One of the pioneers of the Indian Commercial Real Estate Industry, Mr Shrinivas Rao is a founding member and CEO of Vestian Global Workplace Services. Within a short span of 8 years, Vestian is recognized as a global brand in the field of real estate services and workplace solutions and the credit for this lies solely with Mr. Rao, for not just having the foresight to identify the requirements, innovations and improvements needed in the sector, but looking beyond traditional business models, to explore and shape the future of organized workplace segment in the region. It hence comes as no surprise that Vestian’s clientele includes some of the largest global and regional names such as Mercedes, JP Morgan, DBS, Unisys to name a few. It is through the sheer determination and will that a concept has become a reality. The reality being, Vestian is now considered amongst the top four Workplace Solutions firm in Asia Pacific region with focus on India and China.
Mr. Rao, over the span of the last 25 years, has relentlessly and unwaveringly worked his way through the corporate minefield, creating opportunities at every hurdle and challenge. This has led to the fulfilment of his long- standing dream, of starting a company in the real estate sector and ensuring that it is recognised as one of the niche leaders. Describing himself as tenacious, Mr. Rao is a self-made man, who is a firm believer that one should not only participate in a race but give it their best shot to win it. He is however, realistic enough to realise that one needs to learn from failures and shortcomings, in order to run the next race better. His unflinching attitude towards quality and compliance has been reflective of Vestian’s growth from the time of its inception. A combination of being’ both hands on and process driven has led to success while working with domestic and international clients. Innovation has been one of his key mantras; and it is this constant innovation across service offerings and processes, that has been a significant contributor in increasing dominance. He also ensures that no job is complete till the feedback loop is complete. Nothing gives him greater pleasure than the realisation that a workplace created and executed by Vestian, has contributed to increased productivity and efficiencies at the clients’ end. A people’s person, he is able to build client relationships; and he utilises that comfort to ensure that the feedback mechanism is direct, to validate other means and systems too.
A quick look into his formative years indicates a determined youth who completed his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Pune University in 1991. His first job was with Chitale & Sons, one of the oldest architectural firms in India; where he worked on two of the largest projects in Chennai; namely refurbishment of Standard Chartered building and Medical Institute of India. This is when he realised that his passion lies in the real estate sector and was keen to develop a name for himself in this field. To further equip himself, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in business administration. Upon completion of his Masters’ degree, he joined K Raheja Properties, India’s largest real estate developer to market their commercial and residential ventures across India. During his tenure, he was involved in closing out some of the largest transactions for residential asset sale to IDBI bank and Vijaya bank. Post his stint with Raheja, he worked with Sanmar Properties, part of Chemplast India, where he was instrumental in development of various residential projects in Bangalore.
During the course of his early working years and on an ongoing basis, Mr. Rao observed closely the many challenges corporates faced, while seeking workplace solutions including newer workplaces. The entire industry was unstructured and fragmented and there was not a single firm which could provide integrated workplace solutions to corporates. He identified this limitation and played an active role when organised real estate teams started to foray into India, to capitalise on the immense potential. He became a key contributor and was involved in establishing professional commercial real estate services in India. He was involved in in launching and establishing businesses of several global IPCs such as Colliers International and Cushman & Wakefield. It hence came as no surprise that Mr. Rao was felicitated as one of the youngest directors of Colliers India, one of the leading global real estate services firm, at the age of 26. Since then Mr. Rao has taken on bigger and more challenging roles which also included managing various aspects of portfolio planning, expansion/relocation initiatives and workplace fit-outs. In the year 2000, he joined Equis as the Country Manager, India, with a primary focus of establishing a conflict-free occupier solutions business. During his tenure, he was able to successfully establish Equis amongst the top four organizations in the country from a corporate real estate services business perspective. In the year 2006, UGL, a large Australian based 200-billion-dollar conglomerate acquired Equis. Mr. Rao took over as the COO – APAC, to manage over 6500 employees across the Asia Pacific region. Mr. Rao realised that there was a significant shift in focus from occupier solutions to a more landlord service delivery model.
It was at this juncture that Mr. Rao decided to move on and fulfil his ambition of starting his own real estate services company – Vestian. The core focus of Vestian was tenant representation. His quest for solutions, had begun. “I saw the tenant representative model means to build, scale, provide conflict free solutions, and build trust amongst clients,” he adds. As an industry pioneer, Mr. Rao had seen the anguish that organizations faced when searching for a modern, quality workplace for their employees. “There was a huge gap between the need of each corporate and what was being offered as a solution,” says the CEO and one of the founding members of Vestian. Mr. Rao collaborated with Michael Silver, a pioneer in his own right in the workplace industry and former owner of Equis, to create Vestian with the underlying philosophy of transparency and accountability. Vestian, came into being in 2010; and was headquartered in Chicago. Mr. Rao spent the next eight years setting up the foundation of the company and then progressing to build a strong brand to become a niche leader in this space.
His biggest challenge was to create a name and trust for the brand Vestian. He worked on the same by making successful attempts to move the focus from the comfort of a well-accepted name to that of achievements and innovations of a close knit and experienced team. He recruited and built a team that would go on to build good equity with the corporates. The team was equipped with proven best practices and global knowledge. To build brand equity amongst clients and stakeholders and to ensure the team consistently adhered in its CRE delivery standards, Vestian also got accreditations from International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). Vestian is an Integrated Management Services (ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015 and OHSAS 18001:2007) firm and a member of the IGBC. Having understood the importance of affiliations with sector specific prominent organizations, Vestian sought association with professional bodies such as RICS and CoreNet. Today, having completed assignments and projects across 90 locations in 5 countries including the U.S., U.A.E., India, Sri Lanka, and China, the company’s biggest strategic thrust is international growth and expansion. Mr. Rao says he’s excited to take Vestian’s service offerings to other parts of the world.
Mr. Rao also believes that it is imperative to have strong team dynamics and team cohesion for the success of any firm. This cohesion which is based on trust and relationship is at the forefront of Vestian’s ethos and culture. This strong employee contribution culture and loyalty, has been one of the main reasons that Vestian has been able to attract and retain talent, challenge global names and increase its own strategic competitiveness.