The three-generation-old real estate family business spreading its footprint globally: the story of Ajmera Realty

Ajmera Group of Companies was founded in 1968 when Late Chhotalal S Ajmera started it as a civil contracting firm. Over five decades later, it is now an NSE-listed real estate behemoth that is slowly setting its footprint overseas as well.
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What lies behind the enduring legacy of family businesses? Besides family values and trust, there is also the not-so-small matter of understanding each generation’s unique point of view. 

In a one-of-a-kind conversation with SMBStory Dhaval Ajmera, second-generation entrepreneur and Director of Ajmera Group of Companies, sheds light on how a small family business grew to become a name to reckon with in the real estate sector, and gives a glimpse inside its five-decade-old story, and more. 

Dhaval narrates the story of how his uncle, Chhotalal S Ajmera (also known as Chhotubhai), started out as an ordinary boy who came to Mumbai from Vasavada, a small village in Gujarat, to set up one of India’s most renowned real estate companies, the NSE-listed Ajmera Group.

Humble beginnings

In 1968, Chhotalal S Ajmera left his formal education to explore the world of business. He knew that if he wanted to create something impactful and leave a legacy behind, he would have to step out of his comfort zone.

Dhaval recalls when Chhotubhai came to Mumbai, he began his journey by experimenting with small jobs in different areas like oil trading, textile trading, fabrication, foundry, paper, etc. 

After several trials, he took up contract fabrication, garnering experience and generating the initial capital that would use to set up his own civil contracting firm.

“His business was progressing, but he was not one to settle. A decade of sheer hard work led him to take an unconventional path and focus on the mid and budget residential segment. This happened in 1975, and since then there has been no looking back.” Dhaval says. 

Chhotubhai wanted to create affordable houses for the middle-class and started by building a township comprising 600 buildings, with 16,000 flats at Mira Road, Mumbai, which Dhaval claims is “Asia’s first-ever township of this number”. 

“His approach to housing did not end with building apartment blocks but extended to creating a livable environment and community with all the necessary amenities,” Dhaval adds.

Making homes for the masses

After Chhotubhai passed away in 2012, his younger brother Rajnibhai Ajmera (Dhaval’s father) took over the reins of the business — with Chhotubhai's vision present across generations. 

“Our business runs on family ethics and the responsibilities bestowed upon all of us. From my brothers, cousins, to our younger ones, everyone has their own roles and responsibilities. We are 12 working family members extending our duties under one umbrella and that keeps us running to touch new heights,” says Dhaval

After Mumbai, the Ajmera Group expanded to Pune, Ahmedabad, and beyond, covering mostly the western and southern regions of India. 

“We have a strong inclination towards a particular region. A confidence of sorts you can say, and so we are more focussed on expanding in these regions.”

The family of Ajmera Realty

But Ajmera’s reach has also spread abroad and the company has set up small residential projects in London. Dhaval claims that Ajmera Group of Companies has delivered 45,000 apartments covering 30 million sqft of space in India to date. 

The core focus is constant innovation, which is reflected in all of its projects. From smart homes to sustainable homes, Dhaval says Ajmera is working to bring convenience and sustainability together. 

Besides Ajmera Realty and Infra, the group has also diversified into clean green energy, steel, accounting, and more.

In FY21, Ajmera Realty and Infra clocked sales of Rs 617 crore, while the group clocked sales of Rs 900 crore (which includes Rs 617 crore of Ajmera Realty and Infra) in the real estate sector.

A thriving market

According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), demand for residential properties has surged due to increasing urbanisation and rising household income. By 2040, the real estate market is expected to grow to Rs 65,000 crore ($9.30 billion) from Rs 12,000 crore ($1.72 billion) in 2019.

Dhaval says while COVID-19 did cause challenges to the real estate sector in the beginning, the market soon recovered. He adds that the Russia-Ukraine war has also led to a rise in prices due to an increase in the cost of raw materials.  

“In the era of doing business, a lot must be done to uplift the nation's real estate sector, which is a key driver for the economy. From sourcing development to raw materials cost, everything needs attention from authorities,” says the second-generation entrepreneur.

Other players in the market include Alpine Housing Development Corporation Ltd, Brigade Enterprises Ltd, Eldeco Housing & Industries Ltd, and more. And Dhaval says, together they are looking forward to building and creating sustainable projects. 

Expansion plans

Ajmera Realty has maintained a sustained momentum towards a 5X growth plan, claims Dhaval, saying it is reflective of multiple recent launches, acquisitions, improved performance metrics, and operational efficiency. 

“As part of our next development phase in Wadala, we have announced a 5 lakh sqft residential project with an estimated sales value of Rs 1,500 crore. It is designed keeping in mind the buyer’s preference for larger homes at affordable prices.”

The company has also acquired a high-end residential project in Juhu, Mumbai, with the intention of upscaling the value and quality of housing for its residents. This project is meant to cater to the needs of high-net-worth individuals and to seize one of the many opportunities to repurpose old residential projects into new improved landmarks.

In the next 15 months, Ajmera Realty and Infra has a pipeline of seven new launches spread across 3.2 million sqft to be launched at Wadala, Ghatkopar, Juhu, Pune, and Central Mumbai in Maharashtra, with a combined estimated sale value of about Rs 4,400 crore.

“For FY22, in addition to the Wadala project that has already been announced, we have two more projects set for launch in Pune and Mumbai. These three launches have an area of around 1.3 million sqft with an estimated sale value of about Rs 2200 crore. On the acquisition front, we have two projects measuring around 9,00,000 sqft.”

Dhaval signs off by saying that while Chhotubhai’s physical presence is sorely missed, his thoughts and his example continues to inspire everyone at Ajmera Group, which remains committed to following in his footsteps.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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