Abhinav Ram Reddy, the managing director of Hyderabad-based office park developer GAR Corporation, knows all too well the havoc the unexpected can wreak. Having weathered the COVID-19 pandemic, Reddy is now looking forward to shepherding his family-run business into a bright future.
Titled Redefining Family Businesses For Success, the upcoming forum will host family business owners, family office principals, next gens, chief investment officers of single-family offices and large private investors to address innovative, topical issues.
The Harvard Business School-educated Reddy talks to Campden FB about adapting and evolving in business, while also making sure you stick to what you know!
Tell us about GAR Corporation
GAR Corp is an asset creation company, primarily focused on commercial real estate.
As we look to move from COVID pandemic to COVID endemic, how is the future of office parks looking?
The future of work has now transitioned into its next stage of evolution, due to the pandemic. Companies across the globe have been forced to reckon with the potential of the hybrid working model. This may bring about a change in the way offices are seen in the medium term, however in the long term the office promises to still be a key part of any employees work life.
Is the work-from-home trend here to stay and will it affect the way you do business?
Yes it is, to a certain extent. The number of days spent in the office will no longer be five days a week, across the board for all employees. It may be a combination of three to four days in the office and one to two days working from home.
How are you adapting digital transformation within your organization?
Honestly, not as well as I’d like. Commercial real estate [CRE] is a very traditional business that involves grassroots-level implementation - like land acquisition, government sanctioning, legal and liaison issues, construction etc. The scope for digital transformation lies in the asset management space, post operations of the office parks. Since we are also the long term owners and operators of our office parks, we have ensured that all our assets are now ‘Smart buildings’, with digital engagement for the end users as well as our asset management teams.
"ESG may be the current buzzword, however, Indian family businesses have always had these values at their core."
As a next-gen principal of your family office, is it especially important for you to incorporate Environmental, Social and Governance [ESG] values in investments and projects?
This is not specific to next-gens. The term ESG may be the current buzzword, however, Indian family businesses have always had some of these values at the core of their functioning. The social aspect of ESG is something that I have yet to see a single family business not participate in. There is always some component of Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR] or giving back to the society for Indian businesses - that is part of our culture. The Environmental aspect has been something that has been highlighted fairly recently but everyone seems to be stepping up to the plate reasonably well. Where most Indian family businesses are trailing though, is in the Governance aspect. Most of our businesses are still tightly controlled by the founding family. This may lead to growth and stability in the initial couple of generations, but it seems to be having a counterproductive effect post that. Governance is something that we all need to work on in the long run.
What key messages do you want to send to your peers as chairman of the Campden Family Connect Indian Families in Business Forum 2022?
The past two years have been very challenging for most businesses. The level of uncertainty we have to deal with on a regular basis is compounding with time. This puts more pressure on family principals who run their businesses. We need to focus on staying level-headed through this crisis, while at the same time not ignoring the fact that the world around is changing more rapidly. Industries where we feel that change is not possible or is still a long time away, need to be more vigilant. Disruption is coming for everybody in every sector. It’s best we grapple with this fact and prepare ourselves.
What is your long-term investment philosophy?
It’s fairly simple - Stick to what you know. Also, slow and steady wins the race. And preserve capital even at the cost of losing opportunities.
What would you advise to family offices looking to get into office space/commercial real estate investment, but don’t know where to start?
There is no simple answer to this. It depends on so many varying factors.
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
This pandemic! My plans were meticulously laid out and I factored in all contingencies, except three - a natural calamity (such as an earthquake), a war or a pandemic!
What do you do in your downtime for fun?
I enjoy most aspects of my life. There is no specific need for ‘Downtime’ to have fun. In any case, I have more downtime than I need.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’ve had this fantasy many times where I go back in time and tell my younger self where to invest! There’s no end to it and it only leads to sleepless nights!
On a more serious note - I would probably tell myself not to take things so seriously. Over time, when you look back at issues that you’ve faced in the past, something that seemed to consume you at a certain point, doesn’t look like that big of an issue after a few years have passed.