Meet this Chief Advisor leading the Indian arm of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices
The Indian real estate sector has observed major transformation over the past few years with the advent of new business models, innovative technologies, and government policies such as RERA (real estate regulation and development), and the Modern Tenancy Act.
However, the sector remains largely unregulated.
This is where the American conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway comes in. With Warren Buffett as its CEO, the conglomerate’s real estate arm Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices (BH) entered the Indian market in 2021 as BH Homeservices Orenda India.
In the past year, BH has made $100,000 in revenue as a commission for brokering properties across Delhi and Gurugram. It has acquired some exclusive mandates for residential and commercial projects for sales and leasing from renowned developers such as Shapoorji Pallonji, Godrej, Tulip, Hyatt, and Sobha among others.
In a conversation with HerStory, Sanya Aeren, the Chief Advisor for Marketing and Communications of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Orenda India, gave an insight into the mammoth task of handling a domestic arm of an international company.
HerStory (HS): What has been your experience as a woman holding one of the senior positions in the domestic arm of a multinational conglomerate?
Sanya Aeren (SA): I have entered a highly male-dominated sector, undoubtedly. While women are actively involved in the real estate business as brokers, developers, and realtors, we cannot say the same for India. While I personally never faced any explicit bias as a woman, I did notice that some people didn’t take me seriously because of my gender.
I also realised the dearth of women in this sector when I looked at the resumes that came on my table. So one of my personal objectives is to hire more women with a sales background in BH Orenda India. They don’t necessarily need to have a real estate background. Because at the end of the day, sales is just the art of selling, irrespective of the product.
I feel real estate has a huge potential and women can be facilitated to tap into this potential.
HS: Can you throw some light on your background and your entrepreneurial journey?
SA: After completing my education at Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi, I attended a summer session at Stanford University in 2010 for media and communication. It was during my 12th standard and as a pampered child, shadowed by my parents and older brother, I hardly knew how to navigate my way at the airport, let alone the real world that awaited in the US. It was a great experience where I met people from different cultures and learned so much.
Fast forward to 2017, I co-founded a jewellery business called Arkish Jewels with one of my cousins. We targeted Dubai and the Middle East as our primary market because of our familiarity with the city and the lifestyle of its people.
I was good at sales and holding conversations with people so I was asked to lead the marketing team. After three successful years, I decided to move on to something new.
HS: Why is Berkshire Hathaway exploring the Indian market?
SA: Berkshire Hathaway understands the need for exploring the challenges and opportunities in the real estate market of developing countries like India. The main problem is that it is an unorganised market.
Brokerage is a sector that needs a lot of cleaning up and organisation.
About 90 percent of the transactions in Indian real estate are not accounted for. So the priority task for Berkshire is to give a structure to this unorganised market.
HS: How does the journey so far look like? Have there been any challenges?
SA: The past year has been filled with learning through challenges. One of them is recruiting the right talent that fosters the cloning of a multinational company in a new country while adapting to the culture.
Another challenge is identifying and filling the gaps in the real estate industry.
We have devoted the past year to market research, talking to other developers and real estate professionals about the drawbacks of the sector and the ways we can clean up the system.
HS: What are the focus areas for Berkshire Hathaway?
SA: For the next few years, the focus would be on hiring and understanding the market. This includes expansion to Tier I cities such as Bengaluru, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and others. We also want to acquire other brokerage companies and expand our broker network.
We would also look at helping developers raise funds for their projects through Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) or Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) channels.
We are also hoping to be a part of the development management of the cities which would involve onboarding landowners interested in collaborating with a trusted brand like BH.
The company is also expecting to reach a turnover of $10 million this year.
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti