A Jumabhoy property launch after more than a decade

PHOTO: A Jumabhoy property launch after more than a decade

SINGAPORE - The Jumabhoy family that founded Scotts Holdings is marking a new chapter in its storied existence, after third generation members teamed up for the first real estate project under the family banner in more than a decade.

Led by siblings Iqbal, Asad and Mimi Nassem Somjee, the third-generation Jumabhoys have launched Raffles Park, a $75 million project in Bangalore, under Raffles Residency, which they founded and own.

The project marks the first time they have banded under the Jumabhoy family name for a property development since the family's exit from Scotts Holdings in the late 1990's.

It is also the first property venture outside of Singapore by the third generation of Jumabhoys.

"For this project, it's the coming together of a number of things," said co-founder of Raffles Residency, Iqbal Jumabhoy, in an interview.

The land has been held by the family for some time, he said, and Asad, Mimi and himself all felt that the plot should be developed, believing they could pool their skills and come up with a project that was unique within India.

Mr Iqbal added he also already had a team of professionals based in India from a prior business that can take on the entire development process, which was another push factor.

Raffles Park comprises 61 five-room villas spread across 15 acres, with more than four-fifths of the space being open areas.

Singapore architecture firm WOW Architect & Design and India's Karan Grover, known for his green designs, worked together on the development. Amenities such as a 20,000 square feet clubhouse and an Olympic-length swimming pool are other features of Raffles Park.

"The name of the project reflects our heritage here in Singapore," said Mr Iqbal.

He said Raffles Residency did not approach Raffles Park the way that local developers might have: "First of all, the developer would not spend the kind of time and money that we have already spent in preparing the site."

The company has put up a show gallery for Raffles Park and staffed them with trained personnel, whereas "most Indian developers don't do that - they sell off plan".

The design of the projects, the low density of homes (at four per acre) are other standout factors, he added. Raffles Park was also specifically catered for multi-generational living, with lifts built in for each home.

On worries over India's economic trajectory, Mr Iqbal said while it is "nice" for a country to grow continually, there is always an opportunity for the right product in the right place at the right time.

He noted that Raffles Park is situated in Whitefield, the heart of the IT industry in Bangalore, which is nicknamed the Silicon Valley of India, and can attract a growing number of Indian nationals who may have lived and studied abroad.

"So the fact is that there are always executives, senior executives, business owners who live and work in this area whom we feel would be looking for a product like this." The small number of units available also works to its advantage, he believed.

Raffles Park is slated for completion in 2015, the 100th anniversary of the Jumabhoy family's launch into business.

Backed by key holdings such as Scotts Shopping Centre and The Ascott Singapore serviced residences, Scotts Holdings had held over $600 million worth in assets at one point.

Following a bitter feud between different factions of the family over control of the company that began in 1995, the Jumabhoys decided to sell their controlling stake in Scotts Holdings in 1998. Then-DBS Land took control of the company the following year.

Since the family's exit, individual members have ventured into different businesses, including real estate.

Iqbal is currently managing director and CEO at SilverNeedle Hospitality Group, which operates more than 64 properties worldwide. He has held other executive roles, such as heading the hospitality arm for Straits Trading Company and being chief financial officer at the East Asiatic group of companies. Mimi heads up furniture company WTP, while Asad is a director at Global Blue, a shopping tourism business.

The three have remained close through the years.

"From the time I was born, we have lunch together every Sunday and that continues," Mr Iqbal said, referring to himself, Asad and Mimi.

Raffles Residency's focus is mainly on India at the moment. As to whether Raffles Park is the first of many future family projects, Mr Iqbal said: "Well, one step at a time. One step at a time."

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