An interview with Mr. Miraj Barot, Tirupati’s director of Marketing.
Give me a brief background about Tirupati.
Miraj Barot: Tirupati Development Uganda Ltd was established in 2006, with a main objective of undertaking civil construction and real estate development. We have done multiple projects in Uganda, including a US$10m Ovino Shopping mall in Kisenyi, Kampala. We went on to build US$1.5m residential flats in Kamwokya, and then erected the Tirupati Bugolobi Apartments. Also in our stable are the Tirupati Nkumba Village and Hostel, Half London Complex and Nsambya Business Center. In the pipeline is Tirupati Mazima Mall, a US$10m undertaking and Tirupati Business Park, set to consist of 200 warehouses, and located along the Kampala Northern bypass. The company derives its name from the mother Company – Tirupati Sarjan India, and was founded by Mr. Harshard Barot.
Why did you decide to invest in Uganda?
MB: Our main aim in investing in Uganda was to provide well designed properties and property services to the increasing number of interested residential and commercial property owners in the Ugandan market. Another reason for us to invest here is to undertake awareness that profitable development need not to destroy the local environment. That’s why we always endevour to improve and re-enforce the qualities and traditions of wildlife and environment.
What’s your role in Tirupati Development?
MB: I am charged with marketing all our completed and ongoing property both in the local market and buyers in the diaspora. I also have a responsibility of advising the management team on which marketing strategies to adopt in order to capture the local and foreign markets. My work also involves efforts to make Tirupati known and appreciated both in the Ugandan market and abroad.
In 2009, Uganda Investment Authority conferred upon you the Investor of the Year Award in the upcoming investor category. What’s your comment on this?
MB: This award, extended to us by the Uganda Investment Authority, was in recognition of our efforts in the downtown Kampala slum of Kisenyi, where we erected a modern shopping mall called Tirupati Ovino Market. The US$10m mall sitting on 2.5 acres of land, has a 45 room hotel in addition to 350 lockups. Companies such as Orange Telecom, UTL, MMC Traders, Opportunity Uganda, and banks such as Stanbic, Equity, among others, have taken up shop there and are doing brisk business. The Investor of the Year Award also recognized our efforts in introducing novel and competitive products on the East African market. This boosted our efforts to transform the housing sector and we have plans to replicate this idea to other parts of the city and country.
Ever since you completed and unveiled Tirupati Ovino Market, what has been its impact on the shanty area of Kisenyi?
MB: People and businesses have already taken up space in the mall, and for the first time in the history of Kisenyi, blue collar employees and members of the middle class, are making their way to Kisenyi to transact business. Kampala City Council is likely to collect more taxes out of this new business chain and thugery will reduce due to increase in security. However, the only thorn in the flesh of the occupants of the mall is the state of the access road leading to Ovino mall. It’s narrow, congested and has become a nightmare to the extent that when it rains, it’s almost impossible for people to maneuver their way through it. Some would-be clients also fear to bring their luxurious cars for fear of dust and the slippery nature of the road. Authorities at KCC have however promised to take care of this bottleneck.
How do you keep abreast of the competition in your sector?
MB: We strive to ensure that all our projects are environmentally friendly, affordable, labour intensive, use local materials and employ local labour during implementation. Through this, we believe that we are making our humble contribution to positive change of this beautiful country and accelerating its economic development. Through promotion and implementation of the Condominium Property Act, we decided to make a beneficial move in the industry by moving from the “Build and Rent” or “Build and Own” to “Build and Transfer Ownership.” This offer ensures that the occupant takes the right of ownership after paying the agreed purchase price, instead of having to keep paying rent installment all his occupancy life.
What makes Tirupati unique in Uganda’s housing sector?
MB: Our development concept has its bearing on the newly passed Condominium Law. The real estate brokers and developers have not taken advantage of the provisions of this law.
The Condominium Property Law provides meaningful alternatives in the country because of the fast rising population. More people and businesses can be housed in smaller and better organized spaces. This law, which came into force in 2002, gives property developers such as Tirupati as well as blockers a chance to sell off property to corporations or individuals in units. We have fully embraced this concept and are slowly transforming Uganda’s housing sector.
You are in final stages of completing another modern mall – Mazima in Nsambya on Ggaba Road, opposite the American Embassy. How can someone invest in this complex?
MB: We are inviting both individuals and corporates to take up space in this mall, which will be put onto the market a few months from now. They can do this by taking a guided tour of the property, selecting their ideal apartment and paying a 30% commitment fee of the total value of the property. Upon completion, they can move in and occupy it as they pay the balance in installments spread over two years. We can also advise them on acquiring a mortgage and give them a list of our partner banking institutions where they can obtain mortgage.
Can a foreigner buy into or invest in some of your projects? Are there any legal impediments?
MB: We basically erect our property on leased land, in line with the laws of Uganda. This means that whenever we sell to a second party, we give them a sub lease of say 49 to 99 years, depending on the running lease of the land where the property is located. In the Condominium arrangement, an individual leases an apartment for either 49 or 99 years, and is given a certificate of title that can even be used in financial institutions to procure loans. In a nutshell, the Ugandan law allows any foreigner from any part of the world to co-invest and co-own property with us.
What is your payment plan and have you got any scheme for people in the diaspora with no banking facilities in Uganda?
MB: We do work with partner banks both locally and internationally. As soon as an interested party informs us of their intention to purchase any of our property, we extend to them our account details and they choose which bank they prefer to transfer their money in. Other international money transfer services can also be used in such transactions.
How can people in the diaspora get more information on Tirupati? Do you have an office in UK for instance? What measures have you devised to tap into the diaspora market?
MB: We currently do not have an office in the UK, but have partner organizations that we work with, who advance and protect our interests in foreign markets. We also have a website, which is www.tirupatidevelopment.com. Everyone around the world can log into this website and obtain more information about us. For immediate response, any interested party can also send us an email on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Mutenza is a Ugandan living in the diaspora who has invested in units in the Mazima project and the Tirupati Business Park. Do you feel happy that you are now attracting Ugandans in the diaspora to invest in your projects?
MB: We are very proud to be working with Ugandans in the diaspora, with whom we are joining hands to develop this country. Every person who loves their country knows that it’s their role to make an effort to develop it, and that’s what Ugandans abroad are doing.
We will continue working with them and ensure that we give them a better offer, and give them a chance to come back home and retire in a luxurious and well located apartment when the time comes for them to come back and settle in Uganda.
Owning a flat is a new culture in Uganda, but people in the diaspora probably understand it better. How are you planning to promote the culture of owning flats under the Condominium arrangement to Ugandans?
MB: Sale and purchase of property under the Condominium arrangement is quite new in Uganda. However, whenever we talk of “Build and Transfer Ownership” as opposed to “Build and Rent,” people pick interest in this arrangement. This is because many upcoming businesses collapse and many more are limping financially due to the heavy burden rent puts on their operational expenses.
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