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Published on: Nov. 30, 2020, 8:23 a.m.
Eden Realty redefines affordable housing
  • Solaris City Serampore, an artist’s impression

By Sajal Bose. Deputy Editor, Business India

Eden Realty Group, a prominent housing developer of Kolkata, has built up a reputation for being innovative and working towards making spaces affordable and delivering value for money. It has quietly strengthened its business by offering niche products. “Innovative projects with right pricing always have a market even in downturn,” says Sachchidanand Rai, founder & chairman, Eden Realty.

Availability of large parcels of land in the city is almost dried up, big developers in Kolkata are now moving away from main city to suburbs or peripheral areas for setting up large housing colonies. Areas previously considered non-lucrative are now witnessing a steady development of affordable housing units. 

While the demand for affordable housing is on the rise, the so-called suburbs, with lower land price and large tracts of land, are now turning into hotspots of affordable housing projects. Many of these land blocks belonged to industrial units, which are closed down now. Today, several housing projects are in progress on such plots across the river Hooghly. Eden Realty is one of the significant players of this move. 

Looking to achieve the fastest growth in affordable housing with an eye on the ever-increasing population, Eden is setting up an integrated township called Solaris City Serampur in Hooghly district on the land of closed National Textile Corporation (NTC) acquired by the company through court auction. This township, when developed, will have the largest solar rooftop installation.

Eden Realty founder Rai, born in Bihar, is a mechanical engineer from IIT-Kharagpur. A serial entrepreneur, Rai was involved in ventures in information technology, education and mass transportation, even before entering into the real estate business in 2003.  He had come to realise that the return on investment was high in real estate.

First FDI in real estate

Eden started its journey with a small building project named Laxmi Niwas located at Kankurgachi in Kolkata. Rai then got the opening to enter the big-ticket project, Eden City Mahestala, in a joint venture. Spread over 22 acres, with G+7 and G+15 towers housing more than 2,000 apartments, Eden City was one of the largest residential projects in Kolkata. The project had been rated as Kolkata’s six-star residential project by CRISIL. “In 2005, when FDI was allowed in real estate, we got $14 million funding from REIT asset management of the UK for Eden City. It was the first FDI in real estate in the country,” claims Rai, now 57.  Built on a solid foundation, Eden Realty gradually developed several other projects. 

Rai is also involved in various philanthropic activities like rural education, skill development, sanitation of villages and refugee rehabilitation. He has opened a school in Baniapur, a remote area in Bihar, to offer free education to children.

His elder son Sumant (33) is managing director, Eden Realty, and oversees the company’s finance, legal and construction works, while younger son Satyaki, 28, is the joint managing director of the company and is responsible for construction and marketing of the projects. Both are now actively involved in managing the company’s growth. 

Solaris City Serampore, spread across 25 acres, would be one of Asia’s largest solar rooftop housing projects, claims the developer. The solar PV panels of 1.6 MW on rooftops will be used to generate power for common amenities that will reduce the power cost by almost 90 per cent. “The usage of solar power is part of green living for residents and will save carbon footprint,” explains Sumant. Enact Systems Inc, USA, is the solar management consultant of the projects. 

This new housing colony at Serampore is expected to cater to the affordable housing segment. A total of 4,300 apartments are to be built here in two phases, at a project cost of Rs540 crore. The first phase, with 1,900 apartments consisting of 11 towers, is at present under construction and is expected to be ready within the next two years. Its earthquake resistant RCC-framed structure offers a variety of options, such as 1 BHK, 2 BHK and 3 BHK Flats, as also studio apartments for the buyers to choose from. The apartments are priced at Rs10-26 lakh. 

The open architectural design of the complex has provided for large landscaped gardens, cricket field, mini-golf course, yoga centre, gymnasium, swimming pool, indoor games and rooftop community space, as also large car parking areas for residents and visitors. In the second phase, Solaris City Serampore plans to build a 250,000 sq ft mall, with multiplex, hypermarket, brand stores and food courts. 

