As founder and Chief Solutions Officer of Cinch, previously known as Exceller8 Financial, Suvidh Arora is a man of many talents. After having lived in India, London, and Hong Kong, he’s picked up an MBA, created a family, and despite doctors insisting it was impossible, taught himself to walk again. All of this on top of moving to Australia and spontaneously buying a block of land significantly under asking price— without even knowing what he was doing! Arora really goes all out to prove he gave himself the title of Chief Solutions Officer for a reason.
In today’s episode, Arora shares the triumphs and tragedies that have shaped him into the man he is today. A familial loss in his childhood led him to realise the fragility of life, where today he places family above all else. This ties in with his property journey
, as each property is purchased with a specific family member in mind. His dedication to both family and business has paid off well, with Cinch now employing 11 brokers across Victoria, NSW, Queensland and the ACT, plus offshore staff in the Philippines. He shares how he started with no clue what he was doing, but by sticking to a well-thought out plan, he and his family have secured their financial futures.Timestamps:
00:44 | The Jetsetting Educator
04:55 | The Young Entrepreneur
08:50 | Friends For Life
11:52 | Engineering, Education, and Examinations
16:24 | Well, The Thing Is…
20:56 | From Never Walking Again to Hitting Sixes
23:43 | Re-Evaluating What’s Most Important
27:43 | We Don’t Even Know What We’re Doing!
00:31 | Be the Person You Always Needed
03:16 | The Life 40 Plan
08:22 | Do Your Homework and Don’t Hold Back
12:01 | Don’t Give Me Your What— Give Me Your Why
16:04 | Strategise and Keep It in Your Mind
19:00 | Keeping it Simple
22:49 | Murphy’s Law
25:28 | A Humble King
Resources and Links:
[00:27:58] After we moved to Australia, we were actually looking for a rental accommodation for us to live in. And we just passed a block of land that was for sale. And we're like, 'Okay, I don't know how property buying works in Australia. So let's just give the agent a call and find out.'
This is Property Investory where we talk to successful property investors to find out more about their stories, mindset and strategies.
I’m Tyrone Shum and in this episode we’re speaking with Cinch founder and positivity personified, Suvidh Arora. He takes us on a journey through his childhood in India, admits his brave declaration that could have cost him everything, and details the wild ride that brought him to Australia, motivating us all with a suspenseful story with an unexpected ending.
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The Jetsetting Educator
Arora’s tale is a colourful one, beginning in the Indian city and taking detours through Hong Kong and London before settling down in Australia. He’s been in the property investment space for around 10 years, and reinvented the art of financial lending when he founded Cinch, a mortgage broking business based in Melbourne.
[00:00:44] Previously, I've been an educator. So I used to be an analytics teacher. And then I went into investment banking. So I've worked with UBS in Hong Kong, I've worked with JP Morgan in London, I've done my MBA in finance from the UK as well. And then, to settle down with family, we moved to Australia. And that's where the property journey and my own business started, so to speak.
[00:01:13] It was basically a natural progression, combining my experience in the education sector, the finance and investment banking sector, and also a bit of strategy consulting that I had done in my previous life. So all of that has been brought in together to build this space with the business where not only am I growing my own property portfolio, but I'm helping others achieve that property dream in Australia as well.
A typical day for Arora involves handling a tonne of calls— up to 220 per day! This works out well for him, as he loves connecting with others and discussing their property journeys.
[00:02:10] It's basically just talking to different people, trying to understand what they want to achieve in their property journey, and then how we can strategise and help them get there faster.
[00:02:21] That's what my day to day looks like. Just just talking to a lot of people. And also then obviously, coordinating with my team, who are absolutely excellent at what they do. And just putting things together for each and every client of ours and making sure we give them really good customer service as well.
He remembers how he felt when COVID first arrived, bringing forecasts of doom and gloom to property investors around the country. As we all came to see, everything turned upside down.
[00:03:14] When the pandemic started, obviously, there were a lot of experts talking about anywhere between 25 to 30% fall in property prices. And then about eight months later, those same experts had done a complete U turn and said, 'Now we expect property prices to go up by 20 to 30%.'
[00:03:34] That one is true. Not the plummet, but the up is true.
[00:03:37] And I think not many people are sure about how this pandemic is going to pan out. Everyone's been playing it as things come and just trying to manoeuvre around it and find the best possible way they can and guessing, so to speak. In most cases, they're not. I think the same has been true for the property market during this period as well. It's been anybody's guess. Especially as I pointed out, there were a lot of experts who pointed at a downward spiral, and then it actually went up and then they changed tack.
