From a carpet exporter in 1978, now the owner of Rs 1,300-crore business empire that straddles leather exports ( India’s #1 slot for over a decade) real estate including SEZs, integrated township and more recently low cost housing, Bhartiya Group’s Snehdeep Aggarwal is still relentlessly in the pursuit of new ventures, new innovations with excellence underpinning them.
Mr. Snehdeep Aggarwal started Bhartiya Group way back in 1978 borrowing Rs 5,000 from his father to start business of exporting carpets to Germany. Nine years later, Aggarwal forayed into the business of exporting leather bags and accessories. Today, Bhartiya Group exports to more than 60 global brands.
Despite having the choice to join a settled family business, the economics post-graduate Mr. Aggarwal aspired to do something that needed more of his entrepreneurial capability. His father was into traditional family business of trading dry fruits and spices. According to him, there are two things in a family business. First is the value system, which the second or third generation carries from the previous one. Second is the entrepreneurial urge to create something that will challenge you. In his case, there was nothing that he could add to his family business, so he thought of challenging himself and venturing into untried and untested waters.
Despite having huge demand for carpets in Germany, it wasn’t a cakewalk for Mr. Aggarwal to escalate his business. In the course of his marketing and sales push, in 1978, he went to Germany to meet several buyers one of whom helped him procure an order worth Deutsche Mark 7,000 (Rs 28,000), the then value of German currency because of the excellent quality of his carpets. From then on there was no looking back. Aggarwal saw consistent orders coming in for his carpets and achieved a modest turnover of Rs 15 lakh within a year itself. He took home around Rs 500 per month as salary, which was a lot of money at the time. The rest was channelled back into the business.
The first few years were tough, but he plodded on, and in 1986, he moved into his own office, built on company-owned land at Mehrauli, Delhi.
The following year, Mr. Aggarwal expanded the business, foraying into leather articles like bags and accessories. In January 1987, he changed the company's name to Bhartiya International to reflect the new business segment. Since he faced a paucity of funds to fuel
growth, Mr. Aggarwal decided to raise funds from the market by going public. In October 1994, he successfully listed his company and managed to raise around Rs 6 crore. This helped them grow in the leather accessories market in a big way. The company now supplies products to more than 60 global brands, such as Hugo Boss, Zara, Levi's, Mango, Guess, Wrangler, All Saints and Marco Polo.
Today, Bhartiya Group has 10 offices worldwide, including those in Delhi, Chennai, Hong Kong and Milan, staffed by around 3,000 people. The current annual group turnover is around Rs 1,300 crore.
In 2006, Mr. Aggarwal decided to foray into the realty business, and Bhartiya Urban was born. He started with Bangalore, not only because he had grown fond of the city after his visits since 1996, but also because it proved an ideal location for his dream project, Bhartiya City, a modern integrated urban township. The company bought 126 acres for around Rs 250 crore, raising an additional Rs 700 crore through a consortium of banks. The project envisions a built-up area of over 17 million sq ft with a mix of residences in various formats, commercial spaces, a financial district and five hotels, a hospital and a few schools. Though it will take another few years to complete , the initial interest in the residences have been overwhelming—within 18 days of launching the Nikoo Homes brand in November 2012, they sold 800 homes.
Another business vertical, Bhartiya International SEZ, was set up in May 2008 with the mandate to develop industrial parks. This came about as a result of a joint agreement between Bhartiya International and the Andhra Pradesh government to set up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for leather and leather products at Tada in Nellore.
His next move is into the low cost housing sector which is another dream he has been nurturing. The first project under this is in Chennai for which land has already been acquired and will be flagged off shortly.
Mr. Aggarwal continues to think big and aims to expand the real estate business to the top five cities, setting up 1 lakh homes in the next five years. Besides, having achieved the distinction of being one of the largest leather apparel manufacturers in the world, he hopes to create an in-house global accessory brand.
Truth is, Indian cities offer extremely low quality of life. Most would qualify as quite un-smart cities. Along with economic opportunities, urban residents need decent housing with core infrastructure such as 24x7 water, power, a tap and sewerage connection in every home, parks and green spaces and a hassle-free commute to work, preferably walking to work or by public transport. Instead, we have slums, pollution, deficient public transport and unresponsive city governance.