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From competition to collaboration

Rr Amit Chopra speaks on all things related to the real estate business in Goa

In conversation with ANNA FERNANDES

A self-taught professional in the fields of real estate consultancy and construction, Amit Chopra’s career as a realtor traces back to the year 1993. Starting out as a real-estate “broker” in Delhi, he slowly branched out to working as a project consultant for real estate developers, providing them much-needed inputs to initialise projects and land acquisition. In January 2006, he moved to Goa and started his own firm Escala Realty Pvt Ltd. He was the founder-chairman of the Goa Association of Realtors in 2015 and became a member of the Governing Body of the National Association of Realtors – India (NAR-India) in 2016. Recently appointed as president of the Goa Association of Realtors (GAR), he speaks to Business Goa about his new role, the association, and the industry in Goa.

Walk us through your journey in the real estate world.

I initially ventured into the industry as a freelancer. Back then, the market was very different and totally unorganised. The real estate sector was not recognised as a legitimate trade, nor was it considered a very respectable profession. Even my father, a colonel in the army, had a big issue about his son dropping out of engineering and becoming a “broker”. “Broker”, was often used as a derogatory term. But I knew I had found a profession that I liked and wanted to pursue. So, I began reading up extensively on the industry and made myself familiar with all the governing rules, bye-laws and regulations of the trade.

I was based in Delhi then, and with time, I made a mark for myself. My mother is a Goan, and I always wanted to come back to Goa. In 2006, I made a sudden decision to move to Goa. I knew nobody in the real estate market here. I had to literally start from scratch.

In Goa, I was an ‘outsider’ – my name conveys that. But, over a period of time, we were able to successfully build a very good name and trust within the Goan market. From a guy who nobody knew here, to the founder-chairman of the Goa Association of Realtors, and now the president of the association! It has been a very interesting journey.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR FIRM ESCALA PVT LTD.

The company, originally, started off being known as “The Consultants” back in Delhi in 1993 when I initially ventured into the real estate industry. Establishing the firm in Goa, in 2006, that name was too generic, so we had to change it. The term “Escala” actually stems from the Portuguese word meaning “scale”. The most important unit in real estate is the scale. So, the name seemed apt. Today, Escala is one of Goa’s top realty firms that specialises in providing a wide range of realty-based services to clients. We are well known in the market as real estate consultants, property legal advisors, builders, developers and project consultants offering complete turnkey execution of projects including design, decor, construction, architectural, structural, plumbing, electrical, interior design and other related consultancies. Services that we specialise in include building construction consultancy services, renovation services, architectural services, property sourcing, locale identification and project viability studies and complete real estate consultancy. Our main focus is on providing fair deals to all our clients. To provide the best services to our clients, we have a competent team of professionals comprising of qualified legal advisors, architects and other associates. Some of the projects that we have worked on include Casa de Reis, Perto de Goa and Goa Greens.

As president of GAR, what is your immediate course of action?

My immediate course of action is to work towards improving the standards of conducting business here. Secondly, I intend to increase the repute of our association and its founders – the trust that our association members will carry by virtue of being members of GAR. As realtors, it is our duty to showcase our knowledge, competence, and efficiency. Realtors are problem solvers and solution providers. Our goal at GAR is to set the highest and most ethical standards and practices in the field of real estate consulting. With an over 40-member strong base and growing, GAR seeks to bring diverse professionals in the real estate industry on a common platform to create a vibrant real estate market. Further, the association hopes to foster professionalism and integrity among our members. Established in 2015, GAR has been instrumental in turning competitors into collaborators. By working together, one can actually achieve more. We, therefore, strive to increase the number of our association members. By joining GAR, one gets the benefit of automatically becoming a member of NAR India and gets recognition in all state associations. Business for members also develops on a wider scale. Every member is bound by and has to strictly adhere to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

What are some of the past initiatives undertaken by GAR?

We have undertaken a number of CSR initiatives in the past. We recently launched a donation collection drive as part of our CSR initiative to collect funds for Kerala flood victims. Through the individual contribution of our committee members, we were able to raise about ₹2,34,000. We want to do similar things in the future. We have also undertaken blood donation drives, borne the expense of two cataract surgeries, sponsored water coolers to Rosary High School, Dona Paula, among others. Our term has just started, so we are still in the process of formulating a lot of initiatives.

We strive to provide a platform for dissemination of information and exchange of ideas on matters related to the real estate industry. In collaboration with CREDAI and GCCI, we have successfully hosted and organised multiple seminars on RERA, implication of GST and TDS, and so on. We have also conducted education and training sessions on taxation, marketing and sales, Vastu consultancy, and other topics with regard to the Real Estate sector. We have also successfully brought in uniformity in the charges for the service rendered by realtors. Further, we aim to establish a harmonious means of communications to facilitate a better interface between the real estate community. We have worked with CREDAI, Indian Institute of Architects – Goa Chapter, GCCI, and other trade organisations.

Finally, we strive to deliver sustainable development in the real estate sector. At GAR, we believe in sustainable development that preserves the charm of Goa.

What are some of the challenges faced by the real estate market today?

The real estate sector is still quite unorganised. There are many issues we, as realtors face, such as legal permissions, title clearances, standardisation of fees – all of which we hope to ease through GAR. In Goa, old property records are not in order, the archives are in a mess. It is very difficult for a layman to search for properties in the archives. Digitising all the property records will make a huge difference. If the government can do something to streamline online records of properties, it would be beneficial to both realtors and consumers.

What does the future of real estate in Goa look like?

The future of real estate in Goa looks good. In the coming 15 years, we will continue to see a good demand for real estate in Goa. It will probably not be the speculative kind of demand that we experienced in the early years, instead, it will be a good and steady demand. There are quite a few developers who are doing really good work in Goa, in both possessing a good project and providing good amenities to their consumers.

Real estate is the biggest investment one can make. They say, in life, there are three things that are most important – roti, kapda, makkan. These are the three essential entities that you require in life. In clothes and food, you keep investing minimum amounts of money – you may invest in gold, you may invest in shares, but you won’t invest as much as you would in a house. The largest investment one tends to make is in a roof over one’s head. One tends to put his entire life savings into it. So, as realtors, we are entrusted with the responsibility of being honest and transparent when dealing with our clients

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