Many of us have passion in our hearts for something or the other. Some of us are lucky enough to pursue our dreams while others have to put in a lot of effort to chase them. Similar is the case of Harshavardhan Neotia. He has great love in his heart for real estate. However, his father wanted him to join family’s cement empire. It was a tough call for him to follow his heart but he eventually went on to do what he thought was right.
Harshavardhan, born and brought up in Kolkata in a Marwari family, received fine quality education from St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, and Harvard Business School.
He comes from a family of artists. His uncle was an art historian whereas his family is connected to the cultural centre of Anamika Kala Sangam. As a child, he remembers being encouraged by his grandmother for gardening, “I built a rock garden with a waterfall in our back garden,” he recalls.
“I didn’t know it then but art, architecture, and landscaping left a deep impression on my life from an early age. No wonder when my father wanted me to join the family’s cement business, I silently rebelled,” he smiles.
He says his move in the real estate was both accidental and difficult.
“I had just completed college in 1982 and considering getting into the family’s cement business when one day I heard my father’s friend talking about selling his house, as he was moving to Mumbai. He wanted someone to redevelop the property. I had neither the money nor any clue about real estate but something inside me told me to take the plunge. I offered to build a house there,” he recalls.
Two years later when the multi storied building was complete he got his first break.
“My father was hoping I would get involved in the cement business but it was too complex for me. I felt it was a lot more exciting to try something new and excel instead of being a small fish in a big pond,” he jokes.
He still remembers the happiness on his face when a daily newspaper had his photo and interview published. He rejoiced the day with his friends.
In past three decades, Harsh has been diverging his business more in the forms of malls like City Centre and the iconic Swabhumi in Kolkata — which is a one-of-its-kind open-air that is home to shops, restaurants and cultural shows from across India. He has also structured state of the art hospitals, schools, several of Eastern India’s landmark office complexes, housing societies and townships.
He also built two five star properties on the bank of river Ganges in Raichak – the five star Fort Raichak and the luxurious resort Ganga Kutir.
“A few of my relatives live in Varanasi on the banks of the river. I always wanted to own property somewhere close to the river therefore, so that we could sort of remain connected. It’s a romantic notion in a way but I am happy I could fulfill it,” he says.
He talks of making money in a very philosophical manner. He says money i never his focus while he is doing some task, all he focuses is on the job and money comes in automatically if the end product is good.
Strangely for him growing in a business family he has a special inclination for art works as he for philosophy. He is also an avid reader, collects landscape of his own projects, loves gardening and has a keen ear for music.
“One of my uncles was an art historian. My aunt was a disciple of musician Girija Devi and the entire family was connected with Anamika Kala Sangam. As the only son in my generation and growing up in a joint family, I was introduced to all art forms pretty early in life. That is why I could express myself through architecture, landscaping and art when executing many of my projects,” he says.
He has love for tennis. Till date he finds out time to play tennis with his friends. “I play tennis with friends at the club every week. I hate the gym. It’s like a cage for a person used to sports,” he laughs. He loves cricket too and finds out time to watch cricket whenever he has time. When he wants to relax he retreats in his reading room and reads books in silence.
On Sundays, he spends quality time with his family or goes out to watch some movie. He doesn’t take look at excel sheets on this leisure day. He loves watching movies and secretly says he wants to produce a movie some day.
Today, he runs a business with turnover of Rs 2,000 crore as the chairman of Ambuja-Neotia group, for which he received the Padma Shree award, in 1999.
He took a totally off-beat track than his family business and proved to himself and others that no task is impossible if you have the fire within. His determination and conviction have helped him sail through the tough times and prove his worth by establishing a parallel track successful business as his father.