The Trump Organisation has finally launched a Trump Tower in Mumbai in collaboration with Mumbai-based developer Lodha Group. While the project is said to be a benchmark in luxury in the city, Trump is not looking to stop here. The company plans to look at investing in hospitality sector in India and is optimistic that popular reality TV show ‘The Apprentice’ could work well in India. Donald J. Trump Jr., executive vice president, The Trump Organisation and son of the real estate tycoon Donald J. Trump speaks to Shubhra Tandon, on company’s future plans in India and his own business philosophy. Excerpts:
Q. Apart from real estate, would you be looking at investments in hospitality or entertainment space?
I think that is something I would like to look at in India. We are growing our hotel management business, and that is something we are looking at for India as well. However, there are limitations for such type of deals in India, because the policies allow one to manage and operate up to a certain level. That means we may never get the room rate to justify the level of luxury we are talking about. So, it is going to be a very selective process. We have seen some resort potential in Mumbai and Delhi. So, those will be two big ones.
Q. The absorptions in India have almost halved to what they were in 2012, and the luxury real estate market is suffering from over supply. In this scenario what gives you the confidence to launch Trump Tower now?
You hear of corrections in the luxury market everywhere, you hear that in New York City as well. Someone does one building that goes very well and suddenly the new per square foot pricing for that location changes to a price, which is twice of what it was ever before. But that will work for a short period. The products which are best in class, with best locations, best amenities, best interiors, still tend to do well and be successful irrespective of the ups and downs of the market. I think where people get into problem is that there are a lot of products that are part of the luxury sector, which actually do not fit in that category. And so, it is really making the distinction between something being called a luxury product and something actually being a luxury product, which is the difference created by the location, the building, all aspects of design, amenities, the execution and developing capabilities, which we have. So, I think we are very confident of what we have here.
Q. After you past experience in building Trump Tower in Mumbai failed, did you ever feel that you will not come back to India?
Trump Organisation is a big believer in India. We have been saying this for long, that a lot of that is about timing. The initial project did not work because there was a change in government, all of a sudden the zoning regulations changed such that the building that we we were intending to initially built would not have been able to, because we lost X number of square feet and FAR that was intended to use somewhere else. So ultimately the project did not made sense as a luxury product. So, we moved on and looked at 20-30 other deals, but this was the one that really stood out for us for Mumbai.
Q. Would you be looking to replicate an Indian version of ‘The Apprentice’?
It has been franchised all around the world. It could be something, that could be done and would go very well here. I think it is a very entrepreneurial show, and speaks a lot to the core of the Indian mindset. Everyone here at heart is a developer in their own way and certainly a business person. I think that could be something pretty successful here.
Q. Scions of great businessmen often have their own business philosophy. What are yours?
It has to come from passion. I know a lot of people who went to business schools because they wanted to make a lot of money, but most of that didn’t materialise. People who went to business schools thinking that they love building, or love the business that they were in, those are the ones who have been really successful and so there has to be an element of passion and having love for what you do to really achieve great things in it.
Q. What are some of the qualities of your father that you would like to replicate in your business style?
There is certainly a lot. I think it would be probably too long a list, maybe a book someday on that. But there is the element of passion, there is the element of understanding of real estate…and he is not somebody who just sits and says “This is how it works”, but is more of an organic process. There is a mindset, a mentality that you sort of hopefully learn and absorb by being around him for many many years. So, hopefully I have been able to suck in a little bit of that knowledge.
Q. Are you looking at partnerships with other developers in India? You already have one in Pune…
We have a project in Pune with Panchshil and we have a great relationship there. So, that’s a model we would like to replicate in other markets. We have looked in markets such as Delhi. Personally, I have been to Goa, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, seen some of these deals, but often that is not quite ready for a product that we would want to build and be comfortable to put our name on. That is not to say that 5-10 years from now on those markets will not be ready for luxury development.
Q. Mumbai is a big market, but what was the reason to choose Pune?
Pune might be a small city for India, but it is a large city anywhere else in the world. So, again part of that was because the partnership with Panchsil, we felt comfortable with their level of expertise and execution much like we did with Lodha in Mumbai. So, when you have an opportunity to do something very unique, a small and select project of 48 units for the high-end customer, with a reliable developer, it made a lot of sense to us.