Vijay Gwalani

How it all started?

Every middle-class business family has a pattern for their heir. He does his 10th grade, followed by the 12th grade, and then he is moved into the business while he pursues further studies. When it all started it looked like this is what it was for me too. But, in all 6 months of working with my father, I realized that walking on beaten paths was not something I was cut for. I wanted to play by my rules, I wanted to beat my own path. In fact, I didn't want to play, I didn't want to be a player. I wanted to be the Game. This journey is about me deciding to be that game.

I landed up going to my dad’s office at the age of 19 years. Perks merely free food, I was told to check bills that a computer had printed. Yes, this is how legacy businesses treat their heir for starters. Obviously, my first dig at correcting my dad, made me realize that the office where I was countering my father’s thoughts, was his and not mine. I was thrown out for being a rebel and in agitation I walked for almost 20 km from Crawford Market, CST, Mumbai to Santacruz West all the way home. You would think I was probably trying to garner sympathy or make a point, but honestly, I did not have money to get back home, nothing else. I branched out at 19.5 from my father's legacy and wanted to build my own, penniless yet ambitious. Every desire, every idea, every thought of mine was countered with the fact that I was nobody and more so I was poor. If you ask me, I am still that nobody at 47 years today, but not everyone around me feels that way. The only difference between then and now is I am RICH today. I have been poor, yes I have. I am considered RICH now. It’s not a bad thing being poor, but trust me RICH is better. You don’t have goals when your stomach is empty. It’s the rich who can afford to talk about milestones and goals. What makes you become aggressive while you are still poor is a PURPOSE!! A strong purpose will automatically define milestones, and will also guide you to achieve them.

At the age of 19, in midst of all the survival stress, I wanted to marry the woman I loved. This beautiful but strange woman was willing to leave a rich father, easy-going lifestyle and her comfort zone just to live with a penniless and directionless man like me. To give her every material happiness then became the only purpose of my life. I wanted to do something of my own but I didn't know what. An underutilized car park belonging to my dad, is where it all began. I took this space from my dad and me being me, I paid him rent so he could never in an argument put me down again. And that is where I started. From a small garage, I started a data entry setup, tabulating data for Registrars handling stock market IPOs and the tabulation of data for Airlines for a mere 10 to 15 paise per entry. All but 19, I had understood there is no better weapon, better power, a better feeling than having money. And marrying Divya being the purpose, the broad goal was set and that was to become RICH. So not every successful journey is a stereotypical journey.

With all the rights, there are wrongs, there are brave steps, there are unpopular decisions and that makes us do what we do and make us eventually what we are. Against the will of the families, at all but 22 and without a penny in my pocket I started my married life. The only thing I remember having is the zeal to make it big for my wife, my parents, and my children to be. As a father at 23, I didn’t know where this was all going, but I always believed that I had to wait for the real opportunity to strike. I think that was the difference between me and conventional thinking. I could have found a job, probably sat as a clerk, and made my way through conventional life and modest living and die unsung, as most do. But I chose to think otherwise. I waited for the loose ball while taking my ones and twos and that’s what changed the game in my favor. While my bread-earning journey made me move from trading in computer spares to retail in the nightwear division, I actually toppled on real estate by accident. Yes, this was not an informed decision. It was an accident. It was a capital-hungry business. The capital was something I did not have, capital was something I had never felt or touched.

Trust me, it is easy, it is very very very easy to make money out of money. Only a fool will not be able to do that. Either you make a lot of money with money or you make modest money with money. But to lose money in the wake of making money, when you already have decent money, is a feat meant for fools. But here I was without any money yet wanting to get into the most capital-centric business in India - Real Estate. I tell you again, it was all but an accident. I think I will want to give credit to one stalwart named Nanaboi Palkhivala whose brief diktat I heard. He was speaking to a gathering about real estate. All of 16 years of age, I heard this great visionary Hon'ble Nanabhoi Palkhivala.

He quoted and I clearly remember just one line that was etched in one part of my brain “If you want to make money in real estate, there were three prudent locations you could invest in, Mumbai … Mumbai … Mumbai.”

I realized that Mumbai was beyond me but Pune was then a city for God knows what joy, underplayed in spite of being very close to Mumbai. And hence decided to buy something in Pune and that's where my journey to riches began. In spite of having zero capital and huge pressure to perform for the family, I took the leap of faith. Finally, I was at the age of 28, where I was ought to be, Real Estate. I managed to drive on a friend’s motorcycle all through Pune city - to the east, to the west, to the south. Being poor comes with an advantage. You have nothing to lose. I clearly had that advantage. Doing research and a conscious one, reasoning with yourself as to what one should start with buying was something that was coming easily because all I had was time. Where should the funds come from was something which was not on my mind at all. I just decided to ponder, I just decided to get into the game, I just decided to identify where and how much should be put. That was not going to cost me any money. For now, all it was going to cost me was a Pune-based friend’s obligation, his time, and most importantly, his motorcycle. I put my hands on Kalyani Nagar and I must say my modest mind, who had little knowledge about real estate then, tried to build logic around the choice of Kalyani Nagar when other real estate locations were actually booming in Pune.

