It employs more than 2,500 people, who, according to Himatsingka, are the real pillars of strength for the group. He says, “Without their support and hard work, it would have been impossible for us to become one of the leading businesses in India. When my son Nakul joined the business, he helped in strategising, expanding and further consolidating our position in the market. All of them have been there with me in the worst and the best of times and together, we make an ‘Ideal’ family.”
For Himatsingka, the support of the rest of his family, especially his eldest brother OP Himatsingka and wife Kanak, too has been invaluable in his journey. With the continuing support of both his family and his employees, Himatsingka forges ahead, confidently banking on them, as he endeavours to take Ideal Group to greater heights.