For many people in Gurgaon, the name Anumod Gagan Sharma would not immediately ring a bell. But you just name Kingdom of Dreams, Galaxy Hotel, 32nd Milestone and Apra Motors, and people across the National Capital Region, and even in other parts of the country, would immediately recognize these as some of the iconic destinations of the Millennium City.
Anumod Gagan Sharma is the visionary behind these projects, and the head of Apra Group of Companies—which have given Gurgaon an identity beyond being a major BPO and IT hub. His 32nd milestone, conceived and set up in the early nineties, had given Gurgaon an entertainment hotspot rivalling Delhi. Now his latest venture, the Kingdom of Dreams has once again put Gurgaon on the entertainment map of the country, and even the world.
Despite the success and clout at his command, Sharma is humble, when he says “I would like to make it very clear that whatever I have achieved is due to the Hand of God. It is the vision of the Almighty that is being executed through me.”
Sharma’s business journey started with a chemical factory, which he set up in Gurgaon to manufacture activated earth. It was during this period that he was inspired to set up 32nd Milestone, a restaurant complex that boasted of a Bowling Alley and a discotheque—at a time when Gurgaon was a sleepy suburb.
“There was no place for my workers to sit, relax and enjoy”, says Sharma, who thereafter left for Australia to know how the first world works. Down under, he observed the system and took note of the best practices - but later realised that it also had its own issues.
“I found business problems were also prevalent in Australia and this motivated me to come back to India”, he says.
After his return, he set up the Galaxy hotel, a landmark boutique hotel that raised the bar for other five-star hotels in Gurgaon. The idea behind setting up Galaxy was to give users a unique experience, says Sharma, adding that most of his projects are far ahead of their time.
Refusing to be painted as a businessman or an entrepreneur, he defines himself as an artist, who has been chosen by God to create things, that have a combination of art and entrepreneurship.“Even my wife asks me how i define myself. I think of myself as an artist who loves to create things”, says Sharma, adding that while artists paint and dance, he sets up new projects. This is the reason, he says , the costs of his projects go haywire.
It is the process of creating something that is more important to him, than the creation itself. All his projects, be it in entertainment or automobiles, aim to give back to the society and create jobs for the people, he says.
“I would never like to make money at the cost of society”, says Sharma, adding that most of his projects are labour intensive and create job opportunities. Despite having different businesses, the values and principles are uniform across the Apra Group of Companies. They are honesty, integrity and a sense of ownership.
The value of sharing and caring for the society, he says, comes from his father Vishnu Dutt Sharma, who was a businessman by profession, but a social worker at heart. “When my father died, he had stood guarantee for about 4,000 people, to ensure that they got bank loans for setting up small businesses”. His family hails from Palam village in Delhi, and moved to Gurgaon when the Delhi airport was set up, and land was acquired from people.About his business, he asserts, “I am proud to say that even after 35 years of existence, and with 6,000 employees, there has been no talk of creating a union or a similar association. We take care of our employees”.
On his latest and most ambitious project, the Kingdom of Dreams, Sharma says the idea is to showcase the culture, traditions and customs of India. His Great Indian Nautanki Company, which is co-owned by APRA and Wizcraft, is planning to take this unique project across India and the world.“We are planning to sell a stake in Kingdom of Dreams, to generate funds for expansion”, he says. The plan is to set up a Kingdom of Dreams in Mumbai, as well as in four locations across China - which would be done in partnership with a Chinese major. When asked about his forays into unrelated sectors like hospitality, entertainment and auto, Sharma says he likes to experiment and innovate. “Once a project has achieved critical mass, I hand it over to professionals, and move on to create new things”, he adds.
Passionate about nature and conservation, the Apra Group, in order to save the earth from the scourge of plastic, has been investing in research for the last 15 years. And the good news is that one of his companies, ROIDEC, has managed to achieve a major breakthrough.
“After years of hard work, our research team has managed to develop chemicals that can treat ordinary paper and give it plastic like strength - but ensure that it remains bio-degradable”, says an ecstatic Sharma.
The other projects he is equally proud of are the Gurugram Gaushala, and Saksham, a school for needy children, which has emerged as one of the top philanthropic institutions in Gurgaon—a city he is passionate about.
When asked what was holding back Gurgaon from becoming a global city, pat comes the reply. He identifies lack of responsiblity and spirit of ownership among the citizens, and says “People get what they deserve”.
He exhorts the people of Gurgaon to come out and spend time, ponder over the issues, and work with others to find solutions to the problems. “Gurgaon has enough money, what we want is active participation from the stakeholders, to ensure that a common minimum agenda is developed and acted upon”.
After reaching the pinnacle of success, he wants a romantic signoff, and says that five years from now he and his wife could be found in a roadside tea stall amidst the hills in Himachal Pradesh—selling tea and talking to people about conservation of water. This could perhaps
be the most difficult project of his life. ♦
Gagan Sharma and his Projects
Kingdom of Dreams: The Kingdom of Dreams, is the latest entertainment project set up by Apra Group. The objective is to showcase Indian art, culture, food and handicrafts from all across the country. Set up in Gurgaon, the first Kingdom of Dream has been developed as a confluence of art and technology, to overwhelm the audience.
APRA Auto: Apra Auto (India) Pvt. Ltd. is one of the largest automobile dealers of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.” With six showrooms, six authorized dealer workshops and a True Value® outlet, APRA Autos has more than 50% of Maruti Suzuki Sales & Service Market Share in Gurgaon. Sharma says APRA Auto has the highest Customer Service Index in the country, and leads in volumes too.
Galaxy Hotel: A five star deluxe hotel in Gurgaon, that Sharma says redefines luxury and custom defined “Hospitality”. The decor, ambience, service and facilities are on a lavish scale, and ensure guests have an enjoyable time.
Apra Motels: Popularly known as 32nd Milestone hotel, this iconic establishment was set up in 1991. It has been one of the most popular entertainment destinations in the National Capital Region, comprising restaurants, discotheque, rooms and other entertainment.
Gcell Technologies: It is an IT firm that used to serve the inhouse demands of APRA Group of companies. The IT firm has now come into its own, and blossomed into a full fledged IT company, providing state-of-the-art solutions to customers across the globe.
InsuringIndia.com: It is India’s first multilingual online insurance portal, set up with the objective to serve users across India. The aim of the project is to serve the customers at their doorstep.
ROIDEC: ROIDEC India Chemicals (P) Ltd. has been set up by Gagan Sharma, to counter the environmental changes taking place in the world. To conserve nature and to make the world Green, the company has developed chemicals that would provide green solutions to all the problems caused by plastic.