In business, a good first impression goes a long way. Nobody knows this better than real estate developers, who often operate out of plush offices — a grand extension of the structures that they build.
Vipin Bansal’s office, though, is a study in contrast. The chief executive officer of DB Realty works out of a small cabin in the basement of a complex in Goregaon, a distant Mumbai suburb. Going by its low ceiling height, his office could well have been a garage in its previous avatar. Bansal heads a company that has been a pretty aggressive acquirer of land in Mumbai, so why is he keeping a low profile? Co-workers say Bansal doesn’t care for a ritzy office because he is constantly on the move. Every day, he shuttles between his basement ‘office’ and the company’s residential projects in the city. Countless trips to the state secretariat to get work done are also de rigueur.
Insiders say Bansal wants to make up for lost time — the last two years have been particularly tough for the company. In early 2011, the firm’s promoters Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in relation with the 2G spectrum scam. DB Realty firm, Swan Telecom, had been allotted 2G spectrum licences for 15 circles and it was alleged that DB used its partnership firm Dynamix Realty to transfer over ₹200 crore to television channel Kalaignar TV, owned by DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s wife and daughter.
The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate suspect that this investment was a quid pro quo for getting spectrum allotted through the then DMK telecom minister A Raja. While the real estate business itself is not bereft of shady elements, DB’s competitors crib that it leverages its proximity to the powers-that-be to its benefit, and gets project files cleared quickly. That perceived heft, however, couldn’t stop the Maharashtra government from scrutinising many deals after the promoters got enmeshed in the spectrum imbroglio.
In February 2011, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan stopped DB from redeveloping a plot of land on which the Yerwada police station stood. Despite protests from the Pune police department, the plot was to be re-developed on a public-private partnership basis by DB and the state home ministry. In return, DB was to relocate the police station to a plot on the