The queen of Pune’s residential suburbs was Koregaon Park. The gap between Kalyani Nagar and Koregaon Park in spite of a mere river separating the two made Kalyani Nagar a step sister and pricing in real estate almost half of Koregoan Park. My bet was that if a mere 300-metre bridge was made, this gap would definitely be marginalized. Real estate is undoubtedly a game of instinct and gut. However, just making a rash decision, based on third-party validation, is not the instinct we are talking about. Most who believe real estate is not meant for them are those who have played blind, just like betting on a roulette table of a gambling den. On a good day, you win, on all the other days you lose. A balanced concoction of deliberate and intuitive thinking is the key to being a winner in real estate. It is very important to gather information. That is when the key ingredient, your instinct/gut will make a prudent call and make your decision a byproduct of information and instinct combined. However, I must warn you, do not deliberate too deeply, it will make your decision-making ability extremely weak.

My first ever real estate deal will explain you more clearly. In 2001, I decided for some godforsaken reason, that I was going to put four lakhs in Pune real estate. After reasoning that Kalyani Nagar was the future, and Lunkad Sky Lounge was the property, the challenge was the property identified was that of 21,00,000. That’s when I told myself, that I was willing to take a dig at destiny with 4 lakhs which I had no idea where I am going to raise it from. Where ever I will raise the 4 lakhs from, that exactly where I will arrange the 21 lakhs. I was like I was told to jump into a pool and I didn’t know how to swim. At one end I had 20 feet of water and the other end had 50 feet. So what difference did it make if I jumped into the 50 feet end. The underdog in me who felt that if failure was what was going to come to us, the size of failure shouldn’t really matter. Either you win or you lose. Scores don’t matter. Here I want to digress from my journey and tell you something important. Those who seek to tell you that negative thoughts should be suppressed and positive thoughts should be upheld, actually fool you. Negative thinking is part of every human’s personality. Negativity in you is nothing but fear of the unknown. What matters is how you harness the negative thoughts to create a positive decision. How I eventually paid this 21,00,000 is a long story I will come to some other day. But this is where it all started. But I would like to share to you, how the first fifty thousand that was paid towards the booking amount, was actually accumulated.

With about RS. 200 in my pocket, I journeyed back to Mumbai. What I was taking back with me from Pune were joy and fear. The joy that I was a proud owner to be of a Rs. 21,00,000 unit in Kalyani Nagar, Pune, and if all things remain constant, it’s my unit for keeps. Fear that if I fail, this unit and my big ass dream of entering real estate markets will fall in front of me. I had given an intercity cheque to the developer, which made it certain that I had around 5 to 7 days to make sure I have all the fifty thousand in the account of Divya Gwalani, whose name the asset was booked. My father always believed in having a modest living, nothing wrong with it. Keeping dignity intact was something he had mastered over years. Taking chances came with the scope of failures and failure was not something my Dad was really in favor of. He had never bounced a single cheque, had never failed a single commitment because he never made one beyond half his paying capacity. But there was no time for a crash course on modesty. While he lectured me on the bad repute of failing payments, an unorthodox thought kept playing in my mind. It wasn’t as complicated as Dad was making it sound.

The cheque would either pass or fail. If it passes it’s great but if it fails the property was not mine anyway. I could cut a sorry figure, say sorry to the developer and move away. What was important was ‘I wanted to take a dig at destiny’. It is only because we dream that we dare. When I came back home like I said, no one wanted to believe in me. They ridiculed me and they were busy pondering upon how we would be able to arrange that 21,00,000 to pay the developer. My argument was, ‘It is a 2-year journey and we have to pay stroke by stroke. My father's stand was every lakh was not a milestone but a goal in itself hence I had just signed up for a 21-goal journey which was seemingly impossible. To begin with, he flatly refused to be of any assistance even for the first cheque of fifty thousand and was happy to believe that at least I thought that if the cheque bounces I will say sorry and move out. A lot of him believed that the cheque will bounce and Vijay will come back to modest ways. My wife believed that too, but I really wanted the property even more badly. I went back into the room and I took my biggest chance, this time with my wife. I requested her to sell the little gold we had collected during our marriage time.

Yes my friend, my first investment was done by “my purpose” herself. We sold the Indian housewife’s gold. I had some convincing to do with my wife before she allowed me to do what I was proposing to do. But what is credible is my wife ‘my purpose’ came into my life when I was a big zero. And to remove your gold for an Indian woman which probably is all but what she wanted to hold on to, especially because of the fact that her husband hadn’t financially arrived, was something that changed our lives. It was that crucial leap of faith, that RS. 38,900 (I still remember the amount) that sheepish and secret sale of gold, that got us into the race called real estate.

The fifty thousand cheque was cleared on the due date. There was a purpose and then there was a will, there was deliberation, then there was gut and then there was belief and above all, there is a GOD who will never ever fail you, if you stand up and stand up for yourself. It is very important that if you need to swim ladies and gentlemen, the first step is to get into the water. You will either drown or you will survive. But if destiny reached you to the sea face, do not show your back to it, be brave and step into the water. And for all practical purposes, you will swim, you will live and you will achieve your goal. Never worry about falling. Falling is never a part of failing, it's a part of learning. Not everything I did was right, I fell but did not fail, I fell not to fail, but to learn. What is important is the realization as to what made you fall and the assurance to yourself that you will never do the mistake again.