|The Kanbay office in Cyberabad
Hyderabad, Oct. 29: As he sits on a wooden cot under a tamarind tree in front his two-room house, surrounded by his flock of buffaloes and cows, Koti Reddy’s placid life disguises the dilemma posed by a windfall.
The 62-year-old, who has Microsoft, Polaris, Kanbay, Infosys, Wipro and the Indian School of Business (ISB) as his neighbours, has been offered Rs 114 crore for his 5.3 acres in the heart of Cyberabad, the new-economy hub on the city’s north- western fringe.
“I have never seen money beyond one lakh in my life and this windfall is just unbelievable. I plan to donate one or two crores to the Balaji temple,” says the farmer from Nanakramguda, in the middle of Cyberabad.
Under “pressure” from friends and relatives who wouldn’t want the offer from real estate developers to slip away, Reddy “decided to take only Rs 2 crore as advance”, leaving the rest in the “safe custody” of his buyers.
He’s not blind in trust, but sees such a huge sum as a threat. “I really don’t know what to do with such a lot of money. I cannot keep it at home or even in the bank. It will be a threat to my life and that of my family,” says Reddy, who inherited the land.
His two brothers who sold their shares — land of the same size — for less than Rs 50 lakh three years ago are cursing their fate. “I told them not to sell since their land was a goldmine. But they did not listen,” says the father of eight.
Growing vegetables and flowers on his land didn’t leave him unhappy, but he felt “sandwiched” between his simple life and the snazzy IT firms around him.
“I decided to sell, as the IT companies were slowly affecting my family. Even my wife and daughters want to dress in modern clothes,” says the Class VII dropout.
The Andhra government gave land at cheap rates to IT firms to draw investment and create jobs. The wave of new opportunities lapped the Reddy household, too; his grand-daughter is a BPO hand and his grandson a software engineer.
“Five years ago, we didn’t even have a decent road. Now we have a four-lane surface and shining foreign cars zip along every day. There is so much activity, we hardly have any peace,” says Lakmamamma, one of his daughters.
Govind, Reddy’s son, says he would prefer to invest the fortune in land once again, but a little away from the city. “We know agriculture as the only livelihood. We can’t live without land.”
The family plans to buy around 100 acres for a farm.
The IT-fuelled realty boom around Hyderabad has touched other lives, too. Ramji brothers of Golidoddi, about 12 km from the city, sold 12 of their 30 acres at Rs 3.45 crore per acre. They have offers of Rs 18 crore per acre. The “landlords” have bought eight to 10 apartment complexes near the IT corridor, and are dabbling in the lease and rental business.
“Earlier, we had to work 12 hours a day on 15 to 20 milch cows. Now, we have 30 people working for us,” says Lakshamanji, one of the brothers, who cruise along in Scorpios, holiday in Singapore and shop in Dubai.
Skyrocketing property prices have also brought some crashing.
The Singh brothers of Nanakramguda agreed to sell their 16 acres at Rs 3 crore per acre to a developer and took an advance of Rs 2 crore. But now the government has acquired the land for a road at a tenth of the market rate.
They are now being asked to return the advance.