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KP SINGH - THE GAMECHANGER

Cover Page Property & Wealth 2011

Cover Story

KP SINGH THE GAMECHANGER

“The story of Indira’s survival and your heroic Doctor search is gripping and emotional..Your love story and beautiful family bonds only make my already high admiration for you grow.”

–Jack Welch, Corporate honcho, Author

At “Delhi’s flashiest book launch” on the 14th of Nov this year, Management Guru and General Electric Ex-CEO Jack Welch launched DLF Chairman KP Singh’s autobiography “Whatever the Odds: The Incredible Story Behind DLF”. Noting that Welch has a great influence on his life, Singh said, “The greatest thing I learnt from you (Mr. Welch) is... Whatever business you are in, aim

for the number one position. It was your vision and encouragement that made me what I am today.”

The book release was attended by Minister of New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah, Minister of State for Planning Ashwini Kumar and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Corporate leaders Maruti Suzuki Chairman R C Bhargava, Hero MotoCorp Managing Director Pawan Munjal, Punj Lloyd Chairman Atul Punj, Ansal API’s Sushil Ansal, Biocon’s Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and JSW Chairman Sajjan Jindal were also present on the occasion. A rare guest at a Delhi event was Martina Navratilova.

Former CEO GE, Management Guru & Author Jack Welch

As a special attraction, one could see troopers and horses from the President’s Bodyguard outside the Emporio Mall in Vasant Kunj, the venue of the function and inside, there was a band from the Indian cavalry. A large screen looped photographs from his family album while another showed

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DLF Chairman KP Singh presented the first copy of his autobiography ‘Whatever the Odds: The Incredible Story Behind DLF’ (published by Harper Collins) to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Tuesday, Nov 15. The book was released by the legendary Jack Welch at a glittering ceremony in the Capital last evening (14th November, 2011) which witnessed a high profile gathering including more than 175 foreign dignitaries and the creme de la creme of the Capital.

a film on his life made by Bollywood filmmaker, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. Book readings, an anchored questionanswer session and the formal launch by Welch kept the guests hooked. Also, a group of talented artistes from India’s Got Talent, The Shillong Choir also performed.

The autobiography is a first-hand account of KP Singh’s journey — from a small town in Uttar Pradesh to England, where he became a part of high society, to an army career and finally to the top position at DLF. At the book launch, the octogenarian recalled the long hours he had spent in the mid-day sun convincing hundreds of farmers with minuscule and barren holdings in Gurgaon to sell their land in the interest of their economic well-being.

After getting frustrated with the country’s urban development policy, he had almost sold his entire stake

in DLF for a paltry sum of Rs 26 lakh in 1975. ‘‘It was January 1975. I picked up my pen to sign a share transfer form. I was about to sell all my shares in DLF. On the desk before me was a cheque in my favour for Rs 26 lakh, being the approximate book value of the shares. It was the amount I would get for severing my links with DLF forever,’’ he wrote in the book. However, the company’s then Chief Financial Advisor Y S Tayal cautioned Singh to think carefully before signing the share transfer document and the rest, as they say, is history. At present, the market value of his and his family’s holding in DLF is around Rs 30,000 crore.

A Celebration to Remember Five events had been organized for Singh’s 80th birthday celebrations in November this year. The program included a dinner at KP’s residence, a Bollywood night at the golf

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Cover Story

Seated Left to right: Grand daughter Savitri and Anushka, KP Singh, Granddaughter Tara, Wife Indira, Grandsons Jai And Rahul; Standing Left To Right: Son-In-Law Timmy Sarna, Daughters Pia And Renuka, Daughter-In-Law kavita, Son Rajiv And Son In Law Rana Talwar

course, the book launch in Delhi, the finale night at Udaipur and then the brunch the next morning. It turned out to be a great week for the guests and Showtime, which handled all five events, was apparently working for months on the extravaganza. It was the finale night which drew the greatest attention with the Columbian pop star Shakira performing on stage. The evening started with Pakistani singer Adnan Sami’s performance after the host, the dapper Kabir Bedi started the proceedings by introducing KP Singh. Adnan Sami took to the stage and mesmerised the guests with his rendition of one of his popular songs, “Kabhi toh nazaar milaao”. He entertained the guests for an hour and soon after his performance, Bedi gave a 10-minute long welcome speech for the “Waka Waka” star, Shakira.