[00:04:16] And over the last six months now we've seen a bit of stability coming back into the market on the back of some rate increases and different moves that are being taken by the banks. So, yeah, it's been a roller coaster, so to speak. But yeah, it's been keeping us on our toes, keeping us busy. And as you said, January, which typically is a quiet month, has been quite busy as well.
The Young Entrepreneur
Stepping back further, Arora reflects on his childhood, where he got used to travelling at a young age.
[00:04:55] I grew up in the north of India, in the state of Punjab, but travelled around a lot because of the job my dad was in, so we had to travel a bit. But he passed away at a very young age for me. So I was only 11 when he passed away. And after that, we moved to Chandigarh. And that's where I did all my schooling, I went to college, basically I grew up in that city. And that's where my first job and my first business also was.
[00:05:26] I started my first business as a 17 year old, straight out of school. So I did that for a few years, while attending uni, as well as doing some work as an educator, side by side. And then my journey took me to Hong Kong from there to join UBS Investment Bank. So, yeah, life's been interesting.
His entrepreneurial flame was ignited by his maternal uncle, another young businessman, who took Arora under his wing.
[00:06:08] Mum and Dad were always, as we call them, PAYG employees. So, they were not very much into entrepreneurship, I have actually taken all my motivation and inspiration from my maternal uncle, actually, who, just like me, he basically got into business at the age of 16. And he's just done really well for himself. And he's been my role model throughout my life. Everything I do, I always think of how he would do it. And I just tried to keep that in my mind and follow in his footsteps. So he's been a big inspiration.
[00:06:47] And I think I saw that spark in him. And they were always— even when I was a young child— there were always comparisons made between him and me, because age wise, we're only like, 14 years apart. And everyone always said I'm just a replica of him from a very young age.
[00:07:09] So I guess that kind of nature is what helped me mould myself into someone I am today. And I just hope that I've been able to do justice to his legacy, so to speak, and continue to build on that.
[00:07:34] He's a very, very successful industrialist in India. And he has over 1000 people employed under him. And he manages a very big manufacturing business in India. And he's doing some international expansions as well. So I'm just trying to, as I said, follow in his footsteps, and learn from him. I still learn from him, I still talk to him occasionally, about what I'm doing and what my plans are. And even though he tries not to, but anything he says, I pick on it, and I'm able to learn something out of it as well. And just take that guidance from him, even though he might not even know about it, but I'm always listening and taking cues from him and following that.
Friends For Life
Another role model in Arora’s life is his school principal from his time at St. Stephen’s School in India. Arora and his classmates still keep in touch with him and each other, proving social media can certainly have its benefits.
[00:08:50] School time was really fun. I have quite a few memories of when I was at boarding school, initially and then I moved to Chandigarh and went to St. Stephen's School in Chandigarh. One of the guiding lights that pretty much every child in that school had was our school principal, who even to date, each and every one of us look up to.
[00:09:18] His name is Mr. Harold Kawa. And even now, any time we go back to India, we make sure we go and visit him. If it's his birthday, everyone still wishes him. So he holds the utmost respect in each and everyone's hearts. He's touched so many lives. And he's brought so many of us together and we've just continued to just do what we can to do him proud as well.
[00:09:47] And then all my friends from school and seniors and juniors, they're all throughout the world, in various positions, capacities, and we are still connected. We are still connected via social media, we talk on a regular basis. And we have those friendships for life where we can still call on each other. And there have been instances when I've walked into a display home here in Australia. And there's a guy sitting there who I went to school with, and we've come across each other after 25 years, and he's a banker with ANZ So we've caught up on all the old times. School was an amazing place. Childhood was good. Plenty of fond memories.
The schools he went to followed a similar path to the Australian schooling system.
[00:10:49] You do your grade one to 10, and then grade 11 and 12, where you then start preparing for uni. And you decide what path you're going to take, whether it's going to be to become a doctor, or an engineer or a lawyer. So it's very similar.
[00:11:02] The path that we chose was for me to become an engineer. And I went to Punjab Engineering College, which is also in Chandigarh, it's one of the top 10 universities in India. I did my mechanical engineering there. And from there, as I said, I started my own business, I worked on the side part time then became a full-time educator. And from there went overseas.
On his journey to discovering what he wanted to study at university, a couple of the well-desired options were automatically ruled out.
Engineering, Education, and Examinations
[00:11:52] Funnily enough, I was never one who could read a lot. I'm one who's got really good memory. And I just learn from listening, rather than reading and writing and all of that stuff. So law was out of the question for me for that reason, because you have to do a lot of little reading and writing!
[00:12:18] It was always a choice between becoming a doctor and becoming an engineer, in my case. And the only reason I did not go to do my medical degree is I was never very good with blood. Every time we did a dissection in any science class, I would just walk away from that session and not do it, try to avoid something like that. So I always knew that's something that's not my cup of tea. Even though I had the mental capacity to become a doctor, I just didn't have it in me to just do that on a day-to-day basis.
