Friday, September 17, 2010

Sankalpa SOS

My previous call(s) to investors and/or flat owners at Sankalpa seems to have been in vain. I am referring to my previous post here. I sincerely hope I could evince some interest this time around as I do have bad news to share. Historically bad news tend to wake up people, more than good news.

So like they say - I have got good news and bad news. Which one do you want first ? Let us do good news first. So here it is. This morning's papers (Sep. 18 - Day after Vishwakarma Pujo; coincidence huh ? Also 2 days after the terrible accident where in the school bus turned turtle ), carry a story about Delhi's/Centre's seal of approval on New Town as a satellite township and has agreed to pay nearly 50 % of the costs of some key infrastructure projects. 

Now while this is certainly good news, I doubt if it would change any ground reality.  TMC Supremo - Ms. B has a notorious past of not heeding to any central directive and is known to be headstrong and her diffident chieftains have already sounded the war bugle by saying this - The state government will have to return land to the people who were forced to part with it,” said Prabir Kar, Trinamul Congress president of Rajarhat block.

 So now being done with the good news moving on to the bad news. I was at Sankalpa's office in Salt Lake City, day before yesterday, when the bombshell was dropped on me, and I was taken by surprise. 

I have been visiting their office every few weeks just to check up on them and get their take on how the project is coming along and all thing sundries. During most of my visits I would walk in to the lair of the Chief Civil Engineer - one Mr. Goswami. 

Mr. Goswami - has this some what laid back, pleasant demeanor about him. He always sports a smile, and seems to be in touch with the progress of the project.  My inquiries to him would both be general in nature and specific to Site III towers and their proposed deadline. Thus far Mr. G has always assured me that if March 2011 was the due date for the deliverable, they might need the allowable grace period of 3 months. So March 2011 + 3 months = ETA of July 2011. In addition to Mr. G the folks from N.K. Realtors - the marketing agents of Sankalpa, have been singing the same tune.  

Despite what WBIDFC representative Mr. G and N.K. Realtor guys said. Following their progress closely,  man to man, heart to heart I knew July 2011 was a tough sell for Site III. I was mentally preparing myself for may be a move in around "Pujo 2011" time-frame.

So I met Mr. G the other day and he started off in the same vein, telling me only about 25% of the work remains to be done. He said he was very comfortable with the July 2011 deadline for Site III. He added, that they might be sending out pre-possession letters (some form of communication to the investors about a tentative date of possession blah blah blah ..)  by the year end.  Then he had a Eureka moment and quickly ran inside his office, while we were sitting in the lobby area.  He came out with a stinker ! He had made a mistake, actually they are now looking at November 2011 and not July 2011 for Site III ! 

I did a quick math in my head and realized that this amounts to a delay of 8 months from the initial deadline of March 2011, and even a 5 month delay from the revised ETA of July 2011. While I understand delays happen, I am sure there might be at least some investors like me out there who do not have the stomach of bearing the financial burden of this delay. Living in a rented accommodation as I am, and paying through my nose makes me really long for the day when I can move into my own apartment and stop paying both a steep mortgage and a steeper rent !
I was quickly re-assured though that the November deadline is keeping into accounts all the variables and is really a maximum time limit. Also was assured that WBIDFC the developers will keep their promise of paying a penalty of Rs. 4000 per month, for each month of delay !  However this money will not be paid in cash at this time, it will be adjusted against outstanding dues one may have at the time of closing/possession.  

Developers all across New Town and elsewhere too are notorious for flashing the Force majeure clause and hiding under it's protection. Thus evading having to pay penalty to hapless investors. I have been repeatedly reassure that WBIDFC is not just another developer, they are a government company and will be stand by their commitment. Well, time will tell !

Mr. G unlike during my previous meetings with him, looked somewhat hassled and flustered. I was told he was in-between either a meeting and/or some audit process. He quickly dropped the November bombshell and went back to his lair. 

Now almost as if telepathically I receive an email from another investor at Sankalpa, Site II, which was to be delivered in August this year. Below is an excerpt from his email, verbatim :

Hello All,
I was told recently by the Sankalpa office personnel at Salt Lake that the delivery will be in March/April, 2011. The official delivery date was August this year and after the 3 months grace period, they will be paying us penalty (per month) which will be adjusted during closing.

I would like to conclude here by simply saying - जागो ग्राहक जागो ,  জাগো গ্রাহক জাগো  or as they say in the American twang - Wake up and smell the coffee !

The age old adage could not be truer in this context - United we stand, divided we fall !

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shukhobrishti Handover Ceremony

The West Bengal government and HIDCO are making every effort possible to give New Town an image makeover. They are trying every arrow in their quiver to hit the target. In the same vein an elaborate arrangement had been done for a ceremonial hand over of 1500 apartments at Shukhobrishti the mass housing project in Action Area III.

SP Shukhobrishti is one of a kind mass housing project which by the end of it will have 20,000 dwelling units and by that effect about 100,000 people living under it's shelter.

