Where The Rich Are Investing

The “value investor” in realty

Bobby Surendranath’s secret sauce — investing in remote real estate and being patient

Soumik Kar

In the hustle bustle of Goregaon in suburban Mumbai, in a quiet bylane off the busy SV Road, is a multi-storied building, dwarfed by a huge SRL Ranbaxy laboratory. On the fourth floor of the building is Albertsville Enterprises. A year ago, it was one small office, but today it has offices spread over two floors. Amid all the talk of slowdown, particularly with realtors going broke, Albertsville is showing signs of growth.

Bobby Surendranath

Bobby Surendranath, its owner, is not your regular property investor or developer. An engineering graduate from IIT Chennai and MBA from IIM Lucknow, Surendranath cut his teeth in the world of equities before shifting to what he calls a far superior and reliable investment option — real estate. Although his stint as an equities fund manager wasn’t long enough to create any records, he is still remembered as a “sound” investor.

Starting as an analyst at SBI Mutual Fund in 1993, within six months Surendranath was managing a ₹100-odd crore fund called Magnum Multiplier 1990; he then moved to ITC Threadneedle, which was taken over by Zurich Mutual before HDFC Mutual Fund acquired Zurich Mutual itself. Surendranath quit Zurich Mutual in 2001 to spend the next three years managing money at insurance company Aviva Life and then about 18 months in Standard Chartered Mutual Fund before heading to Dubai to start his own fund in 2006. 

The market was climbing and it was a good time to raise money from overseas investors, given the high appetite for Indian equities. But the stint did not go as Surendranath envisaged. So, he knocked on another door that had opened a year earlier. In 2005, the Real Estate Bill had been passed, allowing foreigners to invest in Indian property. Surendranath smelt opportunity but again hit a wall as he wasn’t able to convince foreign investors to bet money on Indian soil. “There was too much mistrust because of the lack of transparency and land title issues,” he recalls. But that was then. Just the day before we meet him at his suburban Mumbai office, he had returned from a trip to showcase his key real estate projects (all a few hours drive out of Mumbai) to potential investors in Dubai.

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