Reeza Sebastian Karimpanal is the Executive President of Residential Business at Embassy Group. She is a seasoned industry leader with over 20 years of experience in brand management, marketing, and sales, spanning diverse industries such as real estate, FMCG, and IT/ITES.
Through her drive, passion, and talent, Reeza has successfully broken the glass ceiling and emerged as one of the few women to hold a leadership position in the real estate industry today. She also has several accomplishments to her credit, including multiple professional awards and recognitions. She was honoured with the ‘Topmost Real Estate Professional 2022’, ‘Woman Achiever Award’ at the ‘Women Empowering Women’ by The Coveted in 2019, and ‘Women Super Achiever in Real Estate Sector’ by the Times Business Awards, 2018. Reeza is truly a woman of substance.
The Beginning of a Successful Career
In 2000, Reeza completed her MBA in Marketing and Human Resources from Christ University, Bangalore. She kick-started her professional journey by working in a software company providing marketing support for overseas operations.
At this stage, Reeza was approached by the Embassy Group to take on a customer-facing role in sales rather than solely being behind the scenes. “My advisors suggested I stick to the safer role in marketing. Hearing the word ‘safe’ triggered something inside me. I didn’t want to be safe for the sake of being safe,” shares Reeza. She followed her gut instinct and decided to take on this role head-on, shifting industries and career trajectories, overnight. Amidst the journey, she realized residential real estate was her calling in a way that was deeply meaningful.
On relocation to Dubai in 2006, Reeza joined a top FMCG company, which became a learning platform for her. Here, she learned about the nuances of various facets of marketing, from consumer behaviour to trade, media, and budget management. Later on, in 2010, Embassy Group rehired her as Head of Residential Marketing & Sales.
Putting on New Wings
“A decade ago, the Chairman of Embassy Group, Mr. Jitu Virwani, pushed me out of my comfort zone and entrusted me with the responsibility of heading the residential division. He was taking a leap of faith with me, as this was a position historically occupied by men,” states Reeza. Her new role required long hours, travel, constant meetings, and conversations with multiple internal and external stakeholders, in addition to setting up the team.
At that time, Reeza had numerous thoughts going through her mind. Will she be able to balance her work-life, will it disrupt her family’s lives and schedules, and a lot more. Therefore, before accepting the responsibility, Reeza had two very important conversations—the first with the Chairman, regarding his expectations for the role and how she could be successful by aligning herself with his vision for the brand. “The second conversation was with my husband. We sat together and spoke about our children and the housework, the changes, and the areas I needed help with,” reveals Reeza.
Leading from the Front
Embassy Group is one of India’s largest real estate conglomerates, with a broad portfolio of over 64 million sq. ft. of prime commercial, residential, retail, hospitality, services, and educational spaces across the Indian and international markets of Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Trivandrum, Serbia, and Malaysia.
As the Executive President of Residential Business, Reeza spearheads Embassy Group’s residential portfolio with end-to-end conceptualization, marketing, business development and customer relationship management. She has been with the Group for over 15 years as a key contributor to the Group’s strategies, operations, and decision-making. For a homeowner, Embassy is one of the most aspired for brands in Indian real estate today.
Implementing a Winning Game Plan
When Reeza took on the role as the Head of Residential Business, the first thing she did was recruit a gender-diverse team to bring different perspectives and strengths to the table who would give their absolute best to drive success for the company. Right from the start, she created a positive and healthy working environment, remained patient, and got acquainted with each and every individual member of her team.
“Keeping lines of communication flowing, getting down into the trenches when needed, giving credit where credit is due, breaking silos and always thinking about the big picture while remaining close to the action, standing by and trusting the team, and building their resilience to handle failures, is how I ensured we would set ourselves apart,” explains Reeza.
Lessons Learned from the Past Challenges
While starting her career, Reeza stood by the mantra, “If it’s good for the company, then everyone will support my ideas.” Unfortunately, there were times when people didn’t support her ideas or initiatives or even her position. Experiences such as these became a learning curve and helped her later in her career. At Embassy Group, she ensured to build a stronger relationship with her team, aligned them to her vision, and created an ecosystem that supported her.
As a leader, another challenge for Reeza was employees entirely relying upon her to troubleshoot problems. To combat this, she delegated work effectively and empowered her team members to make informed decisions independently. On a personal front, there were times when she found it challenging to balance work and life effectively. Regardless of the situation, she just shrugged off the difficult times, found solutions to the problems, and kept walking ahead. Today, she is a force to be reckoned with.
An Open-Door Policy at the Workplace
Being a seasoned leader, Reeza shares that the easiest way to create a culture of innovation is to ensure that each member spends time together as a team during regular meetings and being open to learning. This fosters effective collaboration and trust amongst the team members while providing an open ecosystem for ideas to thrive.
Similarly, investing in employees and their skills is the most effective way to ensure company success. In light of this, Embassy Group promotes re-skilling and upskilling amongst its employees. “My door is always open to encourage everyone to not be afraid to ask for help. I also motivate my team to voice and nurture new ideas and always question the status quo,” states Reeza.
The Secret Sauce behind the Success
Throughout her career, Reeza has been fortunate to have positive role models who continue to inspire and motivate her. Her perseverance to nurture and lead high-performing teams has served her well throughout her journey with the Embassy Group.
“Reading good quality books about business and imbibing positive ways to believe in yourself has been a key to my accomplishments,” mentions Reeza. In addition, her resolve, confidence, and authenticity have further accelerated her growth. In 2020, Reeza received her MRICS certification and, in 2021, completed the ‘Art & Science of Decision Making’ course by Harvard Extension School. This year, she has signed up for a course at Wharton. “I am committed to be a lifelong learner”, says Reeza.
Striking the Perfect Work-life Balance
Over the years, Reeza has mastered the art of work-life balance. Being an early riser, Reeza begins her day with a rigorous workout. Her weekdays are spent in the office and at project sites with her team and customers. Her mantra for handling stress and anxiety is to keep priorities straight and forgive oneself when things don’t always work out as planned.
Furthermore, Reeza finds walking and doing yoga a therapeutic way of unplugging from work. Her ideal relaxing routine involves baking, entertaining friends, listening to music, and being around her children and family. She is also an avid reader and loves exploring new places during her travel journeys. She supports Bosco Rainbow Home for Girls, Bangalore – a home for girls who have been rescued from dangerous domestic and social situations.
Leaving No One Behind in the Wake of COVID-19
Soon after the announcement of nationwide lockdowns, Embassy Group’s singular goal was to provide residents and employees with the confidence and assurance that their health and safety were its first priority.
During such unprecedented times, Reeza and the team of Embassy Group gave their best to make a seamless and interruption-free transition to an e-business-enabled environment. “For my team, we strengthened our team-building efforts to keep everyone connected. We hosted many online activities, including dance, cooking, and fitness challenges,” shares Reeza.
A Roadmap Towards a Brighter Future
Currently Reeza is working on introducing a new asset class of senior living in partnership with Columbia Pacific Communities at the integrated township of Embassy Springs, complete the handovers of their sold ready-to-move-in luxury residential inventory, and work on the solid pipeline of potential launches in their premium segment. “With the pandemic bringing to the forefront the importance of owning a home, we will continue to meet the highest of global standards, reward the trust of our customers, and take on constantly evolving demands,” concludes Reeza.
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