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Published on: June 25, 2022, 5:59 p.m.
RMZ: Building spaces of future
  • Raj & Manoj Menda: redefining the future of work

By Arbind Gupta. Assistant Editor, Business India

Bengaluru-headquartered RMZ Corp has geared up to pursue its journey 2.0, in which it is looking to build around 18 million sq feet of future-ready Grade A real estate assets across commercial office, hospitality as also industrial & logistics by 2026. The realty developer, which also owns and operates assets, is known for creating landmark office projects like The Millenia and RMZ Infinity in Bengaluru, The Skyview in Hyderabad, RMZ Infinity, Delhi, RMZ One Paramount, Chennai and RMZ Ecoworld, Bengaluru. The company, founded by the Menda family (brother duo Raj and Manoj Menda) in 2002, has today emerged as one of the Asia’s largest privately-owned real estate investment, development and management firms.

Backed by large institutions and sovereign funds like Mitsui Fudosan, Tokyo; Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the company has re-strategised itself to take its asset portfolio to around 85 million sq feet (valued: $15 billion) by 2026 from 67 million sq feet, valued at $10 billion currently. In fact, having put in place its hyper-growth strategy, the company has set a target to expand its total assets under management (AUM) to around 350 million sq feet by 2032, even as it will have an ownership of around 100 million sq feet of assets. 

 Right kind of solutions

“India is poised to grow exponentially going ahead as all fundamentals are in a favourable zone. As a company we constantly evaluate these macro-economic indicators. We are prepared to leverage these tailwinds through our hyper growth strategy where we endeavour to redefine the future of work backed by the right kind of technologies, partners and capital. Work places are undergoing a transition and we as a company, are all geared up to be a part of that journey in order to build the right kind of solutions for our clients and members,” says Manoj Menda, 54, Co-founder and Corporate Chairman of RMZ Corp.

RMZ continues to leverage its integrated digital platform to build smart, engaged, quantified communities. The company, which has the only development project from India to win the 2020 ULI Asia Pacific Awards for Excellence, has been in the forefront of creating sustainable building design, construction and operation and is currently a pioneer in developing green buildings.

RMZ has one of the largest portfolios of assets certified under LEED Arc. Recently, the company has shown exceptional ability to safeguard the health and safety of its employees and members, and thus became the first company globally to achieve the WELL Health Safety Rating for supporting the health and safety of people in the fight against Covid-19. 

RMZ also built a few residential properties in Bengaluru and subsequently, completely moved out of this segment in 2016, and has ever since remained focused on the commercial office segment of the real estate value chain. With 95 per cent leased assets across its present portfolio and around 94 per cent occupancy, RMZ enjoys an extensive tenant portfolio (250+ enterprise customers) that boasts of several high profile organisations like Google, SAP, Capgemini, Morgan Stanley, EY, KPMG, CISCO, Shell, Bosch, Boeing, HSBC, ANZ and Franklin Templeton. 

RMZ commands premium (10-15 per cent higher) rental in each of its micro markets. The average monthly rental of the company stands at Rs125 per sq ft. The company is ramping up its rental portfolio in a big way and looking to take the annual rental income to over Rs3,000 crore in the next few years.

“In our persistent journey to become the most respected and leading real estate firm in the world, our mission is to drive outstanding performance through meritocracy, entrepreneurialism and excellence, reinventing the future. Our focus being sustainable architecture and green buildings, we commit to creating future ready spaces. Recognising the need for a concerted effort to achieve our ‘net zero’ target we will work closely with all stakeholders across the value chain to embed sustainability practices in their businesses that will result in emission reductions,” says Raj Menda, 59, co-founder & Corporate Chairman, RMZ Corp.

While expanding its portfolio, RMZ, which at present has 19 rental-yielding, premium commercial office properties under its belt, has consciously decided to diversify into fast-emerging industrial/logistics and hospitality sectors. Further, the company is also expanding its footprint into offshore markets like London, Paris, New York and Dubai, where it will develop Grade A assets in partnership with local players. In fact, going ahead, 15-20 per cent of new assets will be built in the international market. 

Having restricted itself to the Bengaluru market in the initial years, the company has, in the last few years, expanded its operations to other major gateway markets like Hyderabad, Chennai Mumbai, Delhi-NCR and Pune as well. Currently, Hyderabad has emerged as the largest market with 21.1 million sq ft of assets under management followed by Chennai (7.7 million sq ft), Bengaluru (7.3 million sq ft), Delhi-NCR (6.3 million sq ft), Mumbai (6.6 million sq ft) and Pune (1.9 million sq ft). 