[00:12:59] So the only choice pretty much was doing engineering. Which I think ended up being a very good choice in the end, because that allowed me to meet a lot of like-minded people, and then explore getting into the business side of things. Because I think, as I said, from a very young age, I had that in me that I could not work for someone for too long. I've always been a very natural leader. So it just fits my personality that I build something of my own. And I bring people together and make sure that we work as a team. So that was always going to happen. And doing engineering actually was a stepping stone to that. I've never actually worked in an engineering job throughout my life.
[00:13:46] Because you started the business! Actually, tell us about the business that you started. What was it?
[00:13:50] I started an event management company and ran it for three years. So we were into organising road shows and exhibitions, and all of those kinds of things for corporates throughout North India. [It] was pretty successful. But then, after three years of running it, one of the bigger event management companies basically bought us out, because we were competition, but at the same time, we didn't have the resources to compete with them. So I was happy for them to buy us out.
[00:14:21] And in the meantime, as I said, I was already working part-time, educating and helping people prepare for their MBA examinations. So I went into that full time instead, and made that a career path in the meantime.
[00:14:53] I always wanted to be on the finance side of things, because numbers just talk to me all the time. And back in the days ‘investment banking’ was the buzzword. Still is. But at the time, we're talking about pre GFC and everyone wanted to be an investment banker, and so did I. So, I actually applied for a few positions with UBS in Zurich. But for work permit reasons, I wasn't able to get that position.
[00:15:28] But they said, ‘It's much easier to get your work permit for Hong Kong. And we've got a similar position in Hong Kong, if you would be interested’. That's how the opportunity came about. And I basically just took it with both hands, got on the first flight possible. And the day I flew out from India to Hong Kong is the day Lehman Brothers crashed.
[00:15:50] I remember that very clearly. What was your feeling when you heard about that?
[00:15:54] The feeling was, 'Well, it is what it is'. But in my case, I'd always planned that investment banking again, was part of a bigger plan, because my keen interest was to do an MBA in finance and do it from one of the better universities from the UK. So for me, it was more about getting that international exposure in a big organisation in the industry that I wanted to, and UBS was a stepping stone for me. And that's how I saw it.
Well, The Thing Is…
Boldly going where no man has gone before, Arora went with the ‘honesty is always best’ policy—but did it pay off?
[00:16:24] I still remember my first day at UBS, we had a team lunch to welcome me into the team. And we went out and my boss asked me, 'So what's your plan for the future? Where do you see yourself in 1 to 3 years from now?' And I sat there, and I smiled and I said, 'Look, honestly, this time next year, I want to be doing an MBA in the UK. So it would be really great if you watch me for three months, and then write a recommendation'.
[00:16:53] That was quite bold, I have to admit! What did she think?
[00:16:56] Honestly, she liked the honesty. So she said, 'Yeah, absolutely. I'm glad you said that. Because a lot of people actually come here for that reason alone, but they don't talk about it. And the fact that you're talking about it makes me already trust you. Because you are absolutely open about what your intentions are. And you do what you're supposed to do and do it well, and you will have a glowing reference from me. And any time after your MBA, if you want to come back, if you've performed well, I'd be more than happy to take you back as well and put in a good word for you'.
[00:17:31] So that honesty always helped. And I've always tried to do that in whatever endeavour I take up. Three months down the line, she was true to her word. I'd done well; she wrote me a glowing recommendation letter, which another three months later got me an acceptance from a few universities in the UK. And exactly a year from that I was in the UK doing my MBA.
[00:18:29] It was a one-year MBA. And made some really good connections, some really good friends for life, made a relationship for life out of MBA. I met my future wife there. She also was on the MBA programme. So we met there and straight after the MBA, we got married. And then, life's been good since then.
While studying for his MBA, he was hired as a strategy consultant by the university to work for a year and a half, revamping their education programmes.
[00:19:27] Once I completed my MBA, I had obviously applied for a few different opportunities. And actually Deutsche Bank came calling. I joined them and I was supposed to join in an investment banking associate position. But day one, when I rocked up, they had a restructuring and they decided to put me in operations. So I walked out of the door the next day.
[00:19:50] And in the meantime, I had another offer from JP Morgan. So I took that up, stayed with them for about a year and a half. Then also tried dabbling at options trading. So there was an Australian firm that had a London office that was hiring at the time, their name was Deborah. So I joined them and became an options trader for about eight months.
