Suraj Morajkar is a first generation entrepreneur. Someone who dreamt big and realised his ambition on sheer dint of hard work and taking risks. The difference however was that very early on, his company- Sun Estates decided to foray into the luxury market when the word was yet to make sense in Goa, writes CASSANDRA D'ROZA
Life is a journey and living it to the fullest is Suraj Morajkar. He had a good eye, and that’s perhaps what made him excel first at cricket and then in business. A walk down memory lane shows the beginnings were modest.
“I used to play cricket and my dream was to be a professional cricketer,” recalls Morajkar. “Our country had just won the World Cup in 1983. I had sensed that the game would become big in India. I would go around encouraging all my football-crazy friends to play cricket, but nobody saw its potential then. Eventually my service-oriented family background and the status of cricket in Goa prevailed and I didn’t end up playing professional cricket,” he said.
“However, it’s because of cricket that I first got the chance to travel and hence the exposure. In 1991 I took my first trip out of Goa. I was travelling for a match by train to Bengaluru. I was looking out the window and the half hour journey before reaching Bengaluru I opened my eyes. The slums, poverty and garbage all around made me realize what a beautiful, clean and green Goa we have. I used to think that all of India was like Goa. I had taken for granted the place I was raised in – Saipem (Candolim), a beautiful village with a river and lush mountains. I returned with the learning that Goa is paradise!” says Morajkar. “This thought stuck with me at the back of my mind. Life was going on just fine until an unfortunate event occurred that eventually had a bearing of the direction my life would take,” he said. “I was in class XI and a State player by then. Thanks to cricket, another outstation trip just prior to the exams… and I reached back after the exam. I had to repeat class XI,” revealed Morajkar.
An entire year with nothing to do, he decided to do a course in computers which occupied the first half of the day. In the second, he took up a job at a small courier company.
Within six months he sniffed an opportunity in the communication business and set up his first pay phone. Soon, Suraj started the secured conference call system (connecting people without them having to come to the phone booth), which was an instant winner in Panjim. “The success of the business woke the entrepreneur in me,” says Morajkar.
“I decided to expand the business in the coastal belt and there too the business flourished.” It was at this time that Suraj met a friend who was trying unsuccessfully to dispose off his property. He offered to partner him to develop the property. And that in 1995 was his foray into the realty space.
“I didn’t know anything about construction and I had no money. With nothing but hope, confidence and sincerity I took the plunge,” he confessed. “The project got me to focus on it. Having already been sensitized to Goa’s beauty, I decided very early that we need to complement the natural beauty with matching architecture, innovative construction and more importantly to blend with the surroundings,” asserted Morajkar. “Our forefathers have left us so many churches and temples, for that matter even houses which, after 400-500 years, are still appealing. I thought we too should leave something behind for posterity. I had a choice though. To get greedy and go for the commercially lucrative vertical constructions or the less profitable lateral spread with space for nature – I chose the latter. It is a decision I am proud of,” says Morajkar.
By 1998, the real estate business was stabilizing. “I didn’t start off being the best, but slowly was progressing towards the sharp end of the grid. Real estate had become my core business and again I had to travel because of it,” said Morajkar.
It was on one such trip that he was asked by a friend to assist in organizing an event in Goa. It happened to be Channel V Live and the organizer was DNA Networks. As it turned out, the event was a grand success and DNA which was just starting out at the time seemed to be very impressed with the support Morajkar provided them. Says Morajkar, “They asked me whether I would join them and I said yes. And so, I entered into the business of events.”
“We went on to do international acts like Scorpions, Bryan Adams, Roger Waters, Elton John, Ricky Martin, 911, Deep Purple… the list goes on. I did it out of passion. I used to make more money in
real estate then. In 2005 I gave up events to concentrate on business. But what I got with my stint with DNA is entry into the Bollywood and celebrity circuit which in turn took my real estate business to the next level,” said Morajkar.
His high profile clientele include names like Tarun Tahiliani, Jackie Shroff, Neha Dhupia, Pooja Bhat, Ranvir Shorey among others.
“What I offered my clients is the real Goa. I knew what the rest of the country didn’t have and I recognized the value of what we had here. Goa is not just beach, but rivers, paddy fields, coconut grooves, mountains and salt pans,” said Morajkar. “To complement this I hired the best architects and employed old Goan practices. I try and use high ceilings, large openings for cross ventilation, traditional materials and good design,” says Morajkar. “Today nobody respects the builder community and that’s because of their own doing. If you drive around, you will see eyesore constructions that ruin the scenic beauty of this wonderful state. It is the duty of the builder community to build responsibly and maintain the beauty of Goa,” he opines.
