Founded in 2008, Chennai-based Catalyst Properties has completed projects worth over Rs 3,000 crore. It has now ventured into Bengaluru and aims to do well in an adverse market.
When horse racing enthusiasts visit the Bangalore Turf Club for its annual winter derby, they might run into entrepreneur Anjan Rangaraj, Founder and CEO, Catalyst Properties. The 44-year-old businessman and his property marketing consultant company sponsor the event, which is titled the ‘Catalyst Properties Bangalore Derby’.
“Having a hobby or playing a sport helps the mind unwind after work,” he says. “And horse racing need not just be a sport. Sponsoring the 2018 Winter Derby helped evoke curiosity about Catalyst Properties among the builders’ fraternity, who I invited for the event. I was very happy to host it because of my keen interest in the sport.”
Anjan has been an entrepreneur for 20 years. “I come from a family of doctors. I was expected to get into medicine. Convincing my parents that I wanted to take the management route and become an entrepreneur was difficult,” he recalls. “I joined medical college but quit in a few weeks because I felt that it just wasn’t for me.”
He then went abroad to study management, and hasn’t looked back since. “I am a risk-taker, I was always clear I wanted to return to India to set up my own business. After my MBA, I returned and launched my first company. That’s how my entrepreneurial journey began,” he explains.
Initially, Anjan dabbled in various industries. His first startup was ‘Belle Vue Diversified, an engineering company, which he launched in 1998, when he was just 24.
“Here, we converted agricultural waste into fuel for industrial purposes. Then I set up an ad agency called Cedilla Communications in Chennai, and I have been told we are among the top in the past decade,” he narrates. “We handle a lot of real estate clients. I also have a company called Belle Vue Assets, which is into property development. Another is Cedilla Business Solutions, which facilitates Indian companies to set up shop in Myanmar. These all come under the Cedilla Group of Companies.”
So how did the entrepreneur go from an engineering company and an advertising agency to property marketing consulting?
The turning point came in 2006, when Anjan was visiting his advertising agency’s real estate clients. “These clients were focussing on the residential category. They had high praise for my ad agency in terms of generating leads,” he recalls. “But they told me that there was a deficit as far as their marketing was concerned. So I saw an opportunity where they could outsource their entire marketing activities to us.”
Looking at this demand, he launched Catalyst Properties in 2008 in Chennai, with the objective of providing comprehensive and cutting-edge real-estate consulting services to residential buyers. “Besides existing demand, I also brought in an underwriting concept and also invested in lead generation to set us apart,” he says.
Being one of India’s first property underwriting companies, Catalyst was different from other players in the market. “We are unique because of our property underwriting services where advances are involved, and our ability to liquidate or sell the stock. We invest in lead generation, unlike global players. Usually, developers invest in leads. In our case, we invest in generating leads,” Anjan explains.
For Catalyst, digital is key when it comes to generating these leads. The company generates leads from various avenues, but around 30 percent of its sales are through the digital medium, according to him. “Further, we are looking to venture into getting our own property portal. We have been working on this for over a year,” he says. “This portal will be unique and it will be very transparent and curated. This way, we want to remove clutter in the residential segment.”
Currently, the marketing and consulting company deals in the residential segment through the underwriting and exclusive mandate format. Part of the Cedilla Group of Companies, it has achieved a turnover of over Rs 3000 crore since its inception.
Out of all the companies in this group, Anjan is most hands-on with Catalyst, which recently ventured into Bengaluru. “Markets are slow now, but we can use it to our advantage since we had time on hand to venture into this market. I am originally from here although I was based out of Chennai,” Anjan says. “I understand the market and was always in touch with the real estate fraternity in Bengaluru.”
“Our current focus remains on the residential sector and we want to establish ourselves in Bengaluru. Even though it’s a bad market, we can become more visible by performing well. At the same time, there are key drivers in the market pushing real estate developers to Tier-II and Tier-III cities after RERA (Real Estate Regulation and Development Act, 2016),” he says.
The venture was made possible when Cornerstone came on board to become Catalyst’s equity player. “It is the city’s biggest land banking company. With their help, we set up operations here. We have already begun operations in full flow,” he says.
Whether it’s Bengaluru or Chennai, the main challenge for Anjan is educating customers on what they are buying. “Since Catalyst curates properties, we take to market only those products in which we believe.
Unless it’s a good product, we cannot be in a good position to sell,” he explains. “Identifying good projects and striking the deals with the developers is also challenging. We need to be unbiased, have a price advantage, and curate good projects. We take to market projects from second category developers who lack exposure. A lot of landowners may also not have the bandwidth to sell, and we also look at this.”
“I believe there is always opportunity in adversity,” Anjan adds.
According to him, in today’s adverse real estate market, it is a good time for a buyer to get a good deal. Previously, it was unheard of for people to buy ready-to-occupy homes. Homes used to be sold at their nascent stages. “But today, there is so much ready to occupy inventory, So there is a lot of transparency. Buyers are in a position to pick up something which is completed. They know what they’re paying for,” he says.
At the moment, most of Anjan’s focus is on Catalyst Properties, but his other companies are in safe hands, according to him. “For my other ventures, there are leaders who have been hired a long time ago and have been with the companies for several years,” he explains. “They understand the business better than me now, since they’ve remained focused on it while I’ve looked at other areas.”
Wherever the serial entrepreneur’s business focus lies, he always seems to make time for his hobbies. Being a race enthusiast, he owns racing horses. He is also a collector of vintage bikes, beer steins, and coins. “Apart from these, I also have a passion for golfing, sailing and flying,” he says. “Finding time for hobbies and sports helps you relax after a long day at work.”