“Having built iconic offices in Bengaluru, we are now replicating our success story in other geographies where our clients/tenants want us to come up with similar kind of properties. Over the years, we have built the requisite capabilities to deliver futuristic spaces and we now want to leverage the same in a much wider canvas. We are putting all crucial elements in place in order to make our next growth phase quite eventful. Our focus will now be on creating spaces that, apart from physical aspects, will have attributes like experience, wellness and sustainability in a more holistic manner,” says Thirumal Govindraj, Sr Managing Director, Executive Board Member of RMZ Corporation.

Thirumal is at the helm of the organisation’s board & strategic planning, asset management, property management and corporate communications. His 25 years of corporate experience combined with the dynamism of RMZ has enabled the organisation to enjoy an extensive tenant portfolio that boasts of several high profile organisations, and an exponential increase in company NOI or net operating income.

“We are committed to building socially, economically, and environmentally responsible assets and communities. The company’s Massive Transformative Purpose is to imagine, create and transform for the future. Our innovative approach to developing and managing real estate invariably raises the industry’s bar for quality and sustainability. By taking a leap of faith and adapting to, and indeed embracing the digital universe, we at RMZ are driving a sustained transformation programme to deliver superior real assets with elevated member experiences,” states says Jayakumar K, Sr Managing Director, Executive Board, 

RMZ Corporation 

Jayakumar spearheads the development and management of new assets at RMZ, right from the planning and design stages, to the procurement and project execution. He has introduced resilient design concepts to address the requirements brought on by climate change. He has also initiated a sustainable construction approach, which not only optimises energy and water consumption but also minimises construction debris generation through reuse.

While diversifying into new asset classes such as industrial, logistics and hospitality as also expanding its portfolio as a whole, the company has adopted a strategy of forming co-investment platforms and partnerships with global institutional and sovereign funds like Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and Mitsui Fudosan of Japan. 

The company, in the past, has also raised funds from Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and Barings Private Equity Partners. QIA (in 2013) and Barings in 2012 had jointly invested $275 million, picking up 25 per cent and 21.6 per cent stake, respectively in the company. In 2018, the promoters bought back shares from both these global investors through a combination of internal accruals and bank financing. This was one of the biggest exits for private investors in India’s real estate sector in recent times. The deal, valued at close to $1 billion, offered around 3.5 times return to both these global investors.

As a benchmark for future-ready work spaces, RMZ Ecoworld 30 integrates a 360-degree view of design, keeping human experience as the central focus, while incorporating exponential technologies, sustainable development, member experience and engaged communities. This partnership also marks a joint intent to expand into other major Indian cities such as Mumbai, Delhi NCR, and Bengaluru. 

“Mitsui Fudosan is excited to embark on this promising partnership with RMZ. We hope to add value to this venture with our Japanese expertise and look forward to growing this association with RMZ Corp. We are pleased to partner with RMZ, a visionary developer with extensive experience for this integrated development, especially in a city like Bengaluru which we consider to be the digital capital of the world. This partnership is in line with Mitsui Fudosan Group’s strategy to achieve exponential growth of our global business,” says Akihiko Funaoka, Executive Managing Officer, Mitsui Fudosan Co, Ltd. 

“In today’s market, a business model based on prestigious partnerships and alliances with strong, credible capital providers, is bound to garner better business results than one entity doing it all alone. Leveraging the strength of different capital flows and different product categories is diversification done right. Such a model can gainfully target organic and inorganic growth, while simultaneously focusing on differentiated product categories. Such diversification is a proven process that serves to simultaneously de-risk market plays and amplifies profitability,” says Vishal Srivastava, President , Corporate Finance, ANAROCK Capital.

“RMZ scores highly with regards to their competitive position in the industry, quality of assets, quality of management and quality of corporate governance, making them an ideal JV partner for global institutional capital,” says Ramesh Nair, CEO, India and Managing Director, Market Development, Asia, Colliers.

Zero-debt entity

While RMZ 2.0 is aggressively following its hypergrowth strategy, it is also looking closely at its books. The company has not only pared its debt but also become a zero-debt entity, probably a rare case in the realty business. Towards this end, in 2020, the company sold 18 per cent or 12.8 million sq ft of its office assets to a fund managed by Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management Inc for $2 billion in one of the largest real estate deals in the country. 

The transacted portfolio has assets in Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune and the group’s co-working business, CoWrks. A part of RMZ’s largest real asset, RMZ Ecoworld in Bengaluru, is at the core of the transaction. It is a 14-million sq ft office development, located on the Outer Ring Road, Bengaluru, of which 6.7 million sq ft has been acquired by Brookfield.

“The deal between RMZ Corp and Brookfield marks our most important milestone as we converted to a ‘debt-free’ firm. At RMZ, we look forward to enhancing our hypergrowth strategy. With this deal, we have ample headroom to achieve our next phase of growth,” says Manoj.

