It is clear that vastly growing India needs houses. Waugh and Honan are determined to build them.
Honan sports a clean financial-type look whereas Waugh looks of spending hours in the sun. Although very different, the two complement each other in this plan for housing.
The partnership started when Honan, former Morgan Stanley vice president, saw money to be made in his desire to go to India.
Waugh, who does extensive charity work in India, took Honan to Mumbai’s Dharavi slums which are described as “the worst slums in the world”.
“Along the way we just saw all the property, and it was just a common theme, we thought this was a great sector to be involved in.”
Waugh Global Realty will launch early next year. It will be part-owned by Waugh, Honan and Indian development tycoon, Tarun Mehrotra of Puri Constructions.
They aim to sell off-the-plan investment properties, largely apartment complexes, in the outer suburbs of India’s big cities, to Indian expats living in Australia.
The firm will initially focus on the luxury end of the real estate market, but if it goes well, they will plan to also roll out mid-range options.
Buyers are anticipated to be investors rather than owner-occupiers, and a percentage of the profits will go to Waugh’s charity projects.
Puri handles the construction while the firm sells the homes and finds their tenants in India.
“This country just will not say no,” said Honan. “With 13 percent interest rates and 15 percent inflation the property market just continued from strength to strength. Both Steve and I think that with Prime Minister Narendra Modi now at the helm and opening up the markets and removing the barriers, I think the sky’s the limit for the Indian market.”
Waugh’s reputation for absolute integrity, known around the world, will go some way to selling the company’s bona fides to risk-averse consumers particularly concerned with India’s endemic corruption.
“We see that as our point of difference – we only partner up with the most prestigious, the most trusted developers in India,” Waugh said.
“Indians are a bit sceptical, and that’s probably why they haven’t invested in the past, so our point of difference will be service, dealing with quality developers, and ensuring that what we say actually happens.”
Through his Sporting Edge Communities business, Waugh is already involved in property development in India. They offer sports and recreation-related town planning advice to Indian developers. Through this venture he met Modi and then the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
“He’s making it easier to invest and easier to do business. He’s cutting a lot of the red tape out – I think that’s been the problem probably in the past, you get bogged down and projects take a long time to get off the ground.”
Waugh and Honan are both enthusiastic about Modi’s engagement with Australia and what it will mean for their business.
Honan tells us, “What I see in Modi and what I’m excited about is the Indians living abroad, they want to invest back in their country.”
“For the last 10, 15 years they haven’t done that because of things like corruption and certain structural issues. He’s cleaning that up.”