News Karnataka
Friday, December 09 2022

How three friends transformed coastal landscape

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Mangaluru: There are more young entrepreneurs in India today than ever before. People are venturing more into entrepreneurship than opting for traditional jobs. At present, youngsters choose to be their own masters to deliver positive change to various market sectors saturated with players that are stagnant and with no real change in these fields for many years.The idea for entrepreneurship among youngsters starts as early as in their college days or even before during their schooling. Alliances are formed over passionate discussions ove an idea, a gut feeling or making a piece of an idea into a fully operational source of employment for hundreds of people!

Ajith, Ram and Sandeep are three such individuals. Theirs is a surprising story of childhood friends making it work successfully on the professional front as a team of developers as well as strengthening bonds and more importantly staying friends for 20 years of owning a successful company together. The following is a look into their journey, the way forward and their advice to the new wave of entrepreneurs taking over the world.

Early days

It all started with three boys from Mangaluru who were childhood friends. Ajith Kumar and Sandeep Konchady’s ties run deeper and way back since they were little boys studying in St Aloysius, Mangaluru until they met their third musketeer Ramkumar Bekal in St Aloysius High School. Their little crew began to form tighter bonds when Sandeep and Ram went on to study at SDMs Engineering College in Dharwad, while Ajith was simultaneously in SDM pursuing his education in business management.

In a chat with daijiworld, the owners of Citadel Developers spoke of the earliest days of heated conversations and the drive to start something together. They recall the days they would come back into town on holidays from college, and the first thing they would do before going home to meet their parents was to meet each other and swap their stories on their old stomping grounds. The two places that still stand today are Indraprastha and Woodlands. A few other local haunts, they hold in confidence and don’t want to let out to public knowledge or rather, their parents’ knowledge!

These foundation years, they insist, are present in many young entrepreneurs’ stories and are the vital years that lay the foundation of trust and friendship and serve as a memory bank to draw from in times of unavoidable conflict to remind them that, their roots run deep.

The Genesis

While getting into the business of construction of their own was still an idea, the three were working the grind with other organisations. Ajith and Ram happened to be working in two completely different departments of the same organisation and Sandeep was working at a construction company elsewhere.

On asking the trio, the exact moment of inception and the evolution of small talks and inspired ideas and when did it all tie up to deciding to put the hammer to the nail and go all in, Sandeep Konchady says, “The idea to start something was always present. We just had to wait for the right moment for the idea to manifest itself.” To which Ram responds pointing to a smiling Ajith, “He was always pushing us to start something together long before anything materialised.” And that’s what it took, not one big life changing moment. But a series of conversations and heated debates to realising they wanted to get into business.

They did just that when the opportunity presented itself when another one of their friends directed them to a property up for grabs. They recall the first project they undertook with a sense of nostalgia, and remark on the hilarity of it all in retrospect. The story throws them into fits of laughter of how they came together to get past the trouble certain individuals caused. They recall that at the time it was not just three of them that stood strong in the face of troubles but other friends that also got together to help them get past these hurdles. The building of the first boundary wall on their first property was spent in heated fervour with all their friends gathering together to make sure they did what they set out to do and any disastrous incidents didn’t hamper their goals.

The Evolution

A huge lesson, they indicate, to take away for many entrepreneurs, is that nothing is promised to you, you are not obliged to everything running smoothly around you. They learnt this lesson the hard way. The real estate boom of 1995 that served as a great precursor to push them into realising their goals to start out, on their own, crashed in the year they got into business of construction.

The test placed before them was not just trying but also a huge lesson in realising the trials and tribulations are going to be scattered along the way, and this was possibly the biggest test of their mettle. Ajith recalls, “The competition was massive and there was understandably a lack of faith in new players in the market.” The prices fell, the market crashed; the people around them lacked confidence. The only way to overcome these hurdles was to put all their effort to creating something that would stand the test of time and be a symbol of quality and excellence.

The next 20 years saw the trio go through many triumphs and hurdles in equal measure. They made sure to take people along with them on their journey and slowly climb to the top. They see their slow growth as a testament to honest work, great quality and attention to detail and implore all entrepreneurs starting out in any field to chase their dreams and not money. The faster the rise, the shakier you are and the faster the fall.

The next few years saw them invest time and money in not just the properties they were developing, but taking along with them people experienced in their individual fields along for the ride. Most people working with Citadel Developers have an established relationship of over a decade or have been with the trio the whole journey. The life lesson they hope to indicate is finding the best is not necessarily finding the biggest. Its finding the people who stick by you, work as tirelessly as you do and only do so because you provide them with the resources and the environment to grow and do so. The team, they saw have worked days and nights and are still with the company. It is people from all levels that choose to continue working and wishing only the best for the company.

The reasons for this loyalty, Ram indicates are ‘Transparency, clarity and making sure nothing is left unresolved by the end of the day. These qualities that encourage loyalty and quality work from employees are also very important between the three partners.” Ajith comments, “Even if there are arguments between us, by the end of the day when we sit down for a drink, it’s all sorted. The only real arguments anymore are who has more hair on their head!”

Friendship above all

These problems are good problems to have! And to be noted that the friendship remains so very strong because of the transparency and honesty right from the start, and also knowing nothing is worth risking what they’ve built over the decades in both the professional as well as the friendship front. Letting nothing hamper their relationship with each other is also a testament to the bond of their partnership in business and the relationship they maintain with their clients, all of it evolving in a cyclical nature of positivity.

