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The Story of Svasa Part I: The Birth of an Idea

Oct 9, 2020

Ravi Machani, founder of Svasa Homes, is an entrepreneur from Bangalore keen on introducing a fresh new perspective to the Indian business ecosystem. With a vision to bring back Indian heritage in the real estate market, Ravi shares the story behind his unique project, Svasa Homes, and how it came to life after years of thinking, planning, and moments of inspiration.

 

Basavanagudi

Basavanagudi

 

Written with humility and humanity, the story of Svasa Homes is about the lives and dreams of my ancestors who created a legacy of impact. A true anecdote of an entrepreneurial DNA making its way across generations to recreate excellence in the form of a luxury residential project. I believe the story of Svasa Homes can inspire generations of business leaders, family business owners, and entrepreneurs. 

 

"It all began in 2012 with a precious ancestral land in Basavanagudi where we once had our legacy family business Stumpp Schuele & Somappa Springs (SSS Springs) factory for over 30 years following a merger with Nippon Electronics.”
RAVI MACHANI Founder, Svasa Homes
Svasa Homes Founder

 

We manufactured capacitors back in the day. It was a land that held a special place in our hearts; a place full of memories. It was a gift from our forefathers. A gift that had stayed with us, as if preserved for the right time and purpose. Fast forward to 2012 - the capacitor business was no longer run there, so I took my friend and architect Namith Varma to the site one day just to check out the place. We didn’t think anything would come of it. We really didn’t know what we were stepping into.

We arrived in the charming locale of Basavanagudi - a place of immense value in terms of culture and tradition in Bangalore. It’s in Basavanagudi that the founding stones of modern-day Bangalore were laid. We found the ancestral land and climbed the empty dilapidated building - the only one left - all the way to the top. It was the first time in my life that I actually saw the beauty of 15 acres of pure greenery at the adjacent property, the Ramakrishna Ashram. Until then we had used the building as a factory and never really understood how incredible the view was and how special the land was. As we were standing at the top, Namith and I had this “Aha!” moment together. I’ll never forget what he said to me. He said “You must chant your grandfather’s name three times a day. This land is a pure gift from him.”

As we walked through the building and made our way around the entire property, I realised quickly the sheer quality of the land parcel, its dimensions, the way it was spread out, and the positive energy that emanated from the ashram next door. This land really was a gift from my grandfather, Machani Somappa. My only job now was to make sure we did something with it that was worthy of his name.

 

Machani Somappa

Padma Shri Machani Somappa (L) with Former Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru

 

A Bold Vision and a New Beginning

As a family business, 95% of our portfolio at the time comprised the automotive industry. If the automotive industry did well, so did we. We wanted to branch out, diversify, and create a new business - something beyond the automotive industry. It was time for a new entity, a new team, a business with its own destiny. With the outstanding land parcel we had to work with, real estate seemed to be one of our most organic choices.

I kept wondering why my grandfather had bought the land parcel there, years ago, in the first place. I had no explanations, but I did feel a huge surge of gratitude for this rare, multi-generational gift that we had inherited. If I look back at what my grandfather had built, and everything he worked towards, I don’t even know if my father’s generation was able to reap the benefits. This was a gift that had skipped a whole generation, and we were the beneficiaries. So that’s where we felt a huge responsibility and inspiration to build something in tribute to the hard work and dedication of that generation. Something that lived up to Machani Somappa’s name.

We took some time to reflect and delve into who my grandfather really was. What was he like? What were his core beliefs and values? We knew that he was an exemplary social entrepreneur. In those days, we didn’t have terms such as social entrepreneur, conscious capitalism or community entrepreneurship. These words didn’t even exist, but those were precisely the values my grandfather believed in and lived by. Somappa was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award in 1954 for his outstanding contributions to society. He was amongst one of the first recipients of the award. We looked at his character traits to understand what made him so special and we realised that he had this unique combination of being extremely benevolent, yet at the same time, an astute entrepreneur. He knew how to run a tight ship. He was a sharp businessman with a social conscience. It’s a rare combination not many business leaders have.

