Not many can boast of being a successful businessman with a passion. The examples are rare and Nagpur’s Brij Kishore Agrawal surely makes the list. A chartered accountant by profession, Agrawal chose to build his own spectacular dream and that dream paved way for the outstanding – Suraburdi Meadows, one of Nagpur’s premier hospitality venues, located 15 kms away from the city. Popularly known as BK Agrawal or Birju Agrawal, he has carved a niche for himself and is a name to reckon with in Nagpur. In a relaxed chat with Nation Next, BK Agrawal speaks about the lush green leisure destination – Suraburdi Meadows and his love for forestry.
You hail from a small town, Narnaul, in Haryana. Tell us something about your family…
My great grandfather migrated from Narnaul 125 years back. He settled down in Kamptee at a military establishment. My grandfather then shifted to Nagpur. We still have our ancestral house in Itwari.
Being a rank holder (5th merit in Masters in Commerce from Nagpur University and a Chartered Accountant with an AIR 42), are you comfortable being recognised as the owner of Suraburdi Meadows? If not, was switching over easy and do you miss practicing CA?
There is a time gap in all these events and achievements. I pursued chartered accountancy and law at the same time. I also worked in my family business simultaneously while I was pursuing my education. I started practicing chartered accountancy in 1976. After eight to ten years of practice, I started investing in agriculture. I bought my first land somewhere around 1982-83. In business, what appreciates is land. Knowing that, I started investing in properties. Suraburdi is my costliest property so far. In 2000, I bought it for 1 lac rupees an acre, which is now a whopping 25 lac rupees an acre! I have always been very passionate about agriculture and forestry, so whichever land I would buy, I would do forestry on it. I own 400 acres of tea plantings at Chandrapur and Kalmeshwar. I had invested in another land for amusement park, but I never went ahead with the project because Fun and Food Village was being introduced soon. I also realised that amusement industry is gradually dying. So, I dropped the idea and started my nursery. In fact, I had received Krazy Castle’s contract too, but I chose to leave it for the same reasons. Also, it being a government land, I didn’t invest in it.
There’s a CA firm – Agrawal Challani and Co. – registered in your name. How do you divide time between your practice and business?
My timetable is divided into three sections: morning, post lunch and evening. I practice as a CA in the morning, post lunch I go to Suraburdi and later in the day, I go to Jayaswal Neco Industries, where I’m the one of the directors for more than 30 years now.
How do you describe the concept of Suraburdi Meadows? How was introducing a new concept like Suraburdi in Nagpur like? What do you think went in your favour?
Suraburdi primarily is a wedding destination but in the long run, we plan to develop it in a township. Suraburdi initially was just hillocks and a water body. Also, nothing was leveled there, so I took it as a challenge. Unlike the usual trend, I’m focusing on backward development to develop my township. Usually, businessmen offer a township after the location is developed but we are doing exactly the opposite. In my entire life, I have only paid once for an advertisement for Suraburdi in Nagpur’s English daily but I didn’t find it helpful. Since then, I haven’t done any advertisement for Suraburdi. I feel my constant hard work over the years went in my favour.
Suraburdi is one of the most reputed wedding and event destinations in the city. Considering that it’s a far off location as per Nagpur standards, did you ever expect the kind of overwhelming response it has been getting over the years?
We have developed Suraburdi as a resort and not as a hotel. It may not be a destination wedding location at a national level but it definitely enjoys good attention from Central India. Nagpur’s hot weather makes it difficult for people to enjoy open ground events, so we don’t have many bookings for summers. While summer is a problem, we are usually booked for two or three consecutive winters.
Prominent celebrities like Salman Khan, Dia Mirza, etc. have graced Suraburdi Meadows in the past. But one name you can boast about is Rahul Gandhi who held a Congress Party meet there. Do you feel this took Suraburdi’s standards to an all-new level?
I’m not after any big name. Rahul Gandhi had come here for the facilities, which we have been giving. He wasn’t here for Suraburdi. The venue was chosen because they wanted a bigger area for the conference, which wasn’t available anywhere else in the city.
Some prominent event venues like Eden Greenz, Lamba Celebrations, Grand Rani Kothi, etc. have cropped up across the city. Are you facing a stiff competition from them? Do you think, you being the first one to come up with this concept in the city, have an edge over the others, considering Suraburdi’s popularity and the recognition it has earned so far?
We don’t face any competition from other destinations in the city because all the venues cater to different sections of the society; be it catering or wedding. Catering is an important aspect, which even starts from 25 rupees a plate and can go up to 10,000 rupees a plate. Likewise there are society halls, basic lawns in our colonies and then there’s Suraburdi. We definitely have an edge over others. Today, the first choice of people for a wedding in Nagpur is Suraburdi, but gradually Hotel Radisson Blu is also gaining momentum.
What’s more challenging – making your startup a success or being able to continue to keep it successful?
Success comes later. Starting up a business is way more challenging because the establishment is a rigorous task. If you are futuristic and have a vision, you would definitely become successful. If you plan your goals at the speed with which the city is growing, you would never be unsuccessful. If the city is growing at its own pace, but you want to run, your venture would be a failure. Ground realities have to be kept in mind always.
You are a director on the board of Jayaswal Neco Industries Ltd. A lot has been said about Basant Lal Shaw and Manoj Jayaswal’s relationship. What do you have to say on the so-called ‘strained’ relationship between the father and the son?
Manoj wanted to go ahead of time; also he had his own speed, which didn’t match with that of his brothers and his father’s. Hence he parted ways.
It is perceived that people have parked a lot of black money in the land banks in and around Nagpur. What do you have to say about it?
It’s not just prevalent in Nagpur. It is everywhere.