[00:20:14] And in that time, we found out that my wife, who was working for Barclays at the time, was pregnant. And we'd always spoken about as soon as we have to start a family, we'll move to Australia. Because she was born and brought up in Australia; she's an Australian citizen. So that's where we took the call, we're resigning and starting our move to Australia. And in 2013, we moved here.
From Never Walking Again to Hitting Sixes
The lack of work-life balance was one thing when he was younger, but a shocking event shook up his mindset.
[00:20:56] That's the thing about investment banking— there's work and there's no life. And that's why it's a lifestyle you can afford when you are single, or when you're a young married couple. But I personally think once you have kids, if you do want to spend quality time with them, then something has to give.
[00:21:23] It wasn't actually a planned decision. So when we moved to Australia, the plan was still to continue with investment banking. But then life throws different things at you, and those cause you [to] change your plans. So after we moved to Australia, I actually ended up having a life-threatening injury.
[00:21:42] I still remember the day. It was New Year's Eve, and I was in the hospital, and the doctor comes up to me and says, 'I'm sorry, but you will never be able to walk again'. And at that time, their focus was on saving my kidneys and my liver. Because I had been previously misdiagnosed by another hospital, and they'd been treating me with wrong medicines.
[00:22:06] So those 15 days were really critical. And they focused on saving my organs instead of focusing on my leg. And they had just given up. And I was told to go for rehab and do certain things to just try and be able to walk a little bit. And I still remember, coming out of the hospital when we were going home, thinking to myself, 'My daughter's only six months old. And if I'm not able to walk again, I'll never be able to play with my kids'.
[00:22:40] That sort of acted as a motivation for me to work hard and prove everyone wrong. So for the next 18 months, I basically re-taught myself to walk and run. Against the doctor's advice. And I not only started walking again, but I started playing cricket again, which has always been a passion.
[00:23:03] And my wife was a pillar of strength during that time, having a six month old and managing the house because I wasn't able to work. So she was working full time, managing a young kid. And we'd also already committed to building our first home in Australia. So all of that was happening at the same time, which was quite stressful.
[00:23:23] So I took up the opportunity to do the rehab, but also make sure that I'm involved in the day to day construction of the house. So that I could take some load off my missus. And that kind of sparked my interest in property as well, because I saw the house being built on a day to day basis.
Re-Evaluating What’s Most Important
[00:23:43] Then 18 months down the line, once I was able to walk again and get back to life as normal, the time came to decide what I wanted to do next, from a work perspective. And that's when I thought I just came through such a challenging experience where I could have lost everything in life and not been able to spend any time with the kids. And being a father of girls, you barely get to spend time with them anyway, once they start going to school and they grow up.
[00:24:14] So that's when my wife was getting an opportunity to start working for McKinsey, which would involve a lot of travelling. We had a chat and I said, 'Look, you do the travelling, and you do all of that. Don't worry about the kids. What I'll do is I always wanted to be an entrepreneur anyways, so I'll start my own business. And I'll also become a stay-at-home dad and spend time with the girls'.
[00:24:36] Because they will have a natural bond with their mother anyway, but I will build that bond and have that work-life balance. 'So I'll do the school pickups, the drop offs, I'll read stories to them'.
[00:24:47] While my wife was travelling from Monday to Thursday on her day job, she would fly out on Monday, go overseas, come back on Thursday nights, and I would take care of the girls while managing a growing business. So that's how it all came about. I went from being an investment banker with no work-life balance to starting my own and having a balance that has given me that opportunity to have a very close bond with my family, and at the same time have the fulfilment of growing something from scratch.
His inspiring tale doesn’t end there. Determined to get the recognition he deserved, he didn’t let the doctors take the credit that didn’t belong to them.
[00:25:44] I went to a lot of therapy. So it was acupuncture, acupressure, chiros, osteos, physios, I did a lot of that. But then at the same time, I did a lot of natural stuff, which just involved doing things that felt right. Because I would monitor myself on a day to day basis and see if I was doing a certain thing and that was making me feel better, and making my limbs feel a bit more relaxed, I would try and continue doing that even if the doctor said no to. Because the advice from the doctors always was, 'Don't move your limbs too much because you'll do more damage.'
[00:26:20] And about 10 months later, they went from that to saying, 'You don't need another surgery anymore because the leg's healed itself.' And I still remember turning to them and saying, 'It's not healed itself. It's taken a lot of hard work.' But yeah, it has happened.
With Arora being a stay at home dad in the age of COVID, what does his jetsetting wife do during international border closures?
[00:26:56] She's still at McKinsey, she is now at a senior position. She still travels, and I still do the same, I still am the stay at home dad. I work from my office a couple of days a week. And then I work from home the remaining days when they have their activities, etc. The last couple of years, obviously, a lot of the burden has been shared around the house because my wife has been working from home. So she's taken on a lot of those duties, so that I can grow the business more. So we always work very well as a team. And I'm forever grateful for having met her. She has been the biggest support pillar in my life.
