Zubin Cooper, (CEO) Bentel Associates Realty Design Consultants
Zubin Cooper has over two decades of experience in the architecture and real estate development sector and brings with him a wealth of knowledge in the design and development of urban planning, hospitality and retail projects.
Zubin is a graduate from Oxford Brookes University as an Architect and Urban Designer. In conversation with Dominic Rebello, Zubin reveals the challenges he faces in India and South Africa.
What is the USP of Bentel Associates Realty Design Consultants?
Very simply we are the most successful International Architects with the strongest "local" based footprint in India. The office in India has been active now for 12 years and we are currently a team of 75 people and growing. In that time we have built approximately 24,000,000 sq ft, which amounts to 35 projects in 7 states across India. With the "local" office so strong we can provide our premium quality designs at prices that our other top International practices cannot compete with given the price sensitivity of the market.
What are the challenges being faced in the Indian market in comparison to the functioning in SA?
Well SA has its own challenges. For example, when doing retail projects in SA, you can be all up to schematic design before you get paid; work is done at what we call "risk." It is only when all the tenants are in place and the shops fully leased that the project is given the green signal and the banks release funds to the developer. So we can go months before we get paid in SA working on retail mall projects.
India’s challenges are:
It's price sensitivity - Negotiations can be lengthy and aggressive. Quality in the detailing and workmanship can be lacking due to reasons of skill or valued engineering.
Changes in FSI, regulatory procedures or rights of land ownership etc can halt or stop a project. We have seen that happen more than once.
Lack of knowledge of the client body. To prepare in depth programs, and understanding the building process and having design experience. Of course this is changing all the time as more architects and real estate professionals come back to India after having foreign work experience and/or education.
Finding talented design architects - This is not exclusive to India, finding the right talent at whatever level you are hiring at, will always be a challenge regardless of where you work in the world. But the mentoring and reward process seems to work better in larger foreign based practices. This ensures that staff stay longer in any given office and learn more.
What are the latest trend in the industry?
A few of the much talked about trends in the industry:
Sustainability is much talked about but much more implementation in India.
Smart Cities, the Chinese and Japanese will help pave way for the 98 planned in India. New methods of construction, such as prefabrication sand steel construction for mid-rise buildings.
The growth of mixed use developments. We are seeing more of a need for this self-contained communities, where people can live, work and play all within a square mile. BENTEL are proudly working on many such exciting projects.
What would you say makes Bentel different from others?
Well in India it's essentially the quality and thought of design, depth of service and production information we produce for the price we charge.
Where do you see Bentel five years down the road?
We are more in demand than ever and only recently had our best month with new projects being awarded. As we go through this rapid growth we will further build on our Planning and Urban Design studio, our Store Planning, environmental graphics and way finding team.
Work more on government and public private partnership bids, as we start beginning to identify the right partners. In a nut shell we want to be known, not perhaps as India’s largest international practice but certainly “The Best."