The entire political glitterati were to be present at this symbolic event where a chosen few would get the keys to their dream home personally by the esteemed guests.  To bring into focus the corporate - state partnership, they even decided to fly down the SP, CEO of Shapoorji Pallonji's real estate ventures - Kekoo Colah, a very well spoken individual.

Despite the housing minister - Gautam Deb's multiple offers to the Ms. Mamata B., some even bordering on insanity; to which she never did warm up. Ms. Big B has this unflinching faith in her abilities, her unwavering philosophy and her continued stance of non-cooperation which could even do a Mahatma Gandhi proud !

All road this on this rainy afternoon led to Shukhobrishti, as you can see in the pictures below ...

Tailgating a police jeep ...

Dark clouds over New Town, quite literally so !
Welcoming Shapoorji Pallonji ...
Bridge on the river kwai ...
गाय हमारी माता है, हमको कुछ नहीं आता है :)
The last stretch of the short drive to Shukhobrishti, is rather rocky and puts the suspension of your car to some test. The SP site wore a festive look ready to welcome the HIDCO and political big wigs.The main entrance was decorated with cloth pillars and banners, a huge tent had been put up, a couple of hundred red plastic chairs were thrown in. And you think the color of the chairs was a mere coincidence, think again my friend. Red is THE color even if for only a few months more ;-)

Rows of red chairs ...

Guests pouring in ...
The Shukhobrishti buildings in the background ...
We walked in through a makeshift metal detector frame (sorry no pictures of that) and took couple of seats and made ourselves comfortable. We were welcome by a Rabindrasangeet singer. The extra loud Peavey speakers (Designed in USA - What about down with imperialism ? Changing face of communism ? May be so !) . The loud speakers were making sure, the songs were heard even a few miles down the road.

The clock struck four and the countdown started to the CM's arrival. The Rabindrasangeet singer picked up pace. Buddha babu showed up bang on time, lead by a North Patrol Car 1.  Along with him came the rest of the babus and sahebs - Gautam Deb Babu, Abdur Razzak Mollah Saheb, Abdus Sattar Saheb, Rabindranath Mondal Babu, Saurabh Kumar Das, MD, HIDCO and last but not the least the corporate face of event Mr. Kekoo Colah.

The stage was set for the dignitaries with high back chairs  and tables covered with spotless white sheets, neatly lined awaited their hosts.

I have to admit, I was impressed by the clock work precision with which the events unfolded. The CM drove in his chariot of white ambassador cars. A lady from the TV circuit, whose name I do not know, was the compere for  the afternoon. She spoke both English and Bengali with equal elan. She introduced the eminent guests. The Rabindrasangeet singer was done for the day and was NOT even introduced to the audience. It was now the turn of the HIDCO officials and the politicians to sing their song, and so they did.

First to take the stage was Saurabh Das, Managing Director, HIDCO. Mr. Das spoke in an accent very uncharacteristic of Kolkata and/or Bengal. He spoke about the philosophy of New Town, the ethos behind it. He positioned SP Shukhobrishti as a New Town landmark similar to Great Indian Mall in Ghaziabad (I think he misspoke here though, this should be Noida),  Ansals Plaza in Greater Noida and few other examples. His speech was a smattering of Hindi, English, Bengali and some buzzwords like mass housing, malls, fly overs, philosophy, ethos and such ...

Then came, Robindronath Mondol; M.L.A - who spoke like a politician,  Mr. Kekoo Coolah- suave, well meaning, smooth talking corporate citizen who did highlight the fact even if very politely, that HIDCO and the government do need to step up the ante and speed up the development process in New Town to make the place truly liveable,  Abdur Rezzak Mollah was the Mr. 'Smarty Pants', kept his speech short and sweet, made a jab at Ms. B, succinctly though, Abdus Sattar again spoke like a politician, the housing minister Gautam Deb started slow, but made an aggressive comeback and turned fire brand, started with New Town and how the political opposition is killing it, and ended by playing to the galleries by playing the Hindu vs. Muslim card. Lastly came the CM. It was starting to get dark and the audience which mainly comprised of the construction workers from the area was starting to get restless and tired of clapping at intervals.

We guessed that waiting till the end of CM's speech might not be a great idea as there is going to be a mass exodus of nearly a 1000 people, which would clog the exits and the roads out of the venue. The CM was not going to be revealing anything earth shattering anyhow, he would have reiterated pretty much the same talking points that were made by all the speakers before him. Clearly from TRP standpoint, they should have let the CM speak earlier, but what do I know ?

Following are some videos I captured at the event (please excuse the grainy quality and lack of close ups of speakers, due to not being seated at a vantage point, however the very crisp and clear audio makes up for it to a certain extent).

SP Shukhobrishti - Ceremonial Handover - Introduction

Kekoo Colah, CEO Shapoorji Pallonji - Real Estate

Saurabh Kumar Das, MD, HIDCO

Monday, September 6, 2010

SaveNewTown scores a half-century on IndiBlogger !

Thank you, readers. This encourages me to keep reporting. 


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