‘We Don’t Even Know What We’re Doing!’
[00:27:43] Amazing, amazing. Well, it's perfect timing, because then we can sort of lead into your property journey, because I know you said that the first property that you built was your home. Tell us a little bit about how that came about.
[00:27:58] After we moved to Australia, we were actually looking for a rental accommodation for us to live in. And we just passed a block of land that was for sale. And we're like, 'Okay, I don't know how property buying works in Australia. So let's just give the agent a call and find out'.
[00:28:14] And the agent quoted a price range of $320,000 to $350,000 for the block of land. And we're like, 'Yeah, we don't have that kind of money. We don't know whether we'll be able to get a loan'. So we just put in a cheeky offer of $280,000. And we asked him what needs to be done to put an offer in and he goes, 'You give us a deposit of $500. And you put in an offer and we'll see if it gets accepted. We'll take it to the vendor'.
[00:28:41] And I still remember walking up to an ATM, drawing $500 cash, going to the agent's office, giving the $500 cash and saying, 'Okay, we want to put an offer for $280,000'. And walking away. And a few hours later, we were driving around looking for houses and getting a call from the property agent saying, 'Well, they're saying they already have an offer of $281,000. So they are not going to accept your offer'.
[00:29:07] And so they called my wife's phone and my wife told me while I was driving and I said, 'Well, why don't you say $281,100 then?'. And straight away, the agent laughed. And he said 'Nah, nah, nah, that's not going to happen, you'll have to increase your offer substantially.' So I said, 'Well, we don't even know what we're doing. So the maximum we can think of going up to is $285,000'. He said, 'Okay, I'll go back to the vendors'. And a few minutes later called back saying your offer has been accepted.
[00:29:37] And this is a property we thought we had no chance of buying, we were just mucking around because the listed price was $320,000 to $350,000, as I said. And we rocked up in the evening to our cousin's house and she runs around and comes to us, 'So how was the property search today? Did you find anything to live in?'. And we [were] like, 'No, we didn't find any rental accommodation. But we bought a block of land'.
[00:30:03] I wonder what her reaction must have been.
[00:30:05] And yeah, the next day we walked into a NAB branch and spoke to the banker there and organised a loan for ourselves. And yeah, it started from there. And then we started looking for builders to build the house. And the rest, as they say, is history.
[00:30:32] And that's kind of become my motto for the business as well, and for all our clients. So I always encourage them to ask the question, right? I always tell them, 'If you don't ask, you don't get. So don't think the agent is saying x y z so it's not possible. Don't think the banks are saying this is what's what's possible and this isn't. If you put your mind to it, it is possible. If there is a problem, there will be a solution'.
[00:30:59] That's why my official title in my business is Chief Solutions Officer. You come to me with a problem and leave it with me and I'll find the solution for you. Because that's what you have to do. You have to work around and find a feasible solution to whatever life throws at you. And if you don't ask the question to the agent, for example, you're not going to get an honest answer.
[00:31:27] So be frank about what your circumstances are, and put your best foot forward. And if it happens, it happens. Otherwise, there's something better in store for you.
After buying his first block of land, in the cheekiest way possible, Arora’s property journey stalled. From 2013 to 2017 he and his wife didn’t build anything at all apart from their own home, and looking back, he now realises why.
[00:00:31] I think that's an opportunity lost, because I didn't have someone guiding me on what could be done. And that's where I think I see myself today. Because I didn't have anyone telling me what needs to be done, I try to be that person for a lot of other people.
[00:00:48] Because if I had known things, I would be somewhere else altogether. But in 2017, after seeing waves of property growth, and losing out every time because of the problem of we've got a deposit, but it's not enough. We bit the bullet in 2017, when a day before my daughter's birthday, I basically told my wife, 'There's this estate where there's some blocks of land coming up, and they're releasing them tomorrow, and it's our daughter's birthday tomorrow. So doesn't matter what happens. Let's go there. And let's put a deposit. And buy a block of land'. And she's like, 'Yeah, I like the idea. Let's do that'.
[00:01:29] I still remember my mum was with us here in Australia. At the time she was visiting us and just walking up to her and saying, 'Can you take care of the kids in the morning? Because tomorrow morning, we're going to buy a block of land.' And she had this surprised look on her face. 'He's saying we're going to buy a block of land like he's going to buy tomatoes from [inaudible].'
[00:01:51] Just pick one off the shelf. That's nice and easy.