“Our deeply unifying agenda is to leverage integrated digital platforms to build smart, engaged, and quantified communities. We pioneer new sustainability, technology and well-being solutions, and shape the future of how we live, work, learn and play. We design offices that meet the needs of today’s knowledge workers,” adds Manoj who along with his elder brother Raj, was a pioneer in establishing B2B real estate solutions that heralded a new dawn in the Indian commercial real estate space.

Currently, the company has two equal partnerships with CPPIB Investments and Mitsui Fudosan, while a third 50:50 JV of equity investment worth $0.5 billion is being forged in the hospitality space where the company is currently in the process of finalising projects involving 1,200 keys.

In March this year, RMZ and CPPIB decided to form an equal JV where the latter will invest around $355 million. The joint venture formed to construct and acquire commercial office space in India’s major cities, will be seeded with StarTech – a 1.37 million sq ft office building located in Koramangala, Bengaluru, which is currently co-owned by RMZ and Prestige Estates. CPPIB will acquire Prestige’s entire stake in StarTech which is an LEED Platinum-rated green building and is a premium commercial campus with 100 per cent occupancy.

This is the second joint venture between RMZ and CPPIB, following their first joint venture formed in April 2021, when the two companies partnered and CPPIB put in around $210 million for development of about 10.4 million sq ft of commercial office space in Hyderabad and Chennai.  

“These recent joint ventures will provide RMZ additional opportunities to forge new strategic financial co-investments and remain ahead of the curve whilst also significantly increasing capital allocation to the core and development asset portfolios. The two joint ventures together have been established to develop assets worth over $2.5 billion across cities. This partnership takes RMZ a step closer to our vision and growth strategy by 2032,” says Manoj. 

“We continue to identify high demand for premium commercial office space in top city locations in India, such as Bengaluru. As the city grows as a destination for technology businesses and start-ups, we are working alongside market leaders, such as RMZ, to grow our portfolio to support the demand. Our overall focus remains to enhance our ability to deliver solid long-term risk-adjusted returns to CPP contributors and beneficiaries,” says Hari Krishna V, Managing Director, Real Estate - India, CPPIB. 

“We are pleased to broaden our relationship with CPPIB, an organisation that shares our commitment to protecting our environment and ensuring sustainability in building and construction processes. This second joint venture builds on our existing partnership in Hyderabad and Chennai and reiterates RMZ’s strategic objective to expand the group’s asset base and development pipelines across other cities,” states Arshdeep Sethi, Sr Managing Director, Executive Board Member of RMZ. 

Spearheading M&As

Sethi plays a pivotal role in defining, shaping and implementing the strategic vision of the organisation. He currently spearheads the mergers & acquisitions team and has been the driving force for all joint ventures and strategic alliances at RMZ. In the past, he has facilitated the raising of over $1 billion in FDI from global investors such as the Qatar Investment Authority, Mitsui Fudosan, Barings Private Equity Partners India, AIG and Wachovia.

Earlier, in January 2020, RMZ announced a strategic, equal partnership with Mitsui Fudosan (Asia) Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Mitsui Fudosan Co Ltd, a leading global real estate developer headquartered in Tokyo. The 50:50 joint venture of $1 billion, was forged to augment RMZ ’s Future of Space landscape concept where it creates spaces for an integrated community of tenants, clients and members who live, work, eat and play at these places. The association was Mitsui Fudosan’s maiden investment in India. The first development undertaken with this joint venture is a 3.5 million sq ft development, RMZ Ecoworld 30, located on the Outer Ring Road of Bengaluru.

RMZ, one of the few zero-debt real estate companies globally, boasts of a pipeline of 34.5 million sq ft of under-construction projects that include Ecoworld 30 & 20 (6 million sq ft) in Bengaluru; RMZ One Paramount in Chennai (5.5 million sq feet); RMZ Spire, Vault & Nexity (12 million sq ft) in Hyderabad and Nexus in Mumbai. This apart, the company also has one project each in Pune and Nagpur. Its combined construction pipeline in Maharashtra’s three locations stands at around 11 million sq ft.

Despite a large portfolio of rental-yielding office assets (around 55 million sq feet), RMZ has decided not to go for publicly-listed REIT. Instead, the company is looking for privately traded REIT. This follows the promoters buying back shares from QIA and 

Barings in 2018. Earlier to this, the company was also looking to go for public REIT. “Earlier, we also had decided to go for public REIT. But as per our new zero-debt strategy, we prefer private REIT, backed by a few FIIs,” says Sethi. 

RMZ has successfully navigated the pandemic era by putting together a centralised multidisciplinary taskforce to implement its own regulatory plans for its partners and members. The company’s expert management teams implemented tailor-made procedures for all its assets across the country to ensure the safety and well-being of all members, tenants, employees and partners. 

