SWAPNIL AGARWAL: A Dreamer, an Achiever and a Passionate Business Leader
I grew up in very workforce housing, or I would say I Class C apartment complexes, so, my goal was to provide nice, clean, safe place for people to live who could not afford it. And that’s how I started my venture” says Swapnil Agarwal. From coming to America as an immigrant in the age of 15 to becoming the CEO of Nitya Capital and Karya Property Management, Swapnil’s life itself a story of success, passion and determination.
Swapnil graduated from the University of Texas in ﬁnance and secured an investment banking job out of college in Houston. He also worked in a private equity fund which was investing in real estate assets all across Asia-Paciﬁc. In 2013, he founded Nitya Capital, a real estate investment ﬁrm. He states “I’ve always had this entrepreneurial urge to be able to start my own business.” He wanted to provide a vertically integrated platform where not only one buys the assets, but also is able to manage and operate it. He bought his ﬁrst asset in March 2014 and now, the company has close to 20,000 apartment units across the country for about two and a half billion of assets with approx. 800 employees.
Outlook on Business, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship
Swapnil considers risk-taking ability as a number one quality that somebody needs to be an entrepreneur. Most of the people in the world, they all want to be entrepreneurs and start their own business, but only less than 0.1% actually end up being an entrepreneur. The reason behind that most of them cannot take the risk. They have pay check security fear, and most of them always thinking about the worst case, that is, “if I start a business, and what if I fail?” But people rarely think about on the opposite, like “what if they start a business, and get successful”. Swapnil opines, “When you’re an entrepreneur, you got to be a risk-taker. You got to be able to hustle and have never give-up attitude and being able to maneuver and go through tough situation”.
According to Swapnil, when people start a business, the number one thing that they think about is proﬁt. But the reason to start a business can never be to make proﬁt. Making proﬁt is always the end result. He asserts “When you start a business, you need to have a bigger purpose.” In his case, the bigger purpose was to improve people’s lives, to improve people’s living conditions because most of them are tenant base, blue-collar middle class, lowermiddle-class families of America, which is 90% of the population of the country. All they need is a nice and clean place to live, where they can raise a family, and feel safe. And if the proﬁt ends up happening, that’s the end result of a successful business.
“When you’re an entrepreneur, you got to be a risk-taker. You got to be able to hustle and have never give-up attitude and being able to maneuver and go through tough situation“
On leadership, Swapnil states, leadership and winning comes at a price. One cannot be the nicest guy. He asserts “You have to be a ﬁrm leader, but then also protect your people, whether it’s your investors, your employees, or your stakeholders.” He further adds, demand hard work and good attitude; a great attitude from employees, investors, and stakeholders.
For Swapnil “if you don’t push your people, then that leader is not ﬁrm enough. As a leader to get successful, you have to demand hustle, a lot of hard work. And then at the end of the time, you have to protect your employees. You have to protect your stakeholders. In my opinion, that’s a sign of a great leader.”
Integrity and Excellence are Essential
Integrity and excellence are the two values that are the most important for Swapnil. He believes anything one does as a business leader, as an entrepreneur; ﬁrst of all, one has got to be a person of high integrity. “You’ve got to have the right intention. There might be different ways to achieve what you’re trying to achieve, but your intentions need to be pure,” says Swapnil. He further adds “Your actions may be aggressive or how you go about doing it might be more risky or somebody else might not do the way I’m going to try and get things done. But if my intentions are clean, if my intentions are to returning proﬁt or to improve people’s lives, however I go about conducting my business, it takes a second step.” After integrity, excellence is second most essential value that every business leaders should possess. Swapnil asserts “whatever you do, you’ve had to give your best shot. You cannot take mediocracy or you cannot be an average entrepreneur. You got to have the passion for excellence in anything you do in life. And if you have that, then you’ll be a very successful entrepreneur.”
Learning from Global Leaders
Swapnil admires two global business leaders, ﬁrst is Elon Musk and the second one is Alibaba CEO, Jack Ma. Jack Ma, started the business in China, which is a communist country, a socialist country and to be able to succeed in an environment which is so anti-capitalism, it’s very praiseworthy. Same thing goes for Elon Musk. Elon Musk was one of the founders of PayPal, and he sold PayPal. With that he made approx. $100 million, but then he was able to take that money and invest it back in Tesla and SpaceX because he’s so passionate about his dreams. He’s thinking about 10 steps ahead, where normal people are just thinking about the past or the next day. Here, Elon was able to go in with his passion. He was a risk-taker and he was willing to risk it all for the greater good.
Balance Between Life and Work
Being an entrepreneur is 24 hours job. When someone is doing something with passion and having a long-term vision, sometimes it does affect the personal life. “We might not be in the ofﬁce but for me, managing hundreds of investors and hundreds of employees and thousands of tenants those live in our apartments is a lot of work” says Swapnil. He further adds “every morning I wake up and I’m still excited about the next day as much as I was excited yesterday. I try to manage to spend time with my son, my wife, and my parents. I try to keep myself ﬁt by getting good exercise every morning. I love sports because I really think that sports, that playing the team sport or looking at the passion of these athletes for excellence, inspire me.” Swapnil is a big fan of basketball, baseball, football, cricket because he grew up in India. And for him, that’s a great getaway from daily busy business schedule. It’s almost like meditation for him. He says “When I’m watching sports, I forget about the business for a little bit, for a couple of hours and I am enjoying something competitive.” And that’s how he takes his mind away from work even though he is working all the time. However, it’s difﬁcult to maintain work life balance when one is passionate about something and so many people’s lives, depending on a single person; it’s hard to relax for even for a few minutes.
Visioning to get Global
Swapnil’s objective is not only to grow in his space which is real estate but also grow in other business ﬁelds and geographies within America and other parts of the world as well. The company wants to be a conglomerate not just limited to being in real estate but have different businesses and different industries and that’s where it is headed. The company is doing investments in technology ﬁrms through its venture capital fund. It has investments such as restaurants and ofﬁce buildings and retail.
Never Fear and Never Give Up
“The biggest and the best advice I can give anybody is don’t be afraid of taking risks. If you’re passionate about certain things, don’t think about that homerun idea or the next Apple or next Facebook. Find something you’re passionate about and just do it better than somebody is doing it today. And don’t be afraid to take risks,” says Swapnil on advising emerging business leaders. He further says “The worst case if you fail you can always go back and get job. So my advice is just go out, take risks, live your life so that you don’t have to look back and regret later that I wish I did it when had the opportunity to do something.”