[00:01:55] We went to this estate, and we reached there at seven in the morning, the office was supposed to open at 10. There were long queues, as there used to be at the time. We finally got inside; we were able to put a deposit on a block of land. And that opened up a whole new world of opportunities.
[00:02:15] Because the next day, we went to another estate and put a deposit on a second block. And then three days later, we went to a third estate, and put a deposit on another block using a credit card. So we maxed out our credit card. We didn't have much money left, we actually borrowed money to put deposits.
[00:02:34] And my wife asked me, 'What's the plan? We're putting deposits on all these blocks of land— what are we going to do?' I said, 'Look, if we keep waiting, it will never happen. Because we'll keep waiting to increase our income, to increase our deposit. And the market is always going to keep growing and growing away from us. So until and unless we take the plunge, we will not work hard enough to work towards achieving it. So let's put the deposit in, let's make sure that we're putting deposit where all those lands are titling at least six months apart. And then we've got a year and a half or two years to work on a strategy to make it happen by the time they actually come to title.'
The Life 40 Plan
[00:03:16] So that's where we started working on a plan which we call our ‘Life 40’ plan as well, where we decided that day that by the time we are 40, we want to have a portfolio. We were 25 [years old] at the time, by the way. So we want to have a portfolio, we want to have a developed business. And we want to be set and be in a position where if one of us wanted to not work completely, we could do that. We could take that call.
[00:03:45] So we did that, and a year and a half later, not only had we settled those lands with a structured approach to what we were doing, we were also able to simultaneously as soon as the lands settled, start constructing on them so that we were not wasting any time and six months later rent all of them out.
His thorough planning paid off and they registered the titles six months apart from each other, giving the family breathing space to get more money in.
[00:04:20] During that time, while waiting for that 18-month period for the lands to title, we also managed to pick up another property on the market, which was an already built house in Queensland. And we still count as our retirement home once everything is done and dusted we move to Queensland.
[00:04:39] So the first one we bought was on our daughter's birthday, as I said. So it's our dedication to [her]—that's her property for life. The second one was bought for my elder daughter. So that's hers for life. The third one was bought for my niece, so that's hers for life. So that's why we've always thought of it like that.
[00:04:59] And then two years down the line, my wife always wanted to buy another property in the suburb we live in as an investment as well. So we were able to achieve that too. And then recently, we've acquired three more properties in North Melbourne, which are not long-term investments; they are more for renovation, extension and flipping, just to get that cash flow moving all the time. So that's what's happened in the last... just under five years since I actually got serious about creating a property portfolio—which now, if I look back at it, the overall portfolio stands at around $7 million.
While his property journey has been mostly smooth sailing, one day a wave came along in the form of an insistent bank assessor.
[00:06:13] We did plan very well in advance for each and everything. But there was one where, because of a bank assessor, we almost lost one of the blocks of land. And that was the one which was actually the first one we put a deposit on.
[00:06:26] It was purely because the bank assessor could not understand how self-employed incomes and business structures work. So they insisted that I had a business car loan, which they insisted has to be paid off before they would approve the loan. And they only decided—even though the application had been in the system for about eight weeks—they only decided to bring this up one day before the land settlement.
[00:06:52] And suddenly turning around and saying, 'Well, you've got this $40,000 loan which we need you to pay off before we approve the loan'. So that was a scary moment. But because we had structured ourselves in a way where we always had some buffer lying around, we were able to use that cash temporarily to pay off that car loan just to appease the banker assessor. Get rid of that and say, 'Look, this is done now. Can you please proceed with this?' That was probably the one hiccup that we did have. But apart from that, everything's— touch wood— gone to plan.
[00:08:16] Buffers definitely are a big part of any strategy that I talk to clients about.
Do Your Homework and Don’t Hold Back
[00:08:22] On the flip side, I know you've shared all the successes that you've had during this property journey. But what was one of the biggest aha moment that you think that you had along, or even if you had multiple aha moments?
[00:08:38] If I'd known what I know now, back in 2013, I could have been on a completely different plane. Just in terms of how bank lending works, and how property portfolios can be made, and what strategies to use, whether you use interest only loans or not. All those things. I think, if I had known better, I would have done a lot better.
[00:09:52] I mentioned that small anecdote about my mother looking at me with that look. But I still remember after we came back home, she was actually a very big encouragement and motivating factor in saying, 'You are on the right path, your heart's in the right place. As long as you do your homework and plan it right, you will be successful. So go for it. If you're dreaming of something, don't hold yourself back'. And she's always encouraged me to do that.
[00:10:26] And that obviously has always helped with achieving what we can. And she has been a really big help with supporting us through these times as well. So just being there and helping us take care of the kids. And just being that constant support and guide and motivator has helped us a lot as well.