The preference of buying home is changing from standalone property to gated community. After the pandemic incursion, there has been a radical transformation in the preferences of home-buyers. As work-from-home has now become the norm in most corporates, home-buyers are invariably looking for large homes, which offer good amenities, safety with an affordable cost. “We are looking for first-time buyers,” says Satyaki. “Our aim is to provide all the services a middle class would aspire to have inside the complex itself,” adds he. Solaris City Serampore is conveniently located 1.8 km from Serampore Railway Station and less than 500 m off GT Road. 

The concept of holistic community living is generating huge interest among buyers in the middle-income group. “Living in a secure environment is now the first option,” says Dipankar Mondal, an employee with South Eastern Railways, who has booked a flat in Solaris City Serampore. “Eden City’s offer of amenities for modern living is in no way inferior to a top-notch residential complex.” 

Eden has so far built over 4 million sq ft floor area, including Kolkata’s first rehabilitation project, Bonorini, to house more than 800 refugee families – in a PPP with the government of West Bengal. Siddha Group, another well-known real estate player from the city, has also joined hands with Eden for this unique initiative. The Refugee Relief & Rehabilitation Department of West Bengal government had initiated the project to rebuild the dilapidated structures in Bonohooghly Tenement Scheme, since they had became unsafe for families. The project was offered through a public auction, where Eden Realty got appointed as a PPP promoter and was awarded the project. Each apartment has 646 sq ft area.

In 2019-20, Eden achieved a turnover of Rs460 crore. The company is now building over 7 million sq ft of residential and commercial spaces worth Rs2,500 crore – to be completed within the next five years. Solaris City Serampore, Solaris Bonhooghly, Solaris Joka and Z Residence are among some large ongoing projects of the developer – all of which have solar rooftop for power generation. 

Gradual recovery

The real estate industry earlier had recovered from two major hiccups – the demonetisation and GST. The recent attack of the pandemic has been another major setback, having a huge negative impact on the industry. The real estate segment has been no exception and bearing the brunt. The lockdown, having forced people to stay at home, has triggered an undeniable urge for owning a home – mainly for security – in an era of stunted mobility and lifestyle centred around the homes, reports CREDAI Bengal.

The market is witnessing a gradual recovery in the residential segment, particularly in affordable housing. Certain factors, such as lower interest on home loans, extended PMAY scheme till March 2021, tax benefit, etc, may help the real estate industry. Post-lockdown, CREDAI had also launched an awareness campaign to lure homebuyers. 

Eden has started several promotional activities to attract the prospective buyers. “Post lockdown, the booking was moving at a slow pace initially, but it gradually picked up. We have now grown 25 per cent more than the previous quarter,” says Biswadeep Gupta, marketing director, Eden City.

Solaris Bonhooghly and Solaris Joka are the two large projects the company is developing in the affordable space. Solaris Bonhooghly, located off BT Road, is in its first phase and is almost ready for possession. G+12 towers have 276 units of two- and three-BHK flats. “It is North’s Kolkata’s first real affordable housing complex,” asserts Satyaki. Well-facilitated, with ample parking and modern amenities, the complex will also offer about Rs10 lakh worth of free solar electricity annually through its grid-tied roof-top solar plant for illuminating the common areas, which in turn will reduce the monthly common area maintenance to less than Rs1 per sq ft. 

Similarly, the Solaris Joka project, coming up on the Diamond Harbour Road, is one of the most modern upcoming real estate projects. Besides the solar rooftop, the lush green complex will have all modern infrastructures for the 948 apartments in 12 towers to be completed in two phases. It is strategically located close to the upcoming Joka Metro station that can connect the township to every corner of the city. It has proximity to modern schools, hospitals and the country’s famous B School – IIM-C – too. 

“Eden is the young group but, within a short time, it has built a good reputation in the segment,” says Rishi Jain executive director, Jain Group, a competitor. “The company is trustworthy and has the ability to identify the need of the hour.” Eden has showed its ability to remain a significant player in the segment. And, once the real-estate segment revives, it would be well-placed to double its turnover in 4-5 years. 

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