 

Namith Varma and Gayathri Shetty

Namith Varma and Gayathri Shetty

 

A Tribute to a Unique Generation

My grandfather’s generation was a generation that built up so much value that wealth naturally followed. Once the wealth started to build, they really leveraged everything they had for the betterment of the community. I wondered why they worked so hard and poured it all back into the community. I think it’s because they were an inspired and passionate bunch that lived for greatness. They lived for a cause far bigger and beyond themselves. As a homage to this great soul, I wished to do something similar by creating a masterpiece on our ancestral land that inspired family businesses and entrepreneurs. And that’s how Svasa Homes was born.

I really must give a lot of credit to Namith, and his business partner Gayathri Shetty, for helping us kickstart this unique project. Gayathri offered us her home to officially launch Svasa Homes. We invited a group of 30 entrepreneurs and family businesses owners to her stunning home by a lake. And the project was launched. Word started to spread from there, and we were able to sell around 30 apartments within the first few weeks. We had a few good things going for us - the combination of a great location, and the fact that there was a pent-up demand for higher quality homes. People came to visit our springs factory at SSS, and having that strong legacy behind us gave people the confidence to realise that we were not a fly-by-night operator. People witnessed first-hand the credibility of our family business and trusted us because we were established industrialists who were foraying into real estate.

 

 

Reimagining a Brand in Basavanagudi 

At first, we named the project Machani Ananda. Soon, just as we started getting some good traction, our neighbour decided to give his real estate project a very similar name. So similar, it caused great confusion amongst our prospective buyers, our community, and even our new employees and extended networks. Everyone was confused. It was never going to work.

I have no idea how many customers we lost because of this issue but we were forced to go back to the drawing board and change our name. How can you have two properties within a hundred meters of each other with the same name?

More than a disappointment and a setback, this was a catalyst to begin an exercise of deep thinking around a name that was beyond the influences of our family name. At the time, our brand name simply reflected our family name - Machani Ananda. But now we had to think beyond the family, and look at our extended family and the community we intended to serve. The dream grew to be much bigger than we had anticipated.

To be honest, we struggled with the name for a long time. Our thinking was that we’re here not just to sell a product. We wanted to create an experience, an entire journey. Our concept began with inspired living - what does it mean to live a highly inspired life? Machani Somappa lived an inspired life that was exemplary, personified by his spontaneous giving to the community and giving to those around him. And, he naturally knew how to reap the rewards. He also knew the balance of giving and taking. The essence of giving and taking is captured beautifully with the act of breathing - you must give breath in order that you can take in breath. Similarly, you must take what you have to give. And that’s how Svasa (meaning breath in Sanskrit) found its name. Svasa is the very breath that requires you to give before you take; the very essence of life is breath, and so is the process of giving and taking.

So really - I have to thank our neighbours for opening up right next to us. If it wasn’t for this immense challenge, we never would have really found our true essence. Svasa, as a concept and as a metaphor, really allows our community to breathe life into each other; it allows for a space for spontaneous giving and taking, just as Machani Somappa did. Svasa’s Inspired Living concept allows us to collectively attract a group of people who naturally come together and grow together. We’re not just manufacturing homes for a group of individuals. It’s the individuals who come together for the purpose of forming a collective. And once the collective is formed by these individuals, their families join the journey too. The more you bring to the community, the more rewards you will reap.

Creating a unique luxury home is one thing and creating a unique community, quite another. This wasn’t just a residential project we were building. It was much more than that. The core challenge was to bring together individuals and families of similar wavelengths and yet different backgrounds to create an interesting mix of thoughts, ideas, and initiatives. But how do you do that? To begin with, by being clear about what you’re offering and who it’s meant for. Once this clarity exists, everything else becomes simple. However, there’s a lot more in terms of execution when it comes to building the right community. Most visionaries overlook community building. They forget that community is the single most important feature of a luxury home. Building the right community was in line with Machani Somappa’s vision because that’s what he did all his life. He built the right communities around him because he knew that if the community is built right, everything else will naturally fall in place. 

Svasa Homes will be our greatest gift to upcoming entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are looking for a lifestyle tailored to their interests. I’m certain that Svasa Homes will become a way of life more than just a place to reside in.

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