In the bloom of youth: Tara Singh Vachani with husband Sahil at the Antara site in Dehradun
Image: Max Group
She’s all of 30, but her focus for the past six years has been on living spaces for people twice her age: Tara Singh Vachani runs Antara Senior Living, part of India’s $2.1-billion (fiscal 2016 revenues) Max Group. “For six years, Antara has been my path,” says Tara, the youngest of billionaire Max founder Analjit Singh’s three children. The commitment is shared: She and her husband, Sahil Vachani, are both in group-company management.
Early to the senior-living segment in India, Antara caters to the well-heeled, well-travelled, 55-and-older Indian. The elderly population in India is expected to hit 300 million by 2050—up from 100 million in 2012.
In scenic Dehradun in northern India, Antara has put $80 million toward 200 residential units spread over 14 acres with lush greenery and views of the famous Mussoorie hills. The unit within Max India (a listed group entity that’s in health care and health insurance) looks to develop such communities across the country.
Antara offers “lifestyle with life care”—a gamut of services from housekeeping to plumbing to a health and wellness centre. The bespoke homes have features like anti-skid tiles, handrails and grab bars; large front doors to accommodate wheelchairs; and lowered kitchen sinks and work surfaces. “Tara has led the creation of a new vertical and a whole programme and strategy around senior living,” says Singh.
In January 2016, Tara was appointed to Max India’s board—the youngest to hold that position and the only Singh offspring to have such a listed-company seat. She joined the group in 2008, but wanted to chart a path outside of the mainstream businesses.
Working within a traded company has been no cakewalk. (Antara was inaugurated in mid-April.) “The board grilled me,” Tara admits. “Tough questions, tough pushing and tough realignments.”
Tara grew up in Delhi, attending elite schools at home and abroad. After majoring in politics at the National University of Singapore, she completed a three-month programme in business strategy at the London School of Economics. Back in India, dad invited her to be “a fly on the wall” at Max. “I wasn’t 100 percent clear on what was next,” Tara says.
However, a chance conversation about senior-living communities during a visit to Hong Kong got her thinking about introducing the concept in India. It was at the intersection of her interests in hospitality, design, wellness and health care. Premium senior living, while pioneering, was also taboo in India, where “old-age homes” hinted at a breakdown of the extended family structure.
Tara travelled to research 40 such communities in the US, UK, Spain, Japan and Australia. She talked to seniors in India informally and through focus groups—asking them about everything from living arrangements to children to hobbies. Finally she chose Dehradun, where the family has ties, including a Max speciality hospital adjacent to Antara. “Month on month, year on year, I learnt how to put pieces of this puzzle together,” she says. Antara roped in the US’s Perkins Eastman, which has expertise in senior-living communities, and Spain’s Esteva & Esteva for architectural design.
Antara has sold nearly half the units. But already competition is intense, with players including Ashiana and Vedaanta.
Her father, who’s referred to as BAS—short for Bhai Analjit Singh (bhai means brother in Hindi)—worked with Tara during the conceptualisation. And even before the Max Group subsumed Antara in 2012, she started reporting to Group President Rahul Khosla. “I am too much like my father to work with him on a day-to-day basis,” says Tara. “I am a bit headstrong; I have a point of view. And I, like him, cannot sit on the sidelines.”