Santhosh Gowda, chairman at Strawberry Star Group, on how he got started in property, his top film and book picks, which historical figure he would like to befriend and the celebrity he would most like to meet.
How did you join the property industry?
I first discovered my entrepreneurial skills in my early twenties when Bangalore, where I grew up in India, started emerging as a global destination for blue-chip tech companies. As demand for quality real estate boomed, I was among the few who could successfully cater to the demand. My career later took me to Singapore and subsequently to Dubai, where I set up independent businesses. Around 2008, I arrived in London during the height of the subprime crisis, which became the launchpad for my business in the UK.
What does your job entail?
In the last 14 years, I have steered Strawberry Star to be a uniquely positioned entity, offering end-to-end property services under one roof. We have facilitated more than £1bn in aggregate property investments. Property development, including build to rent, build to sell, lettings and management, and property management, are the pillars of our business. I oversee the comprehensive growth of the organisation.
What do you like most about the property industry?
The housing sector is the largest consumer market in any country. People invest passion and money in finding a home. It gives me immense satisfaction that I can be a part of turning people’s home-ownership dreams into a reality.
And what do you dislike most about it?
I wouldn’t say there is anything I particularly dislike about the industry. There are issues not under our control, such as market dynamics, inflation or the rising cost of construction or raw materials, but these are universal.
What would you change about the property industry?
Some of the important pillars of the property industry are disjointed – from the development of the property to offering a five-star customer experience. This does not bode well for the industry and its consumers.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
It would not be an exaggeration to state that I am a completely self-made man. I faced a multitude of challenges over the last 28 years delivering businesses in different locations, successfully delivering partnerships, access to finance, cultural alignment of thoughts and regulatory and market dynamics. Although every challenge is unique to its own geography, the most important thing is always that we keep our customers happy.
What are you most proud of in your career?
The fact that Strawberry Star has developed a strong pipeline of 2,000-plus properties in the UK, which is among the top residential markets, with a value of the assets under management at £1.4bn and 1.5m sq ft acquired to date.
What do you value in people?
Being friendly, transparent and trustworthy, with a passion to achieve.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Always be customer-centric, and think from your consumer’s perspective to deliver the highest quality. This is a market where your relationships with people must be strong, but at the same time it is key to be transparent, remain dedicated to the job and reflect your values in every transaction.