Ashton Gray Investments, the vertically integrated real estate investments and development firm from Houston, Texas, has started its operations in Coimbatore, India and without any delay, Ashton Gray shook hands with their first investment offer and is working towards it. This new beginning, is icing on the cake for the organisation, as venturing into a new versatile market calls for expertise and we hold a stellar award-winning reputation in the US real estate market. This will undoubtedly, give all the Indian buyers a fair chance to experiment and participate actively in the American real estate wing.

Here are a few questions answered by Mr. Sudharshan Vembutty, Founder& President, of Ashton Gray Investments, about his company’s new strategic move.

1. To establish a business on a different land calls for a clear vision and courage. Tell us about your journey and how you decided to venture into the real estate sector?

I went to the US to do my bachelor’s degree, worked in I.T for 8 years and after that started dabbling in real estate. We built it from scratch, investing in small residential properties and a few investors and over the past 12 years, that has scaled into 500+ investors and the current portfolio that it is. It has been a gradual measured progression in terms of size, scale and the types of projects that we now deploy our capital into. We had started off with renovating residential properties and then moved on to building entry-level single family homes and transitioned to luxury homes ranging from $2 million going almost up to $7 million. As we showed consistency with our returns, we started getting more investors and access to a lot more capital and hence, it was difficult to still keep playing in the residential segment. So, we started moving into larger commercial projects like shopping center development, senior living projects and land development. For the past few years, our heavy focus has been on master-plan development where we acquire large land parcels from 100 acres to 600 acres, go through entitlements, zoning and planning and then turn it into a full-fledged community with utilities, infrastructure and common amenities. The residential sites in those projects are then sold to national home builders and we currently have partnerships with most of the top, publicly listed homebuilders in the U.S. We operate primarily in the Texas market and our projects are scattered between Houston, Austin and Dallas while our corporate office is located in Houston.. 

2. What does a vertically integrated Real Estate investment mean? 

We see a lot of operators who do one thing or the other, where they can either raise the capital or execute the project or be involved in the construction process. When we talk about vertical integration, we control all facets of the development cycle. We raise our own capital from investors, act as the General Partner for project execution as well as have our construction division act as the General Contractor. So, we have total control over the full life cycle of a project and very little reliance on third-party firms. We also invest our personal capital into each one of these projects, so our goals are completely aligned with investors. If their money is at stake, our money is at stake alongside it.  

3. In your opinion, do you find India’s real estate bullish in the coming years? 

A major reason why we even started operations in India came from a personal requirement. We were trying to figure out how to invest our funds in India. We looked at apartments, villas, office space and every time we looked at something, it was always mired with all kinds of downside consequences. Again, I don’t want this taken in the wrong way, but the risk-reward ratio was just not there. It’s completely night and day in terms of profit margins and the types of protection offered in the U.S and I felt that this is truly a gap in the market for Indians or NRIs looking to invest capital sitting in India. Fractional real estate investment has been picking up steam in India recently but I feel like there is an over-dependence on office buildings. We do believe that every Indian investor should have a portion of their investable net worth in investments backed by U.S real estate. It certainly makes sense, especially in these times of high inflation, geo-political issues and volatile equity markets, given that the U.S dollar is the world’s reserve currency. The cost of capital in India is way higher when compared to US. With the supply of ready properties in India being high combined with higher interest rates, the chances of making wealth as an investor in India are bleak. 

4. You have a strong presence overseas. India too has a multi-faceted real estate sector with multiple notable players. Given the current market dynamics, how opportune are you to manage the operations in India? 

We are very different in terms of our business model as compared to other players in the market. We are giving a unique chance to Indian investors to participate in real estate development in the US with a minimum ticket size of 10 lakhs. With the kind of of response, we have received so far, we are very positive about the prospects that the Indian market has on the offer. 

5. What are the investment prospects? Is it going to be different from the conventional scenario? 

Fractional & Private equity investments in the US are regulated by the Securities & Exchange commission. Property laws in the US are stricter as compared to emerging markets. So real estate investments in the US are more secure as compared to conventional investments. A part of your portfolio should definitely be invested in US-based assets as US Dollars is the world’s reserve company. It makes for a good inflation hedge against your conventional investments. 

6. Every market comes with its own set of nuances/challenges. Likewise, what is your safety net, and how do you plan to make your name amongst the others? 

Fractional & Private equity investments in India are still at a very early stage. We need to educate people about the opportunities and risks involved. We have been successful in the US in adding value to our investors across a decade. Most of the companies operating in India are operating wherein they have almost zero skin in the game. It’s the investor’s money which is at stake unlike us wherein we have our capital also infused in all our developments. We would want the investors to get the benefit of all project developments that we undertake and generate wealth hand in hand with us.

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