People@Work

A new blueprint for working well

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on April 25, 2019 Published on April 24, 2019

Max Group marks its foray into office development by showcasing a building with a difference

A gigantic upside-down man assembled with uneven stone grabs your eye as you walk into the reception area of Max Towers in Noida. This massive sculpture, gorgeously crafted by South African artist Angus Vanzyl Taylor, is in an open green courtyard and playfully symbolises our topsy-turvy life.

There is lots happening in the lobby of this swank, new 22-storeyed office complex that formally threw open its doors on April 12. A cart selling organic vegetables is stationed in the foyer — those working in the building can pick up the produce on their way back home. An inviting cakes and tea area run by L’Opera is getting ready, and should be open soon. A large visual calendar in the lobby flashes the schedule of activities at the Towers for this month. These are a mix of cultural and utilitarian — from musical evenings and film screenings to the schedules for laundry and dry cleaning services, car repair services and vegetable markets.

Move to the elevator area and the image of playful monkeys greets you — these, again, symbolise fun at work. There are no buttons inside the lift. Access is through a touchscreen outside where you press your destination, which is all disconcertingly new-age. “We want you to use tech and not let tech use you,” says Sahil Vachani, the young managing director of MaxVentures and Industries, who is leading the multi-billion dollar Max Group’s foray into real estate. The strategically located Max Towers — it is literally at the mouth of the DND Flyway that connects Delhi to Noida — that offers spectacular views of the Okhla bird sanctuary is the group’s first office development. Developed at ₹600 crore, it came up in a record 24 months and Vachani is eager to share the strategy behind this building as well as the real estate foray.

As office buildings go, one has seen spectacular complexes, with lots of art, community engagement and other interesting trappings but these have been usually company-designed spaces, custom-fitted to their unique aesthetics and requirements. The spine of the lovely HUL office in Mumbai, for instance, is designed a bit like a market to give the feel of its FMCG business to its employees. Similarly, many of the IT services campuses are designed for collaboration.

However, it’s rare to see a builder/developer investing in such stuff — the normal practice is to hand over a shell, admittedly some are sophisticated shells — and leave it to the tenants to do it up.

This is the gap that Max Estates wants to fill. As Vachani says, there are two parts to a building — the hardware and the software. In terms of hardware they wanted to give the works when it came to facilities, so the building, with its unique fins on exterior, is environment friendly and energy-efficient and boasts many facilities. “It’s also the only building in NCR that has an in-house gym, a swimming pool, a 150-seater auditorium, a salon, a crèche, a wellness centre, conferencing facilities, green areas, and an air purifying system,” he points out.

The software part, he says, lies in the concepts of collaboration, playfulness, engagement, that they will be offering to all the tenants. Much like co-working spaces, a community services manager will be in charge of activities at the building and chalk out an exciting calendar of events to engage the office-goers. From the casual to the fine dining, a host of exciting food outlets will be located in the building and Vachani hopes to draw in families in the evenings to enjoy these outlets, making the building a 24/7 hub.

A value-added offering

Of course, by loading the building with such amenities, the rental rate will be higher than normal. Max Towers rental rates are 36 per cent higher than the buildings in its neighbourhood — ₹100 per sq ft monthly compared to the ₹60-70 per sq ft that the micromarket of Noida charges. Is that viable?

According to Anuj Puri, chairman, ANAROCK Property Consultants, “What can effectively work in favour of Max Towers is its strategic location, which provides easy accessibility to Delhi.” He also lists proximity to the metro station as well as the fact that it is a one-of-its-kind large commercial complex in an area that, so far, had only small office buildings. However, he does say the high monthly rentals could play spoilsport. “Despite the facilities offered, some companies prefer to stick to lower rentals.”

Vachani, however, sounds confident of garnering the high rent, especially as he points that pre-opening, they have already signed leases with co-working giant International Workplace Group, which will be the anchor tenant, a French MNC and a few others.

“Real estate is one thing, but we are topping it up with everything. Our vision is that everything you would need in a day can be found here,” says Vachani.

In fact, the very genesis of Max group’s entry into real estate, says Vachani, was because they found a gap in the office offerings in the market. “We are trend spotters,” he says, describing the group’s entrepreneurial spirit and strength. When the group looked at the shifts that had taken place in India in the last twenty years — cultural, economic, behavioural — it found that while people had upgraded their cars, their gadgets, their lifestyles, etc, the offices had not upgraded to the same standards.

“We like to be in industries where there are tailwinds and not headwinds,” says Vachani. “From our assessment, real estate seemed to have tailwinds.”

As he points out, Delhi NCR has an additional demand for 9 lakh sq ft of annual rental. As for the risks in the real estate business, Vachani says, “We are not building to sell. Our strategy is to earn rental income.” Also, he says, “our story is primarily one of equity. We have raised roughly ₹750 crore of equity capital so our debt levels are very low. Our business model is thus derisked.”

There is a total of six lakh sq ft spread over 22 floors (while office floors are 19, there will be three floors of amenities, food courts, gym, et al). Vachani envisages 4,000 people working in the complex but has built car-parking facilities for 6,000.

The theme of the office is “work well”. And the idea is to continue this across the group’s next office development offerings as well. Next up is a project in Okhla, where a 15-storey Max House is taking shape. The group is also exploring options in Gurugram.

So far Max Ventures and Antara Senior Living (two Max group companies) have moved into the premises and as you tour their offices, what catches the eye is the verdant greenery between the desks. A vertical garden is centre stage of the open office plan.

It’s still work in progress — the recreation areas are taking shape, and outside, there are plans to put up street side café-style seating.

With shuttles to the metro station and every convenience, from car wash to vegetable shopping (these come from the group’s organic farms in Manesar), who wouldn’t like to work in such a complex?

Published on April 24, 2019

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