Karan Virwani, the man behind Embassy Group talks about his upcoming project.
Years ago his father, as a 28-year old budding entrepreneur, cashed in on the commercial boom by setting up sprawling work spaces and integrated office parks that enticed corporates and MNCs alike. All of 24, the son is now set to mirror his iconic dad by developing office spaces, albeit for startups and emerging enterprises, a rapidly growing segment which is attracting both talent and investments. Karan Virwani, the dashing scion of the Embassy Group talks about his upcoming project, his two restaurants, and what it is to be Jitu Virwani’s oldest son, in an exclusive interaction with RITZ
It’s a grey and gloomy Monday morning and Karan is just back from an overseas work trip. Despite the jet-setting and jet lag, he sounds enthusiastic. After shadowing his dad, one of India’s biggest names in real estate and business, and having imbibed a whole lot of business acumen, he is now ready to branch out into new territory.
“I’m planning to start something of my own,” he reveals with much excitement. Can we get a preview into this? “I’m eager to provide collaborative workspaces for startups and small businesses. The idea is to have this as a separate entity with a whole new team. The need for flexible workspaces is huge as there aren’t good offices for upcoming ventures. My objective is to provide them with not just good infrastructure, but create a community where they can collaborate, leverage each other’s expertise and do business together. So say a lawyer would be working out of one room, and a graphic designer from another, and both could engage and draw on each other’s strengths whenever required,” he states.
Entrepreneurship is in Karan’s DNA. Despite being born with the proverbial silver spoon, he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug soon after returning from the UK, after having graduated from the University of Kent, to set up two of the city’s most upscale restaurants – Sancho’s and Singkong – with his partner Siddharth Mankani. These two stylish restaurants dish up authentic Mexican and Pan-Asian fare for the cosmopolitan and food-loving crowds of Bengaluru.
“I always wanted to do something of my own and I wanted to prove myself. The restaurants are running smoothly and everyone loves the food,” he says, breaking into a smile, before going on to add that he’s just introduced a food delivery app known as “Entrée” aimed at the premium restaurants in Bengaluru.
“I knew I wanted to do this, but then at some point I had to make an entry into the business as well,” he says honestly. And that’s when he started working as Executive Assistant to the iconic Jitu Virwani, Chairman and Managing Director, Embassy Group. “Working with dad is amazing. I get to travel with him, run his schedule, take notes, learn how to deal with people and understand what to say when. I feel that’s a great way to start. I got a lot to learn. We have undertaken a lot of deals and joint ventures that I’ve been a part of.”
So where exactly do Karan’s interests lie? Does his dad’s business that boasts of having developed 37 million sq.ft. of commercial, residential, Industrial & warehousing, retail, hospitality, services and education spaces hold his fancy?
“Yes of course,” he states, adding, “I also like creating new things. And having the satisfaction of making a new ideas come alive.” Karan enjoys playing big brother to 21-year old Aditya, 21-year old Natalie and 16-year-old Neel. “Aditya is all set to start work at Embassy by shadowing dad, pretty much like what I did.” Do Aditya, Natalie and Neel come to him often for advice? “I don’t know about advice. But yeah, I try to be the big brother,” he says with much pride.
“Working with dad is amazing. I get to travel with him, run his schedule, take notes, learn how to deal with people and understand what to say when”
This young man is quite an adventure junkie and is passionate about cars and driving. “My first car was a Chevrolet Cruz which was awesome fun to drive.” Karan has also sky-dived thrice – twice in England and once in Prague. “I tried it first while at college and it was awesome. Falling from a plane is a different kind of an excitement.”
But right at this moment, he is super excited to ride the startup wave and excitement that has gripped the country. Karan is eager to change things for people of his generation, the millennials, who seek flexible working, flexible workspaces, and working with ventures where they can actually create and innovate. “India has about 800 million people below the age of 35,” he rattles off statistics, adding that “people of my generation don’t always want to work with MNCs. Educational qualification is not everything now. It depends more on an individual’s nature, pro-activeness and risk-taking ability.” Karan says that his plan with collaborative workspaces is not just aimed at tech startups, but just about anyone, from architects to chartered accountants. “We want to provide them all with good working spaces from where they can get to be productive.” He plans to start off with Bengaluru and then move on to Mumbai and New Delhi with this project. “We should have at least three to four such centres in the next year or so.”
Between travelling on work, running the restaurants, charting out the blueprint for his new project and being Executive Assistant to his famous dad, does he even get time to be a happy-go-lucky 24-year old? “I definitely make time for myself. Post work in the evenings, is ‘me time.’ And I truly cherish the weekends.” Karan enjoys doing simple things to unwind and relax, like sitting at home and watching a movie, eating out, swimming at his farm, playing with his dogs or just chilling in his shorts, t-shirt and chappals. “I’m not one to get super dressed up. I simply like being comfortable,” he ends with a casual shrug.