Having established himself as a builder, Morajkar has entered the hospitality space with the launch of the designer luxury boutique hotel The Sol. Extending his philosophy of offering the real Goa, The Sol will provide upmarket hospitality in a typically Goan setting. “I plan to open about 10 more boutique hotels in Goa. The hotels will all be small so as not to intrude on the village setting. It would have to blend in,” says Morajkar. Having never been the type to be satisfied doing just one thing at a time, Morajkar is also planning to set up a couple of wedding venues. “But I’ll talk about that at a later date,” he says. The journey continues.
CN Traveler visits The Sol
The Sol, one of Goa’s more stylish hotels, is known to be the holiday home for many celebrity guests who visit Goa. Suraj Morajkar has collaborated with designer Tarun Tahiliani and architect Arvind D’Souza to create a masterpiece which in a matter of a year is already recognized by international magazine publication, Conde Nast Traveler.
The hotel is acknowledged as one of the ‘Hot List Hotels 2011’ in Asia and this bit of news brings much joy to Suraj as he has now fulfilled one of his many goals in re-defining hospitality in Goa. “When I was contemplating on what The Sol would be, I wanted to create a real world-class hospitality service.” Every amenity in the hotel has been well thought out and in tune with today’s needs, technologically.
The designer boutique hotel retains the essential Goan character with cool rooms, dark woods and light walls, a red slate roof, and a centre lush with green foliage. The rooms have soft four-poster beds, antique cupboards. Historic photogravures and mezzotints of Portuguese-era trading ports line the walls, and silk cutwork and silver-threaded fabric on cushions lend an air of elegance and the quiet corridors outside look on to a courtyard with a calm, shallow pool.
“The hotel makes a visitor feel like he’s staying in a truly Goan establishment. The location is also quintessentially Goan, in that it is tucked away within the village of Nerul away from the hustle-bustle of the coastal belt,” explains Suraj.
One of his favourite spots in the hotel is the Courtyard. “It’s the cozy feeling as you sit beneath the open sky, and just look at the gorgeous view of the Candolim church locked within the green landscape that really makes me feel at ease,” says Suraj, and is the opinion of many who have stayed here and indulged in their inner daydreamer.
What caught the attention of CN Traveler was the exact same feeling you get while at the hotel. It identifies The Sol as ‘inspired by an age when you could hear the strum of a guitar on a quiet night, and homes were filled with the sounds of clinking glass and conversation.’ The Sol’s cosy bar recalls familiar living rooms, and a dining room fit for a Sunday family meal.
CN Traveler also acknowledges it for its clever location. As Suraj puts it, “We’re away from the buzz, but not too far away to get there as soon as you want to.”
The Sol finds itself among other renowned hotels listed from India. This hotel started from scratch and known for its authentic old world charm is on par with Ranvas in Rajasthan, a heritage hotel that dwells within the giant Nagaur Fort complex dating back to the 4th century and has still maintained the opulence of royalty . Other hotels on the CN Traveler list include Samode Safari Lodge, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh and The Sarai at Toria, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, both well secluded within forest and wildlife. Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad is also on this list and noted for its colonial character with Victorian style furniture and chandeliers, horse carriages, a garden courtyard with trees and fountains and a view of Old Hyderabad that takes one back in time. With this handpicked list, The Sol is only fitting and has obviously created a benchmark in Goan hospitality.
For Suraj this is just the beginning of his endeavor to change the hospitality scene in Goa. And recognition such as this he feels will attract and improve quality tourism in Goa.
Sun Estates Developers from Goa belongs to that breed of developers who can truly claim to have mastered the art of harmonizing modern habitat design with natural landscapes. With no two units being the same, Sun Estates has brought haute couture to real estate in its true sense. Having understood the need for a contemporary language in Goa’s architecture, which is based strongly on the traditional idiom of courts, streets, shaded window, balconies and verandahs, they have re-interpreted it in modern compositions of colour, texture, form and aesthetics to bring delight to discerning admirers.
Sun Estates Developers has a legacy of a decade and a half, which started when promoter Suraj Morajkar developed his first project Club Bernard. Aquadeux, Aqua 3, Solitude, Saipem Hills and Sage House are the other notable developments with several more projects in the pipeline.
Sun Estates has received tremendous acclaim from our niche clientele that comprises of Industrialists, from across India, NRIs, Bollywood celebrities, fashion designers, sportsmen, investors and others, who have one thing in common – a taste for avant garde design coupled with uncompromising emphasis on quality and attention to detail.