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The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire, according to Ferdenand Foch; and it is this fire in the belly that has made 28-year-old Naman Pathak carve out his way in the highly competitive world of London’s real estate market.
As a property developer, Naman has single-handedly developed 60 residential units across London, totalling a gross development value of circa £20 million in the last three years.
His ambition for the next five years is to construct an iconic building that his children will look up to and be proud of. And he wants to earn more money than his father Atul Pathak, the UK’s largest McDonald’s franchisee, owning and operating 29 outlets across London.
“It is not about the money. My father is my idol and we always have good banter about business. I have had such a head start in life thanks to him, from education to work, so I need to go above and beyond the amazing things he has achieved in his life,” smiled Naman.
After graduating, Naman was having a great time at Cognizant Technology Solutions as a consultant, but the fire in his soul would never give him peace.
“I had a great time there but I did not think I could fulfil my ambitions in the corporate world. When I thought of business, I did not want to join Dad’s business because everything was effectively already there. I wanted to see what it takes to build a business from scratch.”
Naman always had an interest in real estate so he looked at a family plot of land and developed a set number of units after recognising the disparity in the quotations by some builders.
“I wanted to get to grips with the inherent costs of the trade” This started his exciting new journey, but the going was not easy for Naman to begin with.
“London is a very competitive marketplace. You are competing with buyers from all over the world who are willing to work for smaller margins because of the location.”
However, Naman’s training at the London School of Economics put him in good stead to overcome the challenges that London had to throw at him.
He is the owner of affiliated businesses that provide him with back and front-end support for his core real estate business. His estate agency business looks at sourcing, rental and sales for his properties as well as for others, whilst his recruitment agency provides personnel to the banking industry as well as the construction trade, including many of his development sites.
Naman realised that in the intensely competitive London market, location and quality of stock determine early success and, even in the dry world of bricks and mortar, it is only human relationships that really matter.
Naman believes that one of the best ways to get good stock is by maintaining good relationships with solicitors, agents, accountants so when good sites become available, they are the first person in the market to know.
“We have good relationship with many councils in London, not through just the real estate business alone, but also through my father’s McDonald’s business and that is a huge advantage because councils are also relationship-driven. If they know the good work you are already doing in the Borough, they are always willing to push the boundaries for you because they know it will also benefit them.”
Although big companies have huge funds and financial power, the relationship aspect in this business cannot be undermined. It is not just knowing people, Naman has been successful because he knows his strengths and vulnerabilities acutely.
“The kind of stock we develop is at the sweet spot of the market with 20 – 30 units as opposed to 100 -150 units for bigger conglomerates. This reduces the risk from a timescale perspective, both in terms of construction and eventual sale.”
With a strong track record of success over a short period, Naman has a strong cohort of investors backing him. He specialises in up and coming areas within the M25, particularly those impacted by Crossrail, and is now exploring new growth areas outside of London such as Birmingham and Manchester.
“The lower end, meaning £500k and below, is always protected by the government with schemes for first-time buyers and the like. Besides, people always need to move home whether the economy is doing well or not so well – so that justifies the demand for the level we develop our stock at.”
“The point of focus for my company in the next three years will be to build a brand and build a stronger presence in that market. My personal growth plan is 100% growth year on year over what we did in the last two years. And by the end of next year I aim to roll it up to a formal fund.”
Naman’s growth strategy is underpinned by flexibility and innovation. His business ethos and philosophy are clear and simple- work hard, work with honesty, and always think long-term.”
“Transparency is the key to our business. This trade is not as simple as the McDonald’s business- I cannot buy a burger over the counter, pay for it there and leave. And this makes it all the more difficult for investors not to get their fingers burnt if they invest with the wrong developer. Our approach with investors is that of complete transparency, typified in our new website which is being redesigned, whereby each investor has their own log in for each project. Each and every line item of our costs are outlined, each and every design is shared, and moreover, people can question me on any single line item should they wish, even at 12am on a Sunday!”
Naman is also a keen learner and always looking for new ways to innovate. For example, for a typical one bedroom flat of 50 square meters, developers would usually provide an open-plan kitchen/lounge, a separate bathroom and a bedroom. Naman is exploring various ways for consumers to personalise and define their living space by use of moveable walls. If you want a bigger bedroom, you can move the wall out. If you have guests coming in, you can make the bedroom smaller; innovating to make it work for the end user.
Naman’s real estate development plans reflect his desire to give back to the community and he marked himself as a promising property developer, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
“We have a huge social aspect to our developments. It is not just about what the council terms as ‘social housing.’ We also look at developing the local area and community.”
One of their propositions to the council is to refurbish and regenerate the area with essential shops used by the local community – in line with the new development they are creating. Not only does this enhance the street scene, it also makes the community a part of the development process as the company involves the community as much as possible in the design process.
“We have been flexible with our approach on commercial space. We do not just give it out to big brands, that is too easy to do. Instead, we look at providing a consultative process for the community to be a part of. These premises should add value to the community so they should always be a part of it, and our open approach has brought out so many great ideas, from nurseries to even polyclinics, providing multiple medical services to the community under one roof.”
Naman redefines philanthropy. “I think being a philanthropist is not just about raising money, it is about giving your time to those less privileged.”
He has taken up quite a few young apprentices in his office. “Most of them are fairly rough around the edges. The first day they come in- their ties not done up properly, they talk with a rough accent, they will give you a flimsy handshake. But a lot of them have a lot of drive, determination and a great work ethic, something that many ‘polished’ kids do not. Some of these kids just need a chance and I am proud that we have provided several youngsters with that opportunity, some of whom are still with us today.”
His personal passion for motivating and encouraging others has recently led him to open a training academy, The Corporate Training Academy, in which he gives a session on Sales and Networking on Saturday afternoons.
“I want to help students of ages 16 – 22 with their career direction because it was something that I struggled with at that age.”
Naman is warm and amicable but describes himself as stubborn. “If I set myself out to do something, I will do it. There have been times when I have risked quite a bit, not knowing if I would have the funds for completion or whatever else the problem may be. But I always back myself because of the amount of research I carry out on a site. By the time I make a commitment, I know exactly how to maximise that site’s potential. More than that, I have a quiet inner belief that always serves me well,” signs off the young entrepreneur.