[00:10:49] That's amazing. And is your mum now living here in Australia, or has she gone back to India, back and forth?
[00:10:53] She was in India for the last couple of years. But she's recently come back to Australia about six weeks ago. And the kids are loving it. It gives my wife and me a bit more flexibility around what we can do and achieve as well. And yeah, again, she's always been such a big pillar. And she's, again, still doing the same. You go and do what you need to and I'll take care of the rest—so, best mother ever.
Don’t Give Me Your What— Give Me Your Why
As he caters each client’s strategy to their individual goals and plans, there isn’t one singular overarching strategy Arora uses.
[00:12:01] One of the first questions I always ask my clients when they get introduced to me is, 'Don't tell me about what this transaction is. I don't care about that. Because this is the easy part, this can be done. Tell me what your five year strategy is, tell me where you want to be five or 10 years down the line on the property front so that I can plan in the now for your future'.
[00:12:23] Because a lot of the times you can get too fixated on interest rates, and banks and all of that in the now and lose sight of your ultimate aim. And my job, as I see it, is to have that vision for them, and guide them on that whole journey rather than be short sighted and do what everyone else is doing.
[00:12:47] And that's where I'm able to add value to our clients. I've continued being an educator. So the reason I'm always on the phone is because if a client calls, I actually don't put the phone down 'til I've answered not only all their questions, but all the questions that I think they don't even know to ask.
[00:13:05] Oh, that's true. There are people you know, it's what you don't know is what you don't know.
[00:13:12] I've always followed the philosophy of Henry Ford. He once said, 'If I'd listened to what my clients or my customers want, we would still be riding faster horse carts'. So sometimes people don't even know what they actually want to know. So that's where, being an expert in the field, you come in and tell them what needs to be known and what are the different pros and cons of various strategies. And then that's where I see myself having the most amount of value.
[00:13:40] And, again, having been an educator helps because I not only do that on a day to day basis of phone calls, but we also have our own Facebook and WhatsApp and LinkedIn groups where we've got thousands of clients and future potential people who we just share knowledge with.
[00:13:58] There's no agenda. There's no talk of selling anything. It's purely educational. So every day, we spread some information, spread some knowledge. There are experts from different fields, there are buyers agents, conveyancers, accountants, financial planners, all in our groups, who will just share what they know. And people are very open at asking questions then. They know that they'll get genuine advice and answers on whatever their queries are. And not from someone who's just trying to serve their own purpose. That's obviously helped in building that trust with clients.
[00:14:38] And then when we do those strategy sessions, I'm just able to talk to them about what their plans are and strategise on that. Whether it's interest-only loans work for you, or principal and interest, or whether it's fixed rates versus variable rates, or what the DTI ratios for you are currently and what they are projected to be in the future. So all of those calculations come into play. What kind of property growth you want, etc., etc. And then we bring it all together. And that amalgamation is what helps decide what we do for them in the now so that we can plan for the future.
Strategise and Keep It in Your Mind
A fan of the traditional buy and hold strategy, Arora has found what works for him and sticks with it.
[00:16:04] My personal strategy with my property portfolio has been [to] buy good properties and hold them for as long as you can. And that's done and dusted. That's already in the bag; it's there. Now I've moved to phase two, which is the secondary strategy, which is now I just want to do things for cash flow. The growth part is already done. And the cash flow is going to come from your development projects, or your renovations and adding value and structural additions, and then flipping properties and all that. So that's currently what I'm doing.
[00:16:36] And again, that's what people need to try and keep in mind. You have a strategy, you have a plan in mind, and then try and execute it rather than just blindly follow what my friend who I met at a barbecue is doing, and just saying, 'Okay, he's making money like that, maybe I can as well'.
[00:16:56] If you have that scattergun approach, then you're more likely to fail than not. So always have that plan in place, and discuss it openly. And if you're not open to discuss what your plan is, no one's going to share their knowledge with you. That's why I'm very open about talking about what I'm able to achieve.
I talk about this with each and every one of my clients. I share my experiences. And I say, 'Look, I will never advise you something that I won't do for myself. So, you tell me what you want to achieve. And then if I can, I'll help you with devising that strategy. And if I can't, I'll point you to someone who can'. So that's always on the table as well.
When it comes to recommendations, he doesn’t make his own, but he does discuss options.
[00:18:09] We do so many transactions for clients on the lending side of things, so I always have visibility about what areas are growing quicker than others, what areas the valuations are stacking up, what the rents are looking like in different areas. So you always have that discussion.
[00:18:23] And then if they want someone specific in that particular field, we've got certain people who we know work with our clients very well, because, again, they're looking after the client's best interest rather than their own. So we basically just have an open conversation and bring them into the chat. And just ask the client to talk to them and pick their brains on that. And we take it from there.
