27, 2008
The Indian
Vallejo, Calif.
HE fact that many US archi-
tects, both of Indian-origin
and otherwise, have been hir-
ed by the Indian real estate industry,
often in multi-million-dollar projects,
is often lost in the debate around the
outsourcing of IT to India, said Ku-
mar Gera, chairman of the Confeder-
ation of Real Estate Developers As-
sociation of India (CREDAI). “So
you can say the reverse (of IT out-
sourcing) is true in case of the real es-
tate industry in India.”
In an exclusive interview with
The Indian Express
, Gera, who re-
cently visited the San Francisco Bay
Area, discussed the real estate in-
dustry in India.
One of the major problems of the
real estate industry in India is the
“highly fragmented nature of the
business, with different laws in dif-
ferent states,” Gera said, adding that
the formation of an apex body like
CREDAI was long overdue and wel-
comed by all having an interest in
the real estate sector in India.
CREDAI is an apex body
representing more than 3,000 prop-
erty developers in India. It was
founded in 1999 to represent the in-
terests of all builders and developers
based in India.
The phenomenon of globaliza-
tion is also affecting the real estate
sector, a small indicator of which is
the presence of non-local builders
and developers across India; it just
points to the way of things to come,
said Gera, who is the owner of Gera
Developments Pvt. Ltd.
He said along with the major re-
forms of liberalization in India, the
repeal of the Urban Land Ceiling Act
of 1976, which limited land holdings
of individuals in metro areas, in 2004
helped fuel the real estate boom.
Gera, who is the founding presi-
dent of CREDAI, said the organiza-
tion has been successful in lobbying
the Central government to take
“proactive steps to encourage hous-
ing starts and get results in infra-
structure development in towns and
cities, especially with Tier II and Tier
II cities, given that the urban popula-
tion in India will double from 2001 to
2025 and put pressure on infrastruc-
ture, housing and real estate needs.”
Other changes are also the bring-
ing in more professionalism, he
added. Today there are over two-
dozen real estate firms listed on
stock exchanges, with another 20 or
so in the pipeline.
CREDAI has been involved
with a couple of major Real Estate
Expos abroad, including in the US
and Canada.
In case of real estate in
India, the reverse of IT
outsourcing is true: Gera
Palo Alto, Calif.
MARRIAGES are made
in heaven, but matches
are definitely made in the
SF Bay Area, especially
when it comes to the In-
dian couples.
Jasbina Ahluwalia, 37,
plays Cupid for many In-
dian professionals work-
ing in the IT sector, fi-
nance world and the
medical and law field.
Founder of Intersec-
tions Matchmaking, Ah-
luwalia gets those ‘hoo-
ked up’, who while
pursuing their careers of-
ten have no time to search
for that perfect soul mate.
“I was a practicing
lawyer for 5 years, when I
decided to become an en-
trepreneur,” she says.
The idea stemmed from
her own experiences as a
second generation In-
dian, looking for a seri-
ous relationship. “While
growing, up our parents
would always make us fo-
cus more on our studies
and career; dating was
not given any consensus.
So for second generation
children like me, it was
really challenging to ex-
plore relationships within
the parameters.”
Distinguishing Inter-
from casual dating ser-
vices, Ahluwalia says it is
more tailored around the
needs of the Indian work-
search of a serious rela-
tionship that might lead
to matrimony.
“Our demographic age
group is between 20s and
30s, some going all the
way to 40 years. Although
predominantly it’s the sec-
ond generation of chil-
dren, the first generation
crowd is part of our radar
as well,” she says.
At Intersections, the
way matchmaking works
in quite interesting. The
company has a pool mem-
bership of $375, wherein
one becomes a part of its
database for matches,
while the second option is
of a proactive introduc-
tion plan, costing $2500,
which is more aggressive
and personalized.
“Before signing up an
individual for any pro-
gram, I spend almost 2
hours with each person,
gauging their personality
traits and talking to them
of what they look for in a
relationship, based on our
written questionnaire,”
she explains.
Since its inception last
year, this matchmaking
agency has seen a many
fold increase in the num-
ber its clients. Although
the clientele includes so-
me American profession-
als as well, over 50 percent
of the members are Indi-
ans. “For Indians this is an
ideal combination of
blending their romantic
notions with the cultural
tradition of an arranged
marriage,” she says.
Fremont, Calif.
STARTING any entrepreneurial
venture in the Silicon Valley is not a
tough task, running it successfully
is. Simple but ambitious Indian en-
trepreneur Viren Rana has made
his mark in the latter.
Rana founded the ISTS World-
wide Inc. in 2002 from a modest
one-bedroom office. The leading
IT consultancy firm, of which Rana
is the president and CEO, now
serves top names in the retails and
payments domain, besides occupy-
ing a 6,000 sq ft plush suite in East
Bay, California.
The firm was recently named as
the fastest growing technology
company in the Silicon Valley by
Deloitte & Touché USA LLP.
Originally from Gurgaon in India,
Rana started his career in the US,
working for three years as the sales
and marketing consultant for the re-
tail chain American Stores, which
runs nearly 1,800 retail stores (form-
erly Albertsons) across the country.
Equipped with knowledge of the
retail industry, Rana was quick to
realize the potential of the fast-
paced IT consultancy business and
plunged right into it. “I always knew
I wouldn’t be working for someone
else in an 8 to 5 job, so starting my
own company seemed like the right
thing to do,” says the 36-year-old.
“My vision was always to have a
worldwide company.”
In early 2002, Rana went ahead
and established ISTS after juggling
with two startup initiatives. “It was a
time when people were closing shop
and the economy was dipping, yet I
was confident if we’re able to come
out with some solutions that help
our customers cut costs, then we can
survive,” Rana says, as he explains
how he led his company down the IT
outsourcing path in the initial years.
For this dynamic entrepreneur it
was his prior involvement with two
startups that paved the way for the
success of ISTS. “In the first consul-
tancy company I helped to build a
team from 10 to 100 people, and al-
though the second startup did not
quite work, it was these initial at-
tempts that were my learning gro-
und to develop the third venture.”
With ISTS, Rana adopted the
strategy of focusing vertically on a
domain, and given his competency
in the retail space and his team’s ex-
pertise in the payments sides, the
company chose to build its core
strength in these domains.
“We knew to flourish competitiv-
ely we had to differentiate from ot-
her vendors, and decided to extend
our horizontal technology strength
in building our specialty in the retail
and payments space,” he recalls.
From modest revenues of
$52,000 in the first year, ISTS
reached $14.7 million in 2007, and
now estimates a projected growth
of $22 million in 2008. Some of its
top customers include VISA,
Symantec, Blackhawk Networks/
Safeway, Intuit and Paymetric.
“Our top customers constitute
our multi-million dollar accounts
and we’ve recently signed a Global
Technology partnership with Veri-
fone, which reinforces our expan-
sion in the US market,” Rana says.
Looking back at his humble ba-
ckground, the entrepreneur, with a
B.E from Shivaji University in Kol-
hapur, India, says, “My grandfather
was a farmer and my father was in
the Air Force. I always thought that I
would just make enough savings in
the US and return home.” But fate
had something else planned for him.
From one-room office to plush suite,
Viren Rana makes a success of IT
Arranging Cupid’s ‘shots’ in the Valley
‘Globalization is also
affecting the real estate
sector, a small indicator of
which is the presence of
non-local builders and
developers across India’
Viren Rana is the founder and
president of ISTS Worldwide Inc., a
$14.7 million IT consultancy firm
Jasbina Ahluwalia gets those ‘hooked up’,
who while pursuing their careers have no
time to search for that perfect soul mate