They also indicate a great reason to go into business with a friend because there will be no better sounding board than a friend, there is a probability of consulting a third party and not getting real advice that serves the organisation the best outcome. It could be due to not wanting good advice to get out that easily in case of competition or just simply the closeness between two friends cannot be mimicked. Keeping in mind all other aspects, relationship is kept honest and transparent with ample clarity and everything else becomes a lot easier. For instance the growth spurt the company experienced was never a sudden one and the trio are truly grateful for it.

The growth over the past 20 years was at the right pace, with the burden of crisis shared, growing pains shared by everyone and never letting gossip and outside forces affecting the internal strength and foundation they built. The growth they experienced was steady and along with them, everyone associated with the company also grew.

Exponential growth

The changes Citadel Developers experienced over 20 years, creating a workforce of over 500 people today was an organic yet dynamic growth, through hard work, diligence and priority to quality and being the best. The growth over time, they also advice should ideally be slow to not just savour every moment , but to always be appreciative of the journey that led up to this moment. For the large part a steady growth also meant it was a smooth sailing journey with three friends at the help of the ship, always being clear with the roles they played as well as what each of them bring to the table. Sandeep takes on the role of executing all plans effectively and to the most perfect state they could fathom while Ram balances out the other two’s assertive energy with a quiet and warm nature that resonates everyone that works with them and works for them.

Known by friends and family alike as the three musketeers, the trio embrace the closeness and use it to best serve the vision for their brand, to serve excellence and to value relationships. Citadel is one of the rare companies that pride themselves in being completely immersed and involved in every step of the way, while this they hope slowly changes allowing for a dynamic approach over time, up until now their involvement with not just how they develop their properties but also with every person that walks through the Citadel office doors has proved to be extremely valuable. They have learnt a great deal from their clients and the families that chose to live in their apartments.

They say it’s very hard to sometimes let go, because each property for Citadel was almost their baby. Going back and working on their projects long after the apartments were all sold, maintaining books for the residents 8 years on, revisiting old properties to fix any damages the years may have caused, or perfecting parts of it they did not feel a hundred percent satisfied with.

Many young business owners will find these traits resonate within themselves and rightfully so, they need to be present, and provide their absolute attention to every detail and meeting with clients personally to make them feel absolutely comfortable and help them with advice on bank loans, to the extent of providing clients with every form of assistance from the start to finish. Resulting in clients soon becoming friends! When the families realise there are never any hidden costs and every aspect of their new homes are a product of the best possible choice in the market, they are quick to recommend Citadel Builders to their friends and family. With most of the property always being sold to family and friends of existing clients, the trio look back at their journey fondly and recollect the many times people have gone out of their way to thank them for their assistance in helping get the families homes and not just houses.

With great pride in their work they also point that entrepreneurs need to listen to the market too. Pay attention to the feedback from the industry and take the feedback in the best possible way you can. If it is criticism, take it in the right stride. If it is praise take that too with a grain of salt and never let pride take over humility. The industry recognised the builders with investors looking forward to working with them, knowing their adherence to quality, timely delivery and honest work, when their first large scale project Jade was completed.

They believe there is absolutely no need to be sorry about being choosy and having a very strong screening process. The same attitude Citadel is proud of having, the screening process is very strong for the land they choose, the materials they use and the people they hire to represent their company.

All of this leads to goals that evolve with the organisation, the ongoing big project for Citadel Developers, is the project Magnum Sky Villas, and rightfully named. For Citadel this project is their Magnum Opus, building a property where they went all out with all the aspects of the construction, and aim to make this a property to want to love to live in; each level being individually built as one home with balconies surrounding the entire house, showcasing the best materials and best designs for every floor. They speak of always having complete faith in everyone they work with , and this property just like the others is an ode to that sentiment, being able to give their architect an absolutely freehand to make this the absolute best.

The next big project they look forward to see to completion is a 14 storied commercial and residential complex, housing within itself 5 floors of commercial property, and 87 apartments. The project is yet to be christened , it will be located in Padavinangady.

Citadel Developers advices all entrepreneurs to stay humble while having goals that are constantly evolving, surrounding themselves with the best in every aspect of the company and providing the employees with the best remuneration to ensure they are not just happy doing what they love but also keep coming back to do it. The builders look forward to the next phase of their growth and the new chapter to their story by embracing the changes they need to make and the growth they’ve experienced in the same vein. While taking a serious and hard look at the green movement and incorporating green practices and honing what they’ve already started with the massive rain water project they already incorporated into their property at Bondel, Woodville.

They believe that as a business owner of any scale, being communally conscious and aware of how best we can serve the community, the environment and our city back should always be a priority. If everyone did one small thing to change old practices into newer conscious effort, a movement of epic proportions could create waves of change that is further reaching than any of us could imagine.

On finally being asked what words best describe what Citadel Developers stands for, they laugh and respond that’s for everyone else to conclude. The three change makers stand strong and tall for quality, transparency, accessibility, conscious living, humility and sincerity.

These are excellent qualities to share with a new wave of young entrepreneurs off with, by changing the old game of frightful competition to a new age of mellow and sincere hope that everyone makes it big, and we can all help each other along the way, through providing jobs to our community, creating things of beauty and leaving a lasting impression on the land we live if by returning the favour through initiatives for more than just ourselves.

How three friends transformed coastal landscape
How three friends transformed coastal landscape

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