One to One with Keith Vaz
Suresh Vagjiani studied Actuarial Science at City University. After a short spell working in the pension industry he changed his career to work in the property sector. He founded Sow & Reap Properties Ltd which started trading in 2004 and has since grown to have a strong presence in the Indian community settled in the UK. He has been instrumental in setting up the property investment fund West End Property Plc which invests in central London property market.
1) Please tell me about your current position?
My position is in running Sow & Reap and associated companies, with the aim of providing investors the highest return possible, through property investment. As we are primarily focused on the Indian market this is a hard task. The bar is raised high as pretty much every Indian has an interest in property and is doing something involved with property. It is our role to show them how to make this better. We have all sorts of clients, from pharmacists /accountants who simply don’t have the time to property veterans worth several hundred million pounds.
2) What are your proudest achievements?
Some of the charity events we have been involved in have been inspiring and encouraging; it is something to remember and feel proud of that you have in some small way contributed to the welfare of another person who needed it. We all need breaks sometimes and I believe if you don’t give you don’t get. Any success we have and are due to have is not earned by us, it is gifted to us, and therefore it is important to pay it forward.
3) What inspires you?
Being able to grow as a person all the time, as I do not believe a business can expand and grow unless the person behind it is also exercising growth on all levels. I like pushing boundaries; this sometimes means I end up pushing my staff around as well!
4) What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
We faced many set backs on a personal and business level during the credit crunch as we were a finance company at the time and there was no finance to give out. At one point it was like the business went down over night. There was a period of time when we could not pay our bills. Because of the good will we had built up in good times we were given as much string as required to bring ourselves back on our feet by our creditors. We survived by changing our focus as a company and have become stronger as a consequence of this experience.
5) Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?
There have been various mentors, who have come along and I have managed to pick up different skills and ways to do things from them. I continue to learn from them and my environment, and I think it’s important to focus on maintaining your own style as every person is an individual and so it’s important to always learn but never to copy.
6) What is the best aspect about your current role?
I get to play monopoly one of my favorite games – hence most friends and family never like to play with me – every day of the week in real life, and I love it!!
7) And the worst?
It’s got to be people management – I am a rubbish manager!!!
8) What are your long term goals?
We are currently focusing on setting up property funds with our second fund launching shortly. Our first property fund closed on the 13th December 2013, which is aiming to return all the money back to the investor in August 2014 with a return of circa 30% net. We want to grow this concept bigger and bigger. We do this by focusing on trading properties, rather than holding on to them. Also we put our money where our mouth is, we invest on the same terms given to our investors.
9) If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?
I would put the power to print money back in the people’s hands where it should be as opposed to private controlling interests. This one move would sort multiple problems out.
10) If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why?
It would have to be someone called Pak Dirjo, who set up a martial arts system called Perisai Diri Silat. I would like him to train me daily in all aspects of the system until I become competent at it. It’s something I would love to focus on more. I know enough to know it’s a brilliant system which deals with all aspects of the personality.