“You have to look at an investment with a long term horizon. It’s all about building a hassle-free income stream that will grow with you. That’s the key fundamental of our game. It takes a lot of knowledge and experience to figure out what’s right.”
We’re in the boardroom of the The Prideview Group’s office in Stanmore, London. The property business was established over 35 years ago by Shailesh and Raj Patel. Now at the helm of the ship, their sons, Vishal, Jesal, Nilesh and Priyen are injecting the traditional industry of commercial property with youth and dynamism while keeping a focus on the private investor at the centre.
Their zeal for the market is evident as we discuss how they have applied out-of-the-box, entrepreneurial thinking to restructure and expand the business established by their fathers.
The brothers brought their own ambitions and strengths to the business over a decade ago when the credit crunch hit. Fresh from university, Vishal and Jesal joined the company first, immediately doing deals. Priyen, who was then managing a residential portfolio for the NHS joined next, progressing Prideview to build its management business.
“What’s driven us over the past decade is bringing the business out of what was a really tough market after the credit crunch,” says Jesal. “Rather than just buying properties and selling them on, we started to get the deals and broker them to people. It was a difficult time so we changed the whole model and how we came out of those times has served us really well.”
Nilesh had qualified as a chartered accountant at KPMG and joined Prideview when his father, Raj, suddenly lost his eyesight. “That affected the company and the family as a whole,” he says. “I had to think hard. Whilst I still had a lot more to learn in the corporate world, I felt like I had gained enough experience to bring something to the table to Prideview and my family. The market may have been in the doldrums but I backed myself to make a difference.”
Nilesh immediately started modernising the business which had previously operated in a more traditional manner. “In those days there was only one computer in the office and one email address and business was done through fax and post. The IT systems were in need of modernisation, structures and processes were messy and many of our services that were outsourced needed to be brought back in-house to truly make us into the ‘Home of the Blue-Chip Investor’,” says Nilesh. “I started implementing ideas one-by-one to get the business up to a level where not only could we be proud to work there, but our clients could be proud to be associated with us.”
“In terms of technology, real estate is one of the most backwards in its progress,” says Jesal. “It’s embedded and archaic and there’s a lot of vested interest in not going with the times. We are always trying to stay ahead of that.” He describes how the Prideview team uses the latest technology to spread word of their business – as well as having a good presence on social media, they contribute to respected publications, giving their expert opinions on the market. “Dad always said that the key to being good in this business is to make as many contacts as you can,” says Nilesh. “What we’ve done well over the last 15 years is proactive networking and meeting people to get our name out – both amongst property professionals and investors.”
Having significantly built up their platform they are confident in dealing with everything related to commercial property. Their experience lets them identify opportunities, even during unstable times. “If the deal is right, there are still plenty of buyers,” says Nilesh. “We have done over £300m worth of deals since the Brexit vote. Property, like any business is about risk and reward. And when everyone is shying away, you can push on if you have experience, expertise and a strong team. It’s all about taking calculated risks.”
Jesal believes that Asian businesses, families and investors can gain more leverage within the property market by working closer together. “The UK market is global in terms of its customer base, and only by working together in this competitive market is it possible to progress. There are some very large families and property companies who have skillsets in areas where we may not be specialists, and we are already pooling our individual skills and resources together in order to take things to the next level.
“Some people’s mantra is to never mix business with pleasure, but we’re a family business so we don’t know any different. Our business is interconnected with relations, family, friends, and community,” he adds.
Another way the team brings the community together is through the #PrideviewCricket Cup. The charity 12-team cricket tournament is held each July as a family day for investors, associates and friends. Prideview organises and covers the costs of the entire event which has so far raised over £100,000 for various charities.
Though their fathers have now taken a back seat in the business, their sons see them as mentors and regularly tap into their wealth of experience. “We have two very experienced people on our side,” says Nilesh. “The key to our progression in the last decade is the free reign our Dads gave us, along with our collective hunger to overcome the challenges by the credit crunch. In many family businesses the younger generation are not encouraged to express themselves and though we often don’t agree on strategic (as opposed to property-specific) decisions, they’ve always backed our thinking. They also didn’t get to where they were by following everyone else or doing what they were told, but their love for doing deals is something we most certainly share.”
Photographs by Rahul Khona on location at www.stjameshotelandclub.com
Interview by Nima Suchak
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