Rushi Mehta Unveils Neelyog’s World: Transforming Lives Through Slum Redevelopment

In the heart of Mumbai, where dreams and challenges co-exist, Neelyog stands as a testament to resilience, empathy and integrity. The Founders, Neela Mehta and Yogesh Mehta, shaped the company’s ethos around the belief that “life is not just about what one receives, but what one gives.” Their son Rushi Mehta, Director, Neelyog Construction Pvt Ltd, speaks of the world of Neelyog, where slum redevelopment is not just a mission, but a way of life.

By Andrea CostaBir

The Origins of Neelyog:

The term “Neelyog” is a fusion of the names Neela and Yogesh Mehta, symbolizing their roots and values which are embedded in the company’s foundation. As a chartered accountant, my father, Yogesh Mehta, entered the real estate arena and was quick to embrace the concept of slum rehabilitation in Mumbai. Having experienced the challenges of not having a home when he first arrived in the city, he recognized the profound impact of providing housing to financially challenged families.

Pioneering Slum Rehabilitation:

In the late ‘90s, when slum rehabilitation was still finding its structure, Neelyog and other early movers played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape. The journey involved constant interactions with the Government to establish a more organised and efficient slum rehabilitation approach. In 1998, the fruition of these efforts led to the establishment of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority, a single window clearance mechanism for rehabilitation of slums, marking a significant milestone in transforming slum pockets into vibrant communities.

Neelyog’s Achievements & Several Firsts:

Our journey has been marked by numerous firsts, including the development of one of the city’s initial slum rehabilitation projects and the issuance of one of the first slum Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) certificates.

Around three decades ago one of the first schemes under the new regime was flagged off by Neelyog and after a mere year of its inception, the first free houses to more than 100 slum dwellers under the SRA scheme was given in a grand allotment event held at Shivaji Park by the then Hon. Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shri Manohar Joshi, and Shri Balasaheb Thackerey. Since that day we haven’t looked back and Over 30 years, Neelyog has provided more than 50,000 individuals with free, permanent homes, making a substantial impact on the lives of countless families.

Prioritising Social Responsibility:

While the industry witnessed a rush for land aggregation and the concept of ‘Land Bank’, Neelyog took a different path, proudly proclaiming ‘ZERO Land Bank’. We positioned ourselves as implementers of slum schemes, emphasising that our goal was to achieve slum rehabilitation. Trust became synonymous with Neelyog, as slum dwellers entrusted us with their dreams and aspirations for a better future.

Bridging Generations & Leading Change:

In 2007, I joined the family business, inheriting the values and commitment to social responsibility which has become a hallmark of Neelyog. Growing up in a family which placed huge emphasis on education, being focused on my academic growth was a given. I stood first in Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics in my final year of graduation (and 47th in the University of Mumbai). I then went on to become a Chartered Accountant where I secured the 22nd Rank (all-India) in my CA final exams. Post my CA, I went to the United Kingdom and pursued an MBA in Business Finance & Management at The University of Liverpool. Incidentally, I was declared ‘The Student of the Year’ in this programme.

With my background in finance and management combined with a youthful dynamism and flamboyance, I was able to bridge the gap between tradition and the rapidly changing business environment. My entry marked a new chapter for Neelyog, introducing innovative leadership to meet evolving challenges.

Neelyog’s Vision – Rehabilitating lives, Enhancing lifestyles.

At Neelyog, our mission goes beyond executing projects; we strive to transform entire localities and suburbs. A lot of our work has been focused in the Ghatkopar suburb of Mumbai wherein we have removed large slum pockets and transformed entire areas to bustling and throbbing neighbourhoods. We pioneered the construction of the first 4-screen multiplex in a slum rehabilitation project in Ghatkopar, which incidentally also happened to be the first Multiplex of Ghatkopar, enhancing the suburb’s movie going/entertainment experience.

We have also handed over large swathes of land to the Indian Railways by removing encroachment from it, which has enabled them in the installation of the 5th Corridor.

