It’s been 12 years since we took a major leap forward with our upscale project, Supreme Pallacio in Baner, then an emerging area of Pune, in the midst of a global recession. It turned out to be one of our best decisions!
As Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” These are wise words and I have believed in them implicitly. So, 12 years ago, in 2008, when Baner in Pune’s outskirts was like a village with no proper connectivity, we at Supreme Universal took a crazy decision – to build a luxury project here. We had just concluded a land transaction in the area, and as I stood at the site looking out at the lovely Baner Hills, I realised that there was nothing more luxurious than cool clean air and the proximity of Nature. Any project in such a beautiful space had to reflect this sense of luxury.
I had always appreciated good architecture and wanted to do things differently. We had created upmarket projects in Mumbai and were ready to bring this expertise to Pune.
An under developed region like Baner offered new challenges, and it was time to set a benchmark.
Pune itself was changing. Many youngsters were moving back from the US to work in India. As the IT hub, the city offered great prospects, with far-flung destinations like Baner beginning to open up to development. Besides, we were a young group heading this project, all in our 20s, and similar in age to the software professionals we were hoping to design for. If we weren’t going to have the confidence to dream big and take risks at this stage of our lives, then when would we ever dare!
It took some convincing internally. An upscale project in such an inaccessible area? Whatever were we thinking? The Board meeting discussing this went on for hours, and I had to convince our Founder Partners that doing a very high-end development would be worthwhile. I argued that there was zero supply of luxury projects in West Pune, and I felt that there was a growing need for this in the market.
My idea was when you do luxury housing, the property should have limited units, because such buyers like their personal space, without too many neighbours. The homes had to be spacious, offer privacy, unmatched quality and spectacular views. Though I did not yet know if buyers would be ready to pay a premium for something that was truly luxurious, I did recognize that often, people bought more run-of-the-mill homes because there was little choice.
Though we dreamed big, executing the project, of course, involved being completely in touch with reality. I had always been inspired by certain international architects, and was looking for opportunities to work with them, but we realised that working with big names who did not have an office in India could be difficult. We wanted to bring in dramatic, timeless designs that were far removed from the box-like structures that we were often familiar with in India. We opted for a Mumbai-based architect, whose initial design, based on the brief I gave him, was perfect – much better than I had visualised. Though the ‘wave design’ which looked very attractive on design board, gave us major concerns about execution, but we took it up as a challenge.My younger brother, Kunal, who headed the construction execution in those days, took up the challenge to deliver what we had dreamed of creating.Incidentally this same design became our signature style, and now people can just recognise a supreme creation at a glance.
Landscaping was an important aspect. We wanted a resort-like ambience, and roped in a Singapore-based firm, who did a wonderful job.
We chose to go with a modern design firm for the interior architecture so that the grandeur of the exteriors would be equally mirrored in all the interior spaces.
The entrance lobbies are impressive and chic akin to any project one would encounter in cities across the globe.We meticulously chose material and tones which spelt class and yet spoke volumes of the understated elegance that we were striving for. Subtle space planning and attention to detail are two strong points that we focussed on.
We launched Supreme Pallacio on April 4, 2008, on Gudi Padva, and we were surprised to find that in a very price-conscious market, we managed to increase our rates within the first few hours of launch, and succeeded in getting a premium that set new benchmarks in Baner.
What we hadn’t bargained for was the Lehman Brothers crisis and the whole global financial crisis that followed. But we had faith in our project, and in ourselves, and continued with the construction in full swing. We knew that once the building was complete, people would love it. Our optimism paid off; the market revived. We delivered our project on time in 2010, and the buyers were overwhelmed because we offered even more than we had promised.
Many customers, especially those from Mumbai, bought with the intention of selling later but eventually gave their homes on rent, because the property fetched them upwards of 10% annual return on their investment which was rarely seen in residential properties.I’m told that Supreme Pallacio has one of the highest rentals even today, and it is still one of the most sought after property.
Truly speaking, this was really Kunal’s dream project and he should have been there to see it being successfully handed over, unfortunately, he passed away just around the time we received the occupation certificate, leaving us with a creation that has made us truly proud. Thank God we had dared to dream – who knew it would be his only opportunity to create this once-in-a-lifetime project?
This project got us a lot of recognition and awards, however more than awards, it is the sense of satisfaction that we at Supreme Universal still feel, at having built a unique project that changed the landscape of Baner. We have believed in transparent dealings – something that our Founders had instilled in us – and that made all the difference in our relationship with customers, with whom we have lasting bonds. It is always special when the homeowners invite me home for a cup of coffee!
Today, Supreme Universal has created 75 projects and I have been personally involved in more than 50 of them in both Mumbai and Pune. I still rate Supreme Pallacio as one of our best creations. It’s been 12 years since the day we took on the challenge and made it happen.
In the process, I’ve learned a couple of things. The first is that Quality always counts, and whatever the challenges may be, this must be the first priority, especially when you are creating something of lasting value.
The other thing I know for sure now is that it is important to never give up. It would have been so easy, in the midst of a global recession, to think that we were making a mistake. But tough times come and go; if you have the determination to carry on, the rewards can be exponential. As we try and figure out new ways of navigating a post-Covid-19 era, I remind myself constantly of this.