Keeping it Simple
His children and his family’s future is at the front of his mind every step of the way along his property journey.
[00:19:00] I'm building my portfolio to leave generational wealth for my kids, to be honest, and have a lifestyle that I want to have. There's nothing more than that. I don't want to earn $10 million or $20 million, or anything like that. I don't have any of that in mind. I'm a very simple and straightforward person. So for me, it's all about myself and my family and my kids, and what I can do for them.
[00:19:21] And even on the work front, I always get asked what I want my legacy to be. And, again, it's very family-oriented. For me, I want to always do the right thing by people. Give them good advice, be honest with them, and just tell them things as they are. So that after I'm gone, if my daughters are walking down the street and one of my clients sees them, they actually come up to them and say, 'Your father made a difference to our life and he was good at what he did and we're proud to be associated with him’.
So, that's the legacy I want to leave for my kids, for them to be proud of what I was able to do for them and for everyone else. And that's what motivates me today.
Arora’s mentors are the people closest to him, including his maternal uncle.
[00:20:28] He and my mum are my silent mentors, right? They don't know they are, but they are. My wife is someone I always discuss each and everything with, we constantly discuss ideas, etc. And especially because obviously, she deals with a lot of corporates as well, so she has a different perspective into how we should do things.
[00:20:50] And then I also got a business mentor, Teresa, who I actually am meeting in a few minutes from now. And she's been a constant support, and she guides me a lot in what we should do and how we should look at expanding the business of bringing more good people into the business, who we should be associating with—those kinds of things. See, I try to surround myself with good people who have the right things at heart, and who will guide me in the right way.
He may not be a big reader, but that’s just another of the reasons he and his wife make an unbeatable team.
[00:21:54] My wife loves reading. So I probably would defer this question to her. I honestly, absolutely, genuinely, I do not read anything. I don't follow a lot of stuff. For me, everything is common sense. So if something makes sense, if the numbers stack up, and it looks right, it feels right, then it should be done. Otherwise, not. Because if you don't get confidence from what you see, then no amount of knowledge from books and strategies, and all of that can help you.
[00:22:25] End of the day, you've got a gut feeling, and it's there for a reason. You've got a brain and you've got common sense—it's there for a reason. So that's something that I always apply. And then I always think about what I would do in a certain scenario and what I wouldn't. And that helps me decide what strategy should be and what it shouldn't be.
[00:22:49] You've shared some really great quotes, and also some really good lessons and advice. But what do you think has been the best advice you've received from people you've met in your property journey?
[00:23:02] The best advice has been—it was actually advised that something we mentioned earlier, as well—always, always have a Plan B and always have a buffer in place. Because it's Murphy's Law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
[00:23:18] True. Happens every time.
[00:23:21] No one can plan for things that go wrong. But you can always plan for what you might do if something goes wrong. And if you're well prepared, you will get a good result in the end anyway. So you should always focus on having your plans in place, whether it's Plan A, B, or C. And then it's just about implementation.
So if things happen the way you want them to, then Plan A is good. Otherwise, you switch to Plan B, and C. And you don't take too much time doing that. You don't dwell on it too much. You have to be very decisive when it comes to you moving on.
[00:24:25] If you met yourself, say 10 years ago, what do you think you would have said to him?
[00:24:30] Take a plunge earlier. Make sure you get in much earlier. And then you associate with people who will give you the right advice. And do that as quickly as possible.
Looking to the future, he’s most excited about the projects that can add the most value.
[00:24:58] We've created an investment fund through which we're actually getting a lot of friends and family involved, who will buy into those projects. And then we're going to actually give them a return on that, so that all their money that's just sitting, waiting is actually put to good use rather than not earning anything at all.
[00:25:16] And on the work front, I'm just excited by the opportunities that exist out there and what we can continue to achieve for our clients. That's what gets me out of bed every single morning.
A Humble King
[00:25:28] Well, Suvidh, you've shared so much of your journey, and it's been an amazing story. How much of it do you think it's because of hard work, skill and intelligence? And how much of it do you think is because of luck?
[00:25:43] I don't think I'm very skillful. I don't think I'm the most intelligent person. I have worked really hard. I've had some really, really excellent support from a lot of people. But I do believe you make your own luck. You have to work smart, you have to work hard. And if you have your heart in the right place, and your intentions are clear, and you always have other people's best interest in mind, success will follow.
[00:26:09] So there's no luck about it. It's more about taking care of each and every person around me. And I actually have this model that I will only make sure that I look after my clients, and my clients will look after my business. I don't have to worry about my business at all.
Thank you to Suvidh Arora, our guest on this episode of Property Investory.