Jose Thomas

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UPS AND DOWNS
Tuesday 16th November, 2010



     

 

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Dear Friends,

Most of the stories I have been posting relate to my early days, especially of my toil while chasing success. I always knew throughout the hardships that happiness awaited at the end. My time had also begun to change. I started to see the brighter side of life – more happiness and success.

I had the clear intention of bringing IQF technology into India for the 1st time and with the concurrence of my business partner in Tampa, Florida, I was all set to fly high. In fact I used to feel that I was already through. New ideas came along and deals came through in my favour. I call this God’s blessings which are received for one’s hard work.

One day while I was in the sub-way, returning to my apartment in Queens from my office in downtown New York, I decided to get off mid way and landed up in the Mid-town section of New York City. Even though I had been there for more than a year, I never had the opportunity to get a feel of the city. Every day I took the sub-way at Queens, which brought me right to the station below my office and returned in the same manner. Of course, I used to tell people that I lived in New York. As I stood before the impressive Empire State Building, I got an idea. I saw luxurious condos, high rise apartments with residents coming in and out of these buildings, well dressed, and limousines parked in front of these buildings waiting to take them. I saw a different life altogether. On this particular day I walked around the city, looking at the amazing apartments. All of them had, right from the front door, men with white gloves and polished elevators with well decorated lobbies.

That evening I returned to my little apartment in Queens and thought to myself, why not have something like this in Cochin, India, my home town. I thought it was a brilliant idea. On my next trip to Cochin, I convened a meeting of my seniors and presented the idea of Choice getting into building of apartments. Most of them were taken aback. They were of the opinion that there is no scope for community living in this town when there was ample land available for each aspiring home owner to build a home of their own, that too, walled off and gated. My idea was a no-go one but then, a Senior Executive, a very loyal friend and a nephew of mine stood by me. I wish to mention his name here, Rajan Joshi. He was very enthusiastic and was convinced we needed something like this in Cochin – vertical buildings can bring down the cost to the buyer. He said that group living brings in a different lifestyle and the amenities that we could provide could enhance one’s living style.
He backed me and gave me enough support and agreed to work with me to realise my dream.

Before I left to the U.S., I contacted an architect with whom I shared this idea. Architects in Cochin, those days didn’t have any experience in designing high rise buildings. Rajan and myself met this architect, presented our idea and the architect agreed to do the project. We had then entered the field of construction in Cochin. I think I was the first builder who brought in the luxury apartment concept to my home town, changing lifestyles altogether.

Choice Constructions was formed. We scouted for land in what is today’s down town Cochin. In an area called Vytilla, it was an area that no one wanted to go to, much less live there. We found a plot, the cost of which was Rs.4000/- per cent (Rs.4,00,000/- an acre or USD 20000/- for an acre).
The present value of land in that area is phenomenal.

This was marshy land and I presented the land layout to the architect. He came up with a concept of 96 apartments. I remember having worked very closely with this firm and gave them all the inputs from what I had absorbed in New York City – large lobbies, corridor spaces, gardens, swimming pool, landscaped area’s, club house, children’s play area, barbeque corners, etc. This was some time in 1987.

Contractors were appointed, brochures printed and marketing started, construction commenced, and there were hundreds of workers on site. My able executive, Rajan, had committed many a sale as he was convinced that youngsters needed a dwelling place and with these hopes, we saw the building come up from the ground, brick by brick.

Problems started. No one could register a sale. People even laughed at us saying “who wants to live in an apartment when there is a lot of land available to build our own home?”. I saw a serious problem here. There were no housing loans available those days, unlike today, and banks did not lend money for building projects like this. I knew I would get stuck with the construction if I had no sales. I did not blame my colleague, but decided to work on different strategies to bring in sales.
It was no easy task. We all worked hard as a team and the building almost reached the 3rd floor. There was still no sign of a sale. We began to run out of cash. Tension started to mount and the situation got grim. Everybody blamed this colleague who backed me. This was when we realized that we would not be able to sell this to a single Keralite as a concept, because they just would not buy an apartment.

I suddenly thought about New York and other cities where lot of Indian expatriates lived and who knew the advantages of community living. I knew they had the money. I also knew that we could sell the concept of investments into India to this community. We immediately advertised in Indian papers in the U.S., which were mostly read by affluent Indians, especially Malayali doctors who lived in different parts of the country. We appointed an exclusive senior employee to be based out of our New York Office to market this apartment complex. Rajan was feeling very bad for having pushed me into this and stood by me, supporting me all along.

The advertisements appeared but the phone never rang. This exclusive executive whom I had appointed was anxious. What next!! He used to sit across my desk everyday and I watched him getting frustrated. One day, just to lighten the mood, I called his number and connected as a potential buyer and got him to speak to me. He sold me right on the telephone. My confidence only grew.
The advertisement appeared mid week but by the week end, the telephone started to ring.
We got our first sale – a Malayali doctor living in Texas. We sprang up as a team, visited various cities in the U.S., invited all local well-to-do residents hailing from Kerala and presented the product. They understood the concept, liked the design and of course the price. Friends, do you believe I sold this apartment with all amenities in 1987 for Rs.500/- per sq ft. Today, even the plumbing of a project cannot be covered within this price. Those intelligent Keralites invested in our project. Foreign remittances came into my bank account in hard currency. Everybody was happy, including my country. This project was an absolute success. The building was complete, we made great money and entered into the field of constructions and paved the way for others to follow.
Look at Cochin today. Hoardings all over the city are screaming with apartment advertisements.
I kept going and went on to develop more properties, the latest one of which is nearing completion next month, the tallest building in South India, a 40 storied building - “Choice Paradise”.

My first building, “Choice Gardens” in Vytilla, Cochin, India, was an 8 storey building. I stand proud today as I conclude this story, but would like to mention something unfortunate at this juncture, something that happened a few days ago.

Rajan Joshi, whom I referred to earlier, stood by me, through thick and thin for 19 years, working under tremendous pressure. A few years back he left Choice and took up a job in Darussalam, Tanzania.

My dear friends, this 52 year old friend, my dearest nephew and ex-colleague passed away 5 days ago. I am deeply grieved at such a loss. I dedicate this story to his memory and fondly remember the wonderful things he did for me!

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Responses to
 sounderrajan says:
sir, i salute for your self esteem, no word to say for your sucess,its really boost myself sir thanks/regards sounderrajan
 
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