The founder-CMD of Brigade Group, 55-year-old M.R. Jaishankar, comes from a reputed family of coffee planters from the hill town of Chikmagalur, in the Western Ghats, Karnataka. For over a hundred years, his family has been well known in the region for their business integrity and philanthropy.
Jaishankar completed a degree in Agricultural Sciences (University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, 1974), following which, he earned an MBA degree from Mysore University in 1977.
After a brief stint as a Management Trainee in UB-MEC Batteries, Jaishankar started MLR Industries in 1980. It was a small-scale unit that manufactured chicory (used for blending with coffee powder to add richness and flavour to the famous South Indian coffee). MLR Industries soon became the largest supplier to Brooke Bond India Ltd. In 1984, the company faced serious industrial relations' problems and Jaishankar decided to diversify his entrepreneurial efforts. However, he continued to run MLR Industries till 1991.
Selecting a new domain for diversification
Scanning the horizon to find a channel in which to diversify, the then nascent industry of property development appeared on Jaishankar's radar screen. It was in the pre-liberalisation and pre-IT days. But Jaishankar had the prescience to see a great emerging opportunity in this yet-to-be organised industry and also in the potential of Bangalore. His market research confirmed his intuitive grasp that property development would be a sunrise industry.
Challenges faced in launching Brigade
At the same time, property developers were a suspect group; not known for trust and reliability, and notorious for focusing on short-term gains and totally lacking in long-term vision. There were just a couple of organisations in the sector, struggling to earn respectability. Expecting people to pay even before the building was ready, was a counter-intuitive phenomenon in the business world.
Jaishankar established a partnership firm, Brigade Investments (1986), with the idea of executing just one project. His partners were in favour of a cautious venture of a G+3 floors office complex, since there was just one ownership office building in Bangalore at that time. But Jaishankar's audacity and largeness of vision were evident in the very first Brigade project that he launched. He was determined to build a 14-storey office complex.
Brigade Towers becomes a first-of-its-kind
Taking the unknown route was not so much a financial risk as a career and professional risk. Then, as it has been till now, Brigade did not resort to private borrowings. State Bank of India provided a Rs 10 million loan, an unprecedented amount for a property development project till then by SBI.
Brigade engaged Bangalore's most well-known architect, structural and other consultants. And the seemingly ambitious project took shape rapidly—to become the tallest building built by a private developer in Bangalore. (The record was broken only in 2002.)
Brigade commissioned a communication programme that pioneered the use of professionally designed project literature and advertising. And launched an all-India marketing and advertising campaign, unheard of in the industry at that time. (Incidentally, Brigade was the first property developer to release an advertisement in India Today. The year was 1986). Brigade Towers was a marketing success too. In fact, it is today such a landmark, that a few youngsters and newcomers to Bangalore, unaware of the history of the British Cantonment, infer that the famous Brigade Road has derived its name from Brigade Towers.
Tapping a new market
There was a dormant demand for residential apartments in Bangalore. Tapping this virgin market was an unprecedented challenge, since most Bangaloreans were averse to the idea of apartment-living, used as they were to independent houses with a small patch of garden. But fast-growing Bangalore was soon running out of land, and had no choice but to grow vertical. It was nevertheless a challenge, as people had to make a conceptual shift, and risk paying when the building was just a blue-print.
To face this challenge, Brigade adopted a manifesto called The Brigade Promise, whose credo included assurance of only free-hold and clear-title properties, full clearances from statutory authorities, architectural and engineering excellence, and a delivery time better than the industry norm.
Brigade became the fist property developer in South India, and the second in the country, to get an ISO 9001:1994 certification. In 2000, Brigade became an ISO 9001-2000 organisation, probably among the first property developers to do so in the country.
With a long-term vision of growing into a world-class organisation, Brigade began the process of building its engineering and marketing teams and filling the organisation with professionally qualified people. Brigade's growing reputation has helped it attract high-calibre people in increasing numbers over the years. Modern HR practices were introduced and an extensively computerised environment created.
Growth and consolidation
Apart from Brigade Investments, other firms—with different ownership structure/share holding patterns—were set up to handle different projects. New firms and subsidiaries included Brigade Investments & Projects Pvt. Ltd, Brigade Developers Pvt. Ltd, Brigade Constructions Pvt. Ltd and Brigade Enterprises Pvt. Ltd.
The partnership company, Brigade Investments, was dissolved in 1997. Operations were consolidated by merging all group companies through a High Court order into one flagship company, Brigade Enterprises Pvt. Ltd, in 2004. Brigade Hospitality Services Ltd—a 100% subsidiary company to focus efforts on the hospitality business—was set up in 2005. And Brigade facilitated the promotion of associated companies:
- Tandem Allied Services Pvt. Ltd (2003), which is into facility management, home loans and insurance services
- AEC Infotech Pvt. Ltd (2000), which is into construction management software and project management services
What began as a 5-member team has today become a 1000+ Group. Brigade has an established brand name and reputation for consistently developing high-quality properties that are unique, reliable and convenient for our customers.
As for the future…
In the words of M.R. Jaishankar:
"My vision and objective through my company encompass not just building better homes or offices…but providing a better quality of life for people who are part of any facility we have created through the development of world-class neighbourhoods that will enrich the lives of anyone living or working within these self-contained environs. I aim at making Brigade Group a world-class organisation and a name to reckon with in the property development and hospitality sector.
"…We intend to continue to focus on innovation and maintain our present momentum on all fronts. We also intend to continue to use technologically advanced tools and processes, continue to enhance our architectural, design, construction and development capabilities."