Spending the golden years in comfort

Spending the golden years in comfort

Antara Senior Living is building a 20-acre senior living community at Dehradun for India’s independent, high net worth senior citizens to live their old-age in comfort and security. The community will be operational from the first quarter of 2016

MADHUMITA PRABHAKAR

Tara Singh Vachani, the CEO of Antara Senior Living (Antara), spent her growing up years at the Max India boardroom, watching her father, Analjit Singh, build the Max India empire. Yet, when she began her own entrepreneurial journey, to build a community in the senior living space in India, she was met with unforeseen challenges. “As a first, when I approached the Government to secure a licence for the business, I realised that, by law, there was no provision for a senior living community or a senior residential housing space,” she recalls. Being imposed with a parking requirement at the community was a second challenge she faced. “Given that we would not have more than two occupants per apartment and the population of the community would be limited, convincing the officials about the need for lesser than stated parking space was a hassle,” she adds. After a year of lobbying with the officials on such issues, she was given a go-ahead on the project and thus, setup the first community at Purukul, Dehradun.

Spread over 20-acres, the community, which will be operational from the first quarter of 2016, will house 218 apartments ranging from 1,900 square feet to penthouses of 9,000 square feet, and will be priced from Rs. 1.23 crore to Rs. 8 crore. Apart from this, the residents will be charged a monthly maintenance fee of Rs. 28,000 plus Rs. 16.75 per square feet.

Keeping in mind the safety and wellness of the senior citizens, apart from being located close to Max Healthcare’s super-speciality hospital, the community will appoint caregivers and an on-call doctor and nurse to attend to the residents’ healthcare needs. It will also have in-built, senior-friendly facilities such as emergency alarm call buttons and subtle night lighting inside apartments.  Moreover, to keep the residents active, the community will host outdoor and indoor activity centres such as badminton and tennis courts, library, conservatory and herb garden, café, and spa.

Vachani’s target audience for this business is the high net worth community in India, above the age of 60. “In terms of demand, the numbers stand at three million people today. In terms of supply, I think we are far behind, because people still have their reservations about senior living communities,” she states.

The entire project costs Rs. 550 crore, of which Max India has invested Rs. 115 crore and the rest has been raised through debt. The Antara board includes Analjit Singh, the founder of Max India Limited, Rahul Khosla, the managing director of Max India Limited, and other board members from the parent company. “The Max India board is giving us guidance and mentorship in terms of concept building and strategic decision-making. Right now, we’re getting the strongest support in terms of finance and human capital,” says Vachani.

Building a relationship with the customer takes its own time. Given that the market is still conservative about the idea of a senior living community, we will ensure that our salespersons take the time to understand and know everybody in the customer’s ecosystem, including their family, doctors, and lawyers.

Currently, the employee base at the Dehradun facility consists of a 50-member corporate team. The company plans to recruit 150 employees in the operations team, which will be active in eight months. Vachani insists that each employee on the operations team should have prior hospitality experience, be well-educated and, be reasonably well-off. Once recruited, the team will undergo a four month training, to understand the level of care to be delivered to the residents of the community.

Break-even and location strategy

Antara is built on a lifetime lease model, where, once a couple purchases an apartment, they can live there for the duration of their life or, until they decide to vacate. In the event that the apartment is up for sale, it will be sold at a fair market price (during time of sale), and the difference in price (from the time of purchase), minus the transaction fee, will be passed on to the next of kin. “We are likely to achieve a break-even during our first year of operations, because, we would have sold enough inventory to recover our capital costs,” adds Vachani.

She goes on to indicate three reasons for setting up the first community at Dehradun; firstly, because of the presence of a Max Healthcare unit at a nearby location. “Moreover, as a part of our research, when we spoke to several senior citizens, we realised that most of them wanted to live away from the urban life in old-age and preferred a place like Dehradun,” she indicates. Thirdly, though real estate cost does play a vital role in the business, what takes priority for her is, positioning Antara as a serious player in the market and not as a one-off community located in inaccessible destinations. “Accessibility plays a crucial role in our business. It doesn’t mean a three-hour bumpy car ride, but means, access to all forms of transportation like driving, and trains,” she says.

Moving away from the conventional

Antara does not invest in marketing or advertising to promote its brand. Instead, it relies on word-of-mouth. For Vachani, this is the biggest challenge in this business; the prolonged customer-relationship building phase which slows down sales significantly in the initial period. “Given that the market is still conservative about the idea of a senior living community, we will ensure that our salespersons take the time to understand and know everybody in the customer’s ecosystem, including their family, doctors, and lawyers,” she explains.

Vachani’s vision for the next five years is conservative, because, being a service-oriented business, the success of its service delivery and quality will determine the future prospects of her business. “Right now, my primary focus is to make a successful debut with the Dehradun community. In the next few years, I want to setup a second community at NCR, for a cluster of our customers who want to continue living in the urban spaces,” says Vachani and signs off.


Snapshot

Antara Senior Living

CEO: Tara Singh Vachani

First community: Purukul, Dehradun

Investors: Max India Limited, Debt

Target audience: 60-plus independent, high net worth senior citizens in India


Lessons that your father, Analjit Singh, taught you, that proved useful when setting up this business

One, to be focussed. Even within this sector there are so many other opportunities we can capitalise on or can diversify into. But, when we start to get into something really deep, like our community initiative, we’ll realise that nothing can come in our way. Two, to always take various points of view into consideration and to open our minds to other people’s experiences and learnings.

Toughest question faced from the Max India board when pitching your business to them

Here’s a business of Rs. 500 crore, and you’re 23 years old with just a couple of years of work experience. What makes you think you are competent enough to handle this business? My answer was that I was simple. I was very passionate about what I was doing and I promised I would never work in isolation. I learnt that the only way I will be successful is when I have people around me from whom I can derive experiences and learnings.


Concept in brief:

Antara Senior Living was founded by Tara Singh Vachani, in a move to provide a luxurious retirement community for senior citizens in India. The entire project costs Rs. 550 crore, of which Max India invested Rs. 115 crore and the rest was raised through debt. Spread over 20-acres, the community, which will be operational from the first quarter of 2016, will houses 218 apartments ranging from 1, 900 square feet to penthouses of 9, 000 square feet, and will be priced at Rs. 1.23 crore to Rs. 8 crore. The residents will be charged a monthly maintenance fee of Rs. 28, 000 plus Rs. 16.75 per square feet. Keeping in mind the safety and wellness of the senior citizens, apart from being located close to Max Healthcare’s super-speciality hospital, the community will appoint caregivers and an on-call doctor and nurse to attend to the residents’ healthcare needs, have in-built, senior-friendly facilities, and outdoor and indoor activity centres such as badminton and tennis courts, library, conservatory and herb garden, café, and spa.  While Vachani’s immediate focus is on making a successful debut with the Dehradun community, in the next few years, she plans to setup the second community at NCR.

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