Women in real estate: ‘I did it my way’

Although the real estate industry has been dominated by men, in the last few years, women have made their mark in various capacities – as agents, developers, architects and legal and marketing heads. Housing News spoke to a few of these result-oriented and dynamic women, and got them to share their incredible journey up the realty ladder

“I can’t think of a better career choice”

Surabhi Arora

Senior associate director – research, Colliers International, Gurgaon

Women in real estate: ‘I did it my way’ Surabhi Arora

Surabhi Arora leads the India research team at Colliers International. She specialises in real estate economics and is well-versed with the market dynamics across the main cities in India. Arora’s responsibility in Colliers, includes sector analysis, forecasting, financial modelling, strategic planning, project-level analysis, pre-sales and brand building. She has played an active role in the growth and development of the research team. Arora joined a real estate-centric Singapore-based venture capital fund in 2005. Being a chartered financial analyst, her entry into the real estate industry was an unplanned one.

“The industry was growing at a very fast pace at that time. I could not have chosen a better career than this. The last 12 years in the real estate sector, have been fantastic for me,” says Arora. The challenges faced by women in this industry, are not much different from those in any other industry, feels Arora. “Hard work and self-confidence, helped me to cope with obstacles. Balancing work and home has not been a difficult task for me. My son is 10 years old now. Although it is difficult to spend enough time with him, I ensure that I am there with him for important events,” she elaborates.


“People will look beyond your gender, if you are hardworking and clear about your objectives”

Pushpa Bector

Executive VP and head, DLF Premium, Delhi NCR

Women in real estate: ‘I did it my way’ Pushpa Bector

Pushpa Bector was instrumental in creating the DLF Mall, which is spread across 2 million sq ft in Noida. Bector heads the premium malls portfolio for the real estate company, including Mall of India in Noida, DLF Place (Saket), Cyber Hub (Gurgaon) and City Centre (Chandigarh). In almost 11 years with DLF, she also revamped and DLF Promenade (Vasant Kunj) into a prime fashion destination in India and set up the F&B division for DLF malls. Bector has two decades of experience in the retail and mall business and has several accolades to her credit, including the ‘Most Admired Shopping Centre Professional of the Year’ at the Asia Shopping Centre and Mall Awards 2014 and ‘International Women Leadership Award for the Excellence in the Retail Industry’ organised by CMO Asia in 2013.

“Retail management is a human-centric profession. In the last few years, women have been seen in large numbers in the retail industry. Women have good communications skills to persuade and influence the consumer, which helps in marketing. I strongly believe that if you are clear about your objectives and if your work speaks for itself, then, people look beyond gender,” Bector maintains.

See also: Here’s why Indian real estate needs more women in the business

“My two children are grown up and they are my biggest support. They look upon me as their role model. I have faced gender discrimination when I was a junior-level executive. I have always dealt with such issues firmly,” says Bector, who graduated in hospitality from the Oberoi School of Hotel Management and was associated with Domino’s Pizza. “In today’s competitive global economy, knowledge and one’s capability are the ingredients for success. If women have ambition and skills, there is no stopping them from succeeding,” she states.


“I feel happy to play a small role in helping home owning aspirations of women from lower segment”

Deepali Shinde

Unit head of MALA (Mahila Awas Loan Division) of Aspire Home Finance Corporation Limited, Mumbai

Women in real estate: ‘I did it my way’ Deepali Shinde

Deepali Shinde heads Aspire Home Finance Corporation Limited’s (AHFCL’s) Mahila Awas Loan Division – MALA (Mahila Awas Loan from Aspire). MALA is an initiative to bring financial inclusion to low-income, salaried and self-employed women and offers housing finance as well as advisory assistance. Shinde’s experience in housing finance includes more than a decade in the financial and services industry.

“The low-income group women include salaried women (working in private companies, small scale industries, nursing and housekeeping staff, maid servants, cooks, etc.), as well as self-employed women (such as vegetable vendors, women with home-based business like papad making, running small kitchens and tailoring). These women have equal share in the income of the household and in many cases, are the only source of income at home. However, their search for financing towards home buying has often gone unanswered. So, we have tied up with builders, to provide property options to our women customers, at below-market offerings. We also offer counselling on the entire process of home buying and home loans,” Shinde explains.

“My mother, who was not educated, worked very hard and did odd jobs to ensure I was educated. So, I can understand the difficulties of these women. They are committed in their repayment, unless there is any exigency. This segment faces more than 90% of the total housing shortage in India and hence, can also be viewed as a business opportunity,” points out Shinde.

MALA offers loans starting from Rs 2 lakhs to Rs 12 lakhs and AHFCL currently covers 42 locations in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Telangana. “We aim to provide housing finance assistance to more than 1,000 women customers in the current financial year. I feel happy to play a small role in fulfilling the home-owning aspirations of women from the lower segment,” says Shinde.