With leadership in energy and environmental design, LEED and WELL certifications in place, the company is at the forefront of sustainable building design, construction and operation. Its active, smart and biophilic design creates unique experiences to enhance the health and well-being of its members. 

“Around the country, we operate long-term assets and businesses. This approach dictates both our investment strategy and our commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices. We believe that value creation and sustainable development are complementary goals. Throughout our operations, we are committed to practices that have a positive impact on the communities in which we operate,” says Manoj.

 Signs of recovery

Meanwhile, after a couple of years of pandemic-related disruptions, the commercial office segment is showing distinct signs of recovery. According to a Colliers report, India continues to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. With the receding number of Covid-19 cases, and healthy vaccination rates, domestic economic activity is reviving. While global uncertainties persist, India’s fundamentals remain strong with strong consumption expected this year led by a normal monsoon and robust private investments. 

On the real estate front, the report says that Q12022 saw commercial gross office absorption at 13 million sq ft, increasing over 100 per cent YoY. Occupier demand is back in the market with large block deals in technology-led cities. On the industrial front, industrial and warehousing demand stood at 6.2 million sq ft in Q122 increasing by about 11 per cent YoY. 

With economic activities picking up, institutional investment in the real estate sector during Q12022 doubled YoY to $1.1 billion. Institutional investors continue to view the country’s real estate sector favourably with foreign investors seeing a huge upside in rent-yielding assets.

With all these developments in place, RMZ is geared up to start its next growth phase in which the company, pursuing its Future Space concept, plans to take its portfolio to 85 million sq feet by 2026 and 350 million sq feet of AUM by 2032. RMZ has relentlessly pursued innovation and driven a sustained transformation programme to deliver projects better, faster and with a superior member experience. As a developer and operator, the company takes special pride in the distinctive quality, design and sustainability of its assets. RMZ has embraced social design to shape spaces to be more connected, convenient and engaging. 

All these efforts have placed the company in a unique position in the market, even as it enjoys a distinct edge over its competition. RMZ’s innovative approach to develop and manage real estate has invariably raised the industry’s bar for quality and sustainability. With the divestment of 18 per cent of its portfolio for $2 billion recently, RMZ has not only become a zero-debt real estate business, but also added fresh capital to fuel its hypergrowth strategy. 

An origin story

 The genesis of RMZ Corporation goes back to the 1980s when Raj and Manoj Menda’s father, Arjun Menda, 89, ventured into the real estate business with the Rahejas (K Raheja Corp) and remained part of the latter’s South India business for over two decades. The Mendas have family connection with the Rahejas as Arjun Menda is married to the sister of Chandru Raheja, the chairman of K Raheja Corp.

But ever since RMZ Corp was founded in 2002, both the families have worked separately and grown in stature. Before entering into real estate, their father who has a master’s in technology from IIT Kharagpur and also went overseas for higher education, built industrial platforms across industries, worked with companies like Mahindra & Mahindra, and Gabriel India. 

However, in early 2000, the Mendas decided to set up their own real estate business and that is when RMZ Corp was founded in 2002 by both the brothers who also spent a few years of their initial journey working with the Rahejas where they learnt the nuances of the business. At RMZ, their first project was The Millenia, situated beside Ulsoor lake in Bengaluru and the first client was Philips India. Currently, RMZ’s headquarters are in this building. 

Now the third generation has also joined the business. Raj’s son Sidharth, a board member, is director, industrial & logistics. An alumni of Mallya Aditi International School, Bengaluru, India, with a Bachelors in Business Administration (Finance) from Bentley University, Boston, USA, he has been heading the RMZ’s industrial & logistics team for the past two years. Earlier, he had founded the co-working business, CoWrks, which was divested to Brookfield Asset Management two years ago. 

Manoj’s son Mihir is also a board member and uses disruptive forces impacting financial, business and operating models to drive enterprise-wide transformation, while driving synergies and efficiencies within and between business units and aligning stakeholder interests. Mihir is an engineering undergraduate from Columbia University and is currently doing his thesis at MIT. He is the founder of Mex, an integrated tech platform and UrbanUp, India’s first sustainable social housing project, to encourage resilience from vulnerable communities through secure, sustainable homes and access to healthier environments

Both Manoj and Raj have worked relentless and today scripted a big success story in the real estate space. At RMZ, they have built a cohesive institution where founders have put in place a strong leadership team of professionals who are empowered to deliver their goals in a passionate manner. 

Manoj is an active member of the World Economic Forum, WSJ CEO Council, Urban Land Institute, Young Entrepreneur Organisation, Young Presidents Organisation and Global Real Estate Institute. 

Raj is the first Indian to be on the Jury of the Urban Land Institute Awards for Excellence. He is also a past member of the Urban Land Institute Global Jury. Raj was the Chairman of the FICCI Real Estate Committee for 2021-22.

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