After having removed a lot of encroachment in Ghatkopar East, we shifted our focus to Ghatkopar West wherein we are undertaking a project of more than 1500 slum dwellers in an area known as Nityanand Nagar. The project boasts of an inherent locational advantage by it being flanked by LBS and Eastern Express on either side. It’s also in close proximity to the railway/metro station but all these advantages have come to the fore as we have successfully rehabilitated more than 1000 slum families. Our Phase 1 completed sale building known as Neelyog Veydaanta which, even though a low cost housing project, has an elevation which stands out in the suburb of Ghatkopar, is a home to a 100+ new families who now call Nityanand Nagar their home. The building houses 3-4 nursing centres which have created a small micro market for the medical fraternity. As part of Phase 2, we have launched our commercial offering known as Neelyog Regent which is an ultra modern commercial building having an overall carpet area of 1.5 lac sq.ft housing scalable offices from 400 sq.ft right up to 12,000 sq.ft. Ghatkopar is home to an affluent business community and Neelyog Regent provides a right product mix to the entry level/startup/mid level business enterprise who need a commercial building with which they can grow.

The final phase of the said project will be punctuated by a residential gated community which is codenamed ‘Lumiere’. With it, the transformation of an area will be complete. They said development of Nityanand Nagar was not possible with its plethora of challenges like height restriction, mixed ethnic communities, high density but we have demonstrated that with the right approach and mindset, everything is possible.

Neelyog’s Growth Strategy – Balancing Risk & Responsibility:

Recognising the operational risks associated with slum projects, Neelyog adopts a prudent growth strategy. We invest our own funds in the project till the project becomes marketable and only at a stage where the operational risks are mitigated do we introduce financial leverage in the project ensuring that each project reaches its logical conclusion. Our direct interaction with slum dwellers is another facet of tackling slum rehabilitation which sets us apart, providing them with a sense of surety and a direct line to resolve issues. Slum rehabilitation for us at Neelyog is not just a business; it’s a shared journey of highs and lows, making the arduous path worthwhile.

Homes For All – Empowering Schemes For A Better Future:

Neelyog thrives on executing challenging projects, and our latest endeavor, ‘World City’ in Naidu Colony, Ghatkopar East, aims to rehabilitate over 1,600 slum families and provide permanent homes to 500 MHADA transit camp occupants. The commitment to ‘housing for all’ is not just a slogan; it’s a vision we are actively turning into reality. This is one of its kind development in the city of mumbai which includes joint development of slum pockets and a Mhada Transit camp and effectively paves the way for future such developments. The project will encapsulate around 4 million square feet of construction area with more than a million square feet of carpet area of residential, commercial and retail development.

Project Perfect – Diversification With Prestigious Offerings:

While our core focus remains slum rehabilitation, Neelyog welcomes diverse challenges. ‘Aarana’, a large redevelopment near Ghatkopar West railway station, demonstrates our versatility. Spread over three quarters of an acre, the project encapsulates a 100-year-old Laxmi Narayan mandir which has been retained and refurbished to its original glory. The development is named after the Goddess herself, symbolizing prosperity.

Advocating For Change & Industry Leadership:

Neelyog has always assumed a leadership role in the realm of slum redevelopment and has been at the forefront of liaisoning with the Government for shaping housing policies for the betterment of slum rehabilitation, plus streamlining existing processes to ensure that the development of slum encroached land is made as seamless as possible. With my firebrand approach to policy advocacy, I firmly believe that good policy is inclusive and for the benefit of the larger community. In my role as Jt Secretary of both CREDAI MCHI and The Slum Redveloper’s Association, I strive to be the voice of the industry, advocating for inclusive policies that benefit the larger community. Good policy, to me, is one that considers the well-being of all stakeholders, fostering a vision of housing for all. As Neelyog continues its transformative journey, the legacy of resilience, empathy, and integrity lives on. Through slum rehabilitation, diverse projects, and a commitment to social responsibility, we are not just building homes; we are building dreams. Neelyog stands as a beacon of hope, proving that with the right approach and mindset, every challenge is an opportunity to create a better future for all.

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