After the welcome note, there was pitch darkness and a few minutes later, the Latino singer took to the stage. Dressed in a golden top, she stole the crowd’s attention with her opening remark, “I love Udaipur and this is my second visit to the city. I think this is the most beautiful city in the world.” She greeted everyone with a ‘Namaste’ and after wishing KP Singh, she burnt the floor with her

performance. Swaying her hips and strumming the guitar in her hand, Shakira enthralled the guests at the party with her sizzling performance.

An Officer … Born on the 15th of Aug, 1931 at Bulandshahar in Uttar Pradesh, KP Singh graduated in Science from Meerut College and went to UK to pursue higher studies in Aeronautical Engineering. Motivated by a Brigadier whom he’d met while playing polo who’d said “Engineering and horses do not go together”, he applied for the Indian Army. He got selected to the Indian Army by British Officers’ Services Selection Board, UK and thereafter commissioned into a renowned cavalry regiment of the Indian Army. Soon, however, KP Singh realized that a career in the army was much more than horses and polo games. He began to seriously think of running away from the Indian Military Academy and wrote a long letter to a friend in England telling her in detail about his plans. A sealed envelope was thus dropped into the letter box at the campus post office. As luck would have it, that letter was censored and KP Singh was soon summoned to the Battalion Commander’s office.

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Columbian singer Shakira performed on stage at the Jagmandir, Udaipur (File Photo)

The ensuing dialogue between the errant trainee and his Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Baljit Singh was to lay the foundation of the toughness and steadfastness; attributes which the former would exhibit in the fiercely competitive business of Real Estate, an occupation he would take up much later in life.

… and a Businessman It was in the year 1960 that KP Singh joined American Universal Electric Company, a joint venture between Universal Electric Company of Owosso, Michigan and the Singh family. Subsequently, he promoted another company, i.e. Willard India Limited in collaboration with ESB Inc. of Philadelphia for manufacturing automatic and industrial batteries in India and became its Managing Director. In 1979, he joined Delhi Lease and Finance Universal Limited. The company, established by his father-in-law Chaudhry Raghvendra Singh in 1946, had been out of the real estate business for more than two decades since 1957 due to a Government-appointed committee’s decision that all urban development in the national capital would be carried out by a single agency, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). A myriad of complicated laws in the state of Haryana made it nearly impossible for a private developer to make headway. KP Singh took on the challenge, persuading the Government to change the laws; he talked farmers into selling their land and gave them a good price for it.

A City Envisioned Awarded the Padma Bhushan in the year 2010 by the President of India, KP Singh has also been called the world’s richest property developer. He was the President of the ASSOCHAM (Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India) and the PHD Chambers of Commerce & Industry. KP Singh is also the recipient of the ‘Delhi Ratna’ Award for his valuable contribution to Delhi. But for most Indians, the story of Kushal Pal Singh and of DLF is not about awards or riches. It is the story of a man who had a dream, the dream of creating cities near other cities, satellite cities like Gurgaon. Not only did he have the vision for this dream, he had the courage to see it through.

The bustling satellite city of the national capital Delhi, Gurgaon bears testimony to the vision of KP Singh. Someone who saw a sparkling urban centre of tall buildings and glass facades in the midst of semi-barren agricultural fields owned by farmers who had not sold their land for generations. The two people whom KP Singh has always acknowledged to have played a pivotal role in his life were the late Prime Minister of India, Shri Rajiv Gandhi and friend, philosopher and guide Jack Welch.

Destiny Comes Calling It was an extremely hot afternoon in a village in Haryana when KP Singh bumped into Rajiv Gandhi. He had gone to inspect the Company’s 18-20 acre land in Gurgaon and saw that it was a desolate land, not used for farming. There was only one road which connected Faridabad and Gurgaon and next to that road, about 50 meters away, there was a camel driven well. KP Singh parked his car near that well and stood chatting with a villager when a speeding red coloured jeep came to a stop nearby. The driver came running to say that the car had got overheated and he wanted to draw some water from the well. He told KP Singh about Rajiv Gandhi sitting in the vehicle and so he went up to greet the young leader. Rajiv Gandhi walked out and they sat down on the charpai by the well. It took two hours for that jeep to cool down and it seemed to KP Singh to be the birth of the country’s new urban

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