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Interview: We want to leave a legacy behind by redeveloping iconic properties, says Gopichand P Hinduja

Forum Gandhi | | Updated on: May 26, 2022
Gopichand P Hinduja, Co-Chairman of the Hinduja Group

Gopichand P Hinduja, Co-Chairman of the Hinduja Group

The redeveloped iconic Old War Office in UK will be inaugurated around Diwali

Eight years after acquiring UK’s iconic Old War Office building that was once occupied by the country’s war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Hinduja Group is set to launch it this year around Diwali. The OWO has now been redeveloped into a 120-room luxury hotel and 85 branded residences by the Hinduja group. In an interview with BusinessLine, GP Hinduja, Co-Chairman, Hinduja Group, spoke about the efforts taken for the redevelopment and plans to take up similar iconic properties in different parts of the world, including India. Excerpts:

What is the progress on OWO and when do you plan to open it?

We are working towards inaugurating it around Diwali. It is not an easy project. It’s a trophy project but a lot of work has to be done on it.

Did the pandemic delay your plans?

No, Covid-19 has not delayed it. We should be honest because even in the time of Covid, our workers and contractors were sincere, they were all working. The project got delayed because we wanted additional development. The original was 5,80,000 sq feet which has been increased to 7,50,000 sq feet. I want to make and keep it as a legacy of the Hinduja family in the UK. So we have worked hard on it. 

 Are you seeing a lot of interest from high net worth people for the apartments. How many have been booked so far?

We are overbooked. For a trophy project such as this, there is a special demand. What we were selling before at £4,500-5,000, our last sale of the apartment was at £11,000 per square feet. But we have to be very very careful of the type of owners coming in. We want a proper KYC, we want the right people to be there so that in the residences, whoever comes they should enjoy knowing each other.

How many of them are currently from India? 

As per the confidentiality agreement and document which have been signed, we are not supposed to give the numbers but I can tell you there is great interest from the US, China, Hong Kong , Singapore, Bollywood and Hollywood. But we have to be careful with the compliances, which we have created ourselves. It’s not that whoever gives us more money, we are attracted to hand it over to them. No.

Has the Russia-Ukraine war impacted the project? 

There are many Russian buyers, but we will have to wait and watch. We don’t want to do anything that is not compliant with the norms.

Are you looking at properties in India that you would want to invest in in the hospitality or real estate sector?

My father, always believed that realty is the best thing to invest in because it keeps on growing. We have been investing in India right from when we started JW Marriott at Juhu in Mumbai as a large investor. We have a huge land bank in India and in that land bank, already the two buildings have been developed in Bangalore and there is a great demand for it. 

And now we are in Chennai, we are in Mumbai, Hyderabad. And also in Jogeshwari, we have a big land bank. And everywhere the planning is on either for creating a charitable activity like medical college, our world knowledge centre, even residential and offices.

What about investing in other iconic properties such as the OWO? 

We have got a lot of experience since we developed our existing residence, the Carlton House Terrace, which was part of the palace of Queen Victoria and King George IV. From there we have one of the best development teams and they are very much looking for opportunities- we are developing properties in Paris and in Geneva too.

What kind of property is it? 

They are all historical properties, we don’t want to go in anything modern, we prefer historical and heritage. We want to leave a legacy behind. 

Earlier, you mentioned that the Group was looking at a new business vertical for such iconic projects, have you identified such projects in India? 

We have shortlisted properties and we are working on them. The legal documentation for one property in London is going on. Next week you will hear an announcement. But I can add that we have 11 verticals and this has become the 12th vertical and now, even our third generation, our daughters-in-law, and children are taking a lot of interest. Whether it is in interiors or designing they are all invested in these projects and interested in them. 

What is the ticket size of this project?

There is no project which we are negotiating is less than 700 million to a billion pound.

Is this for the one in India? 

Also in India and in London but the first announcement that you will hear next week is from London. It’s a very unique one. More unique than the one we’re working on. 

When can we hope to hear about the one in India? 

India will take 2-3 months. The process and implementation in India is the biggest problem and you need so many clearances and processes…. We would have seen India become the third-largest economy by 2025 but now it will be by 2030 in general, if the implementations go fast we can get the economy to move faster. 

Are you looking at any new investments in India? 

We are always open to new things. We are going into startup companies, fintech, and solar but now everything is more on tech. We have over 12 verticals. We are now in 100 countries in the world. So wherever we find opportunities that match our instincts and visions we will go. We started from trading to manufacturing to tech businesses to land development to hotels and cyber securities. 

At one point in time, you have placed a bid in Jet Airways. Are you still interested in the aviation industry?

We had placed the bid in Jet because the government and Etihad asked for our help. But if you ask, the family is not interested in the aviation business. If a billionaire wants to become a millionaire, and a millionaire wants to be bankrupted, then he should get into the aviation sector. 

But renewable energy, solar energy, and hydrogen there are the sectors we have focused on and already we have won three-four tenders in India for solar.

What is your view about the current economic slowdown? Are we heading for a recession?

During the covid Covid-19, several economists have gone wrong on climate change, Russia Ukraine issue, and price change among other things. Those who have studied World War 1 and 2, have understood that liquidity is important. If I say recession won’t come, I would be wrong but will there be a collapse? The answer is no.. because we have learned better from our past. The government knows how to protect it. 

Published on May 25, 2022
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