This is the 25th year of existence for Total Environment, one of Bangalore’s most iconic apartment builders. Its signature exposed-brick and terrace garden apartments are as aspirational to potential home buyers as iPhones are to potential smartphone buyers. Like Apple’s products, Total Environment’s homes come at a premium too, ranging in price from Rs 1 crore ($125,000) to Rs 8 crore ($1.1 million).

Set up in 1996 by the architect couple of Kamal and Shibanee Sagar, Total Environment is a rather unique tree in the forest that is Indian real estate. Driven by an intensely (and at times, even foolishly) design-driven vision, it has expanded itself from a “single product” company that made small apartment communities in the nineties to one today that employs over 1,000 people and makes massive communities comprising as many as a thousand homes; architectural services; commercial spaces; restaurants and brewpubs; an in-house furniture and furnishings operation; and even an upcoming modular kitchen offering.

Each of these expansions came about organically and excruciatingly, as the company tried to solve problems it encountered. Each problem solved diligently ended up becoming both the seed for a new product offering, and a source for yet new problems.

The Ken interviewed Kamal Sagar, co-founder and CEO, first in late March, when India had yet to have a single day of lockdown. Over an hour and a half of a freewheeling, in-person conversation, Sagar spoke of his company’s staccato growth patterns, the importance of design and his continuing unlearning and relearning as a CEO.

Then, in mid-July we interviewed him again, this time over Zoom. The nearly hour-long conversation went deeper into the Apple-like thinking Total Environment uses to standardise, modularise, and productise its homes. He explained why his homes have version numbers, why he spent four years, and $3 million building a virtual design software platform, and how home design trends are changing in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The edited interview goes back and forth between the conversations, and between themes.

July 2020

Is Total Environment changing the design of its homes in response to the pandemic?

Yeah, obviously, the home office thing is one thing. The first thing that hit me after a few conversations was that we need two home offices, not one. Somehow, I just didn’t get it. I could be as dumb as that after so many years.

To be fair, no one really expected people to use their home offices on a consistent basis for such a long time.

Yes, yes, yes. But now it’s very clear the husband and wife both need their home offices and the kids need their study space. That’s one thing we have immediately changed. Even in our ongoing projects, we’ve uploaded customisation options for this or changed the products that are about to get released.

AUTHOR

Rohin Dharmakumar

Rohin is co-founder and CEO at The Ken. He holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta and an engineering degree in Computer Sciences from the R.V.C.E., Bangalore.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.