Kamal Sagar, Founder, Total Environment

Total Environment homes are known for their customized spaces and sensitive detailing. Founded by Kamal Sagar and Shibanee Sagar, Principal Architects & Directors of Total Environment, Total Environment projects remain true to their design philosophy of creating physical environments that’s in harmony with their surroundings.

Kamal has studied at IIT Kharagpur and worked in Lexington, Kentucky. He has traveled through the United States and Europe picking up ideas that has translated in his works. Kamal’s other passion is music. This explains why Total Environment’s projects are named after some of his favourite songs.

In conversation with Tuhina Anand of Paul Writer, Kamal decodes luxury and shares his passion on what makes TE homes different and desirable.

Most homes today are being sold as “luxury”, with the word losing its real meaning and being the much abused word in real estate marketing.  How would you define luxury? 

I searched for definitions of the word “luxury” online  and found these – a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort / sumptuous environment.  A material object, service, etc., conducive to sumptuous living, elegance, or refinement of living rather than a necessity. Indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasures in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of well-being. A foolish or worthless form of self-indulgence.

I would define a luxury home as a large mansion in the French Province or in Palm Beach, Flordia – you can find some good examples of these on the Christies Real Estate site. 

In my perception, the word luxury is used more by the media than anyone else. Home buyers in India are looking for homes that are well designed, comfortable, spacious, hassle free and of course in a good location – I don’t think a home owner goes about looking for a “luxury” home – simply because these don’t exist currently in India – no one is building luxury homes yet in the country. 

When you started out, what was the positioning of TE homes and how has it evolved over the years?

We have never had any goal or desire to build “luxury” homes – that is not the way we have looked at it. It’s not about exclusivity – we do NOT want to build a few homes for a large amount of monies – we want to build a large number of very high quality homes. Our endeavor all along has been to build the best homes in the world in terms of design, detailing and quality – our goal is to provide our customers with an unsurpassed experience in living in our homes – homes for the regular market – not the luxury market – perhaps we will build some of those as well – sometime in the future. 

The positioning was always about warm, well designed and beautifully crafted homes, embracing nature and this has evolved tremendously over the years – in terms of quality of work, better processes and infrastructure, the development of a sophisticated tool that allows our customers to personalize their homes to a high degree of detail and of course the design of these homes. For example, when we started out, we built furniture with the help of carpenters at our construction site – trying our best to keep out dust during the polishing process – today, our furniture is made in a workshop through a team of furniture designers and engineers and the finishing is done in dust-free paint booths – overall delivering much better quality of furniture than in the past. 

In the higher end of the market, what do you think is the edge that TE homes have?

Firstly, more than anything else, Design – while developers all over the world focus on the design of the building exterior, the lobbies and the clubhouse, we focus on the home interior detailing – resulting in much better spaces within the home. Secondly, a much higher quality of finish through in-house construction teams built over the last 20 years and through the careful sourcing of the best materials from across the world. Thirdly, the ability, as an organization, to deliver fully customized and furnished homes unlike the rest of the developers who offer only the building shell without furnishing and with very limited (if any) customization flexibility. We also build with materials that provide the warmth of a home such as natural stone flooring and wood frame windows instead of vitrified tile flooring and aluminum or plastic window frames used by everyone else. 

How has the buyer profile of people looking for luxury homes evolved over the years?

Like I mentioned, I don’t believe people look for luxury homes. The buyer has evolved in terms of the types of spaces they need – the percentage of people asking for a puja room, or insisting on a closed kitchen has reduced by almost half in the last 10 years. Similarly, the number of people with pets has almost doubled. People are willing to spend much more on their interiors than they did earlier. 

What are few things to keep in mind when selling top-end real estate?

Deliver the best in quality – in terms of Design, Functionality and Finish – don’t compromise on anything. Don’t select a location that is not suitable for a top-end property. There are no other things. 

How sensitive are buyers to pricing when it comes to investing/buying a luxury homes?

A home is a big investment – therefore, price sensitivity is always there, at all levels – but it is certainly lower in the case of larger and more expensive homes. 

When designing a home, what are the things that you think homeowners should keep an eye out for?

Good planning, simple clean lines, loads of natural light and air, good quality finish, flawless functioning, warm materials that age well. 

Which are the products that you believe connote luxury in the true sense of the word?

Rolls-Royce Cars, a Luxury Yacht, Mont-Blanc Pens, Armani Suits, Bang & Olufsen Speakers, Aman Resorts – essentially things that give you a sense of comfort and indulgence – but are not necessarily the best in performance.  The Rolls-Royce experience doesn’t match up to driving a Ferrari, Mont-Blanc pens are not the best to write (it’s shocking to see that they use ordinary $5 cartridges), Armani Suits would not sell for even 50% of their price tag without the Armani tag, Bang & Olufsen speakers don’t compare with even the bottom of the line high-performance audiophile speakers – they only look good. The concept works well in the hospitality business though – to a great extent.

What is your biggest luxury?

My biggest luxury would be to be able to get to spend more time with my kids.

This interview first appeared in the luxury issue of Marketing Booster Magazine


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