How, as Apeejay’s project manager, I have built, restored and maintained our Group’s Real Estate assets

By Bibhas Sanyal

I have been building from day one of my journey in Apeejay! First day at work in 2004, I had been handed over a target – a very special project – The Banyan Tree Apartments –  completion. So it was hands on training from day one of my journey so far in the Group. Then I went on to complete the Apeejay Anand Children Libraries in two Apeejay Schools in Calcutta, Family Offices, the Apeejay Business Centre in Apeejay House, Flurys Store  in Alipore Road,  upgradation of the Buildings in D.H. Road, E.M Bypass property in Calcutta up to the point when The Park Mansions restoration and upgradation project came up. It was a massive project, more so in terms of complexity, than financially. The Park Mansions project which will always remain in my special books for years to come.

The green field School project in Bhubaneswar, Odisha was really another phase of my career here in Apeejay. I was involved from the day the land was acquired for Apeejay School, bounded and all related challenges of land acquisition and clearances. Even though I had handled the maintenance and upgradation work of other Apeejay Schools from day 1 of my joining Apeejay, building the Bhubaneswar school from ground up was special to me. Amongst the many challenges that this project brought with it, the key challenge was to create something that will be liked by the people who would be the end user – the students. Our whole concept was to have an openness where students don’t feel restricted within walls. The design was very appealing, the landscaping, the library, the canteen, the generous space of the classrooms – everything about this project was a Labour of Love.

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Apeejay School Bhubaneswar

Apeejay School Bhubaneswar opened its gate to students on 3rd April 2017 and is an example of epitome of team work. All the teams working on the project – the Projects team, IT team, Finance & Accounts team, Corporate Communications team – were perfectly synced in and all of them simply put in everything and more to achieve the deadline handing it over to the Apeejay School management to take over from there. The decision making throughout the project was exemplary which really helped project management.

That project really is a great example of pure teamwork where everyone chipped in without anyone having to ask. The last 45 crucial days before we opened on 3rd April 2017 really need a special mention wherein we used to work from morning 8:30 am to 11:00 pm daily non-stop with some of us working till the wee hours of the morning. Surprisingly everyone was up the next day rearing to go without any sign of mental or physical fatigue.

Our work was rewarded the day the children wearing smart uniforms with the Apeejay School logo embossed on their shirts, curious, shy and excited came through the gates. Everything we had done, we had gone through to make this School in Odisha was an immediate success. It is a sight that one never forgets – as a parent myself and as a project manager – delivering something that was instantly loved is a feather in everyone’s cap including mine. After that day,  each time,  I have walked through those corridors seeing children in the classrooms, studying, talking, laughing, sitting quietly, just one thought goes through my mind and that is – it was worth all those days away from my family & home, all those sleepless nights, all those apprehensions, tensions, every single day of on-site presence, everything was worth it.

I also remember fondly that while this all consuming School project was underway in Odisha and nearing 2017 opening date for School academic year 2017-2018, in Calcutta  I had volunteered in the Apeejay Employee Volunteering Program, ISR, and agreed to help an NGO design a community kitchen-cum-eatery for tourists run by tribal women of a village in Purulia district! This was a project where a Sous Chef of our hotels had been volunteering for quite a while teaching techniques of cooking and serving food in a hygienic way to the NGO who was then imparting these skills to the tribal women of the village who thus far were running a makeshift community kitchen for tourists.

Here’s a picture of me working with NGO at the time around the end of 2016.

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Me with NGO Literacy India in a meeting discussing design of a community kitchen for tribal women of Purulia district of West Bengal

While all the work that I have been made in charge of so far was within my professional scope,  there has been one job that I was brought on board for for which I had absolutely no experience! It was in 2013 when the complex restoration of Park Mansions was recognised by Kolkata Municipal Corporation and INTACH for their joint Heritage Award. Many important dignitaries were to arrive for the Award ceremony in Park Mansions. The local & national press were very curious on Apeejay’s project management and process of restoring a 100 year old residential cum commercial building damaged by a fire,  whose documentation from 1910, when it was built the Armenian jute merchant, not available while it continued to be inhabited by residents!

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This is how the now 108-year old restored Park Mansions on Park Street looks like

The job I was given then was a surprise designation of “company spokesperson”! My job was to speak to all reporters interested in writing about how the massive residential-cum-commercial Park Mansions built across 5 bighas on  buzzing Park Street was restored to glory by Apeejay and the Projects team.  For a few days and evenings, I was almost always in the middle of reporters and journalists which included the region’s largest media house – The Telegraph – and that experience of explaining how we recreated everything – from Indo-Saracenic golden domes to balustrades to roofs while the resident lived in their homes was a very special experience. I share one of the articles of that time in The Telegraph for your reading

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Me (fourth from the right) with the entire team after the Award Ceremony and the public function for the KMC-INTACH Heritage Award 2013 held at Park Mansions was over !

Being a press spokesperson was an unnerving but a very empowering experience. I was asked to explain simply and in great detail what it takes to restore heritage buildings and to be transparent with the purpose of inspiring more similar work in our great city of Calcutta. It is because of this assignment and all the project work that I have by now done, I also understand that why the future of how the current and next generation views our cities is etched in concrete and that is why the jobs me and people like me do in construction and real estate is important and this is why vision & innovation must be the primary drivers of all our work.

Whether it was building for children or building for home owners or building for office goers or building commercial spaces for brands and retail, I have used my professional strengths and incremental strengths I gathered as I did one great project after another. All the experiences I have had so far in project management in Apeejay have taught me many lessons in the last 14 years and  for which I am thankful to Apeejay.

Bibhas Kumar Sanyal is Deputy General Manager, Projects, Apeejay House Private Limited

 

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