Remember the song Windmills of Your Mind, from The Thomas Crown Affair?

Now did you know that a large, high-profile residential development, spread out over 24 acres with a built area of about 1.7 million sq ft, was coming up by that name in Bangalore?

Located in the posh Whitefields area, Windmills of Your Mind will have 73 duplex homes, five 19-storeyed blocks with 180 duplex units in all and two more blocks of 144 single-storeyed apartments.

Like other developments in the premium segment, Windmills... (an apartment costs Rs 4 crore on average) has all the usual specifications: central AC, imported marble/granite/laminated wood finish, Bissazza glass-mosaic tiles in the master bathroom, chimney-dishwasher-hob in kitchen and so on.

There are also some that aren't so common, especially the home-automation system -- magnetic sensors on windows, door cameras and bio-metric door locks, gas-leak detectors, dimmers, sprinklers and curtain controls, channel-music, and so on.

In addition, Windmills... will be the first apartment block in the country to have a central vacuum system, claims Kamal Sagar, principal architect and director of Total Environment Building Systems, the Bangalore-based developer behind Windmills.

But what sets Windmills apart from other projects of its kind is that each room in each apartment going right up to the 19th floor, opens out into a garden and a waterbody. There's even a tub in a private bathroom garden. Wacky, huh?

But what's even wackier is that every apartment in every building TEBS has developed, going back to 1996 when Sagar and three of his college mates from IIT Kharagpur set up the company, has had a terrace garden.

"When we started out, everyone was building houses, not apartments. So we asked ourselves, why? The answer was a garden, and we started providing each apartment with a landscaped garden," says Sagar.

Thus, all TEBS structures have cantilevered terrace gardens, creeper-covered pergolas and panels, in keeping with the company's core philosophy create built environment that is in sync with natural surroundings.

Thus TE only uses exposed, wire-cut bricks, form-finished concrete, natural stone, wood, unpolished granite, Kota stone and Jaisalmer stone in its constructions.

The attention to environment doesn't end here. "At Windmills, we've tried to transfer what was there on the ground to the top of the roof," says Sagar.

The roofs of all 72 villas and apartment blocks are covered with earth and landscaped, which effectively reduces rainwater runoff leading to recharging of the water table, keeps the rooms cool, and also adds to the aesthetics.

The other unique feature of TEBS projects is the high level of customisation allowed. Generally, large developers allow you very few options in the standard fittings � at most, you can change the shade of the paint, or insist on a different make of tiles in your bathroom. But at TEBS, the architects sit down with clients to find exactly how they wanted every home done.

"In the early projects, we would have as many as six-eight sittings with clients, making up to a hundred drawings of a single apartment," says Sagar.

Now, the company has come up with a software, e-Build, collating all the experience gathered over the years, which is SAP-integrated into the backend. Using this, customers can feed in various options to do with the fittings, walls, finishes and other aesthetic options on-line.

In 2005, TEBS floated an IT company and even patented e-Build. There are plans to market e-Build, a few years down the line -- "It will have to go through a few more versions, incorporate 3D, for example, before we can do that," informs Sagar.

Clearly, TEBS is not your run-of-the-mill developer.

For example, unlike others, TEBS does not sub-contract. From construction to woodwork, painting to flooring, it uses its own skilled teams put together from different parts of the country -- carpenters from Gujarat, floor and tile-laying masons from Rajasthan, formwork and shuttering carpenters from West Bengal, steel barbenders from Bihar and steel fabricators from Maharashtra.

Not just that, it has several of these blue-collared workers on its rolls, besides employing many of them on contract.

And then, of course, there's the fact that all the projects are christened after rock numbers � Cirrus Minor, Green is the Colour, Bougainvillea, Scarlet Begonias, Orange Blossom Special, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, and so on.

To Sagar's credit, however, he's managed to make the wackiness work. It wasn't easy though.

"The first project that we did incurred a loss of Rs 27 lakh, because the clients didn't want to pay for the gardens and value-adds we provided," says Sagar.

That must have been quite daunting for the start-up, launched with Sagar and four of his IIT friends putting in Rs 25,000 each - "But we didn't want to do the regular stuff, decided to keep that as a loss."

TEBS projects are expensive -- around 30 per cent more than others in the vicinity, says Sagar. Only now, there are clients -- IT geeks who've relocated, advertising and design professionals, even bankers -- who appreciate and are willing pay a premium for the superior aesthetics.

TEBS has now forayed out of Bangalore and is doing a large, 200-acre project in Pune, for which it has got FDI from the US-based realty fund, Q Capital. It's also doing a project in Hyderabad, apartments and villas over 30 acres, and has acquired land in Mysore.

Clearly, with its reputation spreading (the company has won a number of A+D Spectrum Awards), land offers have been coming from Mumbai and Delhi as well.

"We've even had enquiries from Malaysia," says Sagar, and it's only his scruples. "I don't believe in scaling too much."

The Above Article was written by Gargi Gupta in New Delhi, and was published in Rediff News.
Powered by Business-Standard, it was published on June 16, 2007.

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