The culture in India has always attached an immense amount of respect for its senior citizens. Two entrepreneurs are attempting to translate this reverence to action in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu by designing a safe haven for older citizens.
D.Yugendhran and V.Deepak Kumar launched Merestone Properties Ltd. last year in order to create landmark retirement housing that will foster community as well as afforadable housing. D.Yugendhran has a bachelors in civil engineering and was part of a well reputed construction company as a site enginner. He is now equipped with the expertise required to plan and execute projects, adopt new technologies in construction practices and handle the operations of the company. V.Deepak Kumar has a post graduate in branding and advertising, and quickly climbed the ranks at Ogilvy and Mather before co-founding Merestone Properties Ltd.
Through their research, they discovered that over 15 million of the total senior citizen population live alone and are dependent on external support. The data corroborated the need to do something about this by providing a well-developed, premium housing community for senior citizens, which is what Merestone Properties does.
What led you to start Merestone Properties?
Our team comprises of the two of us as founders; entrepreneurship has not been an accident as it’s been in the pipeline since our days at college. We decided to become businessmen when were in school and were very clear about our path. As we’re both from entrepreneurial families, it was easy for us to get the nod from our parents to justify what we were going to do back when we were in college. We planned to enter an industry which had a huge market and could be scaled exponentially.
What are retirement communities about?
Retirement communities or senior housing involves developing homes for senior people. Unlike normal real estate, this caters to developing apartments for older citizens in a community. There is a two window revenue stream through which one part of the revenue comes in by selling the house and the other comes in as a monthly fixed fee which comprises of maintenance, basic amenities of food, healthcare and housekeeping on a subscription basis. These retirement communities are the best places for senior citizens because of the complete security that we provide. We want to take away the feeling of loneliness through a gated community, periodic health checkups, day to day necessities like food and other added features like yoga classes, a library etc.
Did you face any challenges?
When we decided to step in to real estate, we were bombarded with lots of doubts from people about the negatives of the market. However, we were very sure and confident of the industry. We were convinced of this by looking at the actual demand for housing in India. We also believe that every problem in the country creates an opportunity. When we were analysing the market, concentrating on senior housing is a blue ocean strategy eventually. There is also a taboo amongst people that senior housing is similar to old age homes. At the same time, we are happy that awareness of senior housing is increasing and people are accepting the need of developments like ours.
How did you choose the location?
When we decided to step into affordable housing and senior housing, we could not think of a better place than Coimbatore to start with. This is due to a combination of factors, such as its proximity to the Western Ghats which provides good weather and an adequate supply of siruvani water. Coimbatore also has lesser traffic compared to Chennai, and has well connected roadways, railways and airways. Moreover, healthcare facilities here are on par with global standards.
What has Merestone Properties achieved thus far?
We launched our company with funds raised from our families in May 2013. Within a year of our inception we have managed to complete construction for an industry, based in Coimbatore. We have also launched an affordable duplex apartment. We undertook those works largely to gather funds for the retirement housing and also to gain experience at the ground level. It is also exciting as we were able to garner 50% of sales within a few days of the launch of our debutant project. We have started looking for land parcels for both senior housing and affordable housing for the next project and have set the ball rolling. This financial year, we are targeting a turnover of 3 crores and eventually planning for at least 6 projects in the subsequent years. We were very proud to launch a duplex apartment with as less as 1000 sqft and that gave us a good reach in public with our product positioning.
What has inspired you during your entrepreneurial journey?
Our main source of inspiration was Richard Branson of Virgin group and we look up to him regarding the strength he has brought to his brand. Throughout the start-up, Subrato Bagchi’s “The High-Performance Entrepreneur” was the step-by-step guide in building the fundamentals of our business. In our own field, we look up to Ceebros Constructions, as a source of inspiration for their name in the industry which is synonymous with quality and transparency in the business.
What are your future plans as of now?
We have plans to expand horizontally by venturing into interior design companies and property management companies within a few years so that we are provided with the opportunity as well as keep our door open for multiple revenues. We aspire to be the name for senior housing in India and in our journey we are also focused on expanding the business both horizontally and vertically. We are looking to raise investment to support our company in expanding sooner and to gain a greater share in the senior housing market.
Tamil Nadu accounts for 8% of the total senior citizen population. Coimbatore has always been the top priority for senior citizens as it is an area for settlement during retirement. It is also estimated that by the year 2021, there will be over a 100 million Indian citizens over or around the age of sixty. 65% of the current senior citizen population is dependent on others for their daily activities. According to this data, Merestone’s commitment to develop retirement communities is a viable plan.