“Women have a high emotional quotient”

Darshana Parmar Jain

Deputy MD, Ishwar Parmar Group, Pune

Women in real estate: ‘I did it my way’ Darshana Parmar Jain

Darshana Parmar Jain, has a master’s in Software Science from the United States, with 12 years’ experience in the Information Technology industry in India, the US and the UK. She has incorporated information technology as an important driver for growth in the 40-year-old Ishwar Parmar Group – one of the largest developers of slum rehabilitation projects in Pune.

“The success of a real estate company, depends on the product and delivery. When it comes to home buying, the decision maker is often a man but the influencer is a woman. Being a woman is a huge advantage in this field. Women have a high emotional quotient and can appeal to consumers. With the government focusing on improving the ease of doing business and the real estate industry becoming more organised, there are now greater opportunities for ambitious and hardworking women in the industry” maintains Jain, who handles various departments, such as marketing, sales, recovery, legal and liaison.

“In fact, CREDAI Maharashrta has decided to launch a ‘Women’s Wing’ in all cities, to encourage more women to get involved in real estate. Cities like Pune, Aurangabad, Pandharpur, Satara and Nashik have already setup this wing,” adds Jain, who is Women’s Wing convenor for CREDAI Maharashtra and CREDAI Pune metro.

“For any woman to scale new heights in her career, she needs a supportive family. I have tremendous support from my in-laws, my parents, my husband and my children. Hence, I am able to balance everything and meet deadlines, by sharing the workload” says the mother of two.


“Being a woman in this field is an advantage”

Gita Ramanan

Co-founder and chief design and HR officer, Design Cafe, Bengaluru

Women in real estate: ‘I did it my way’ Gita Ramanan

Gita Ramanan is an architect, who also has an Entrepreneurial Management Certification from ISB, Hyderabad. She worked has with several design firms, designing restaurants, five-star hotels and homes, before co-founding Design Cafe in 2011, with her partner Shezan Bhojani. Design Cafe is an award-winning design firm, with projects across the country. Ramanan has experience in client management, employee hiring, accounts, networking, marketing, retention and research. “This business needs one to be very hands-on. We constantly implement better processes and engage with the right people, to manage the challenges that arise,” explains Ramanan, who has been a TEDx speaker and national athlete.

Ramanan considers herself lucky to belong to a family where getting educated and making a career was natural. Two generations of women before her, managed their families, as well as their careers. “I am also fortunate to have a life-partner, who knows and understands me and honors my choices and intelligence. I try not be a ‘super woman’ and instead, focus on the quality of life,” she adds.

“While I face numerous challenges as an entrepreneur, architect and designer, being a woman, is not one of them. I certainly am not diminishing the challenges that women face in today’s workplace and in maintaining a balance between their personal and professional lives.

Nevertheless, being a woman in this industry is an advantage, as we naturally possess patience and determination. Our empathy, holistic viewpoint and attention to details, allow us create a sense of calm in this frenetic field,” Ramanan explains.


“A higher level of integrity and commitment, are my greatest strengths as a woman in this field”

Nazia Yusuf Izuddin

President, SN Group, Uttarakhand

Women in real estate: ‘I did it my way’ Nazia Yusuf Izuddin

Nazia Izuddin is the founding president of SN Group of Companies, which is a business house based in Uttarakhand. The Group consists of infrastructure companies, hospitality companies and asset banks. Izuddin started her career as a finance lawyer in New York and thereafter, worked in Dubai and London. She moved to Dehradun in 2008 and along with her husband, started SN Group with two key laterals – hospitality and real estate. Their flagship hospitality project in Dehradun is the World Integrity Center, India. The Group is currently developing Aures Valley, one of the largest residential developments in Dehradun, spread across 40 acres.

Izuddin, a Fulbright scholar and Harvard and Aligarh Muslim University alumnus, feels that the acceptance towards women has increased and this has helped them to make inroads and build allies and networks faster, especially in entrepreneurial ventures such as real estate.

“Gender decimation can be emotionally torturous, especially for those who are educated and experienced, points out Izuddin. “There may be a constant attempt discredit one’s merit. This disturbs productivity, because half of one’s energy goes into establishing relevance. I deal with one situation at a time. I believe in god and good and this keeps me going. I am a great believer in experiences. If the experience is wholesome, it has a natural balance. Home, work, family, friends and clients, all balance out naturally, because as a person, I am not compartmentalised – all my experiences stem from the same being. Intuition and aesthetic and utility sensibilities are my strengths, which help me in designing real estate and hospitality products. A higher level of integrity and commitment and the ability to value things beyond its financial aspect, are my greatest strengths as a woman in this field,” concludes Izuddin.


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