Friday Magazine: I, Me, Myself

Sunil Jaiswal Property Investing Leave a Comment

Rich is Easy”

The story of how Sunil Jaiswal acquired his millions has a mundane beginning. One day he was reading his favourite paperback, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, on a train while commuting to his workplace in London from his suburban home. (Jaiswal, somewhat of a child prodigy at programming, was at the time running a highly successful IT business in the City.)

He got into the office, “sticking out as a sore thumb as usual” in his jeans and T-shirt, with a self-help book in his hand instead of the financial newspapers everyone else expected him to read as a successful businessman.

No sooner had he put the book on his desk than one of his colleagues came up and confessed he had been reading the same book.

Andy Southall and Jaiswal discussed the concepts outlined in the book, in particular the concept of passive income streams – setting yourself free from the rat race by letting your money go to work for you.

Southall had apparently just made his first million buying and selling property in London and was thrilled by his success.

Jaiswal believes their conversation was no accident. “That’s another of my unique abilities – the ability to ask the right people for advice.

“When people ask me what makes me successful, I always reply ‘it’s other people’. Andy was a big inspiration for me. He stoked my interest in acquiring buy-to-let property.”

Jaiswal embarked on his quest to find a property that would be bought entirely through a mortgage. And a mere three years later, he had a multimillion property portfolio.

As CEO of Sumansa Events and founder of Reality Expansion, 37-year-old Jaiswal’s core business now is advising people how to buy property and profit from it. He uses some rather unorthodox principles of the trade – like, for instance, how you can use other people’s money to get rich yourself! And it’s all above-board.

But before venturing into that, a little about the man himself.

Apart from being an IT entrepreneur, he has also been a rock musician. In fact, he still listens to Megadeth and Judas Priest, even R&B and Hip-Hop. Movies such as
Mr Holland’s Opus hold a special meaning for him.

I

I never work. I just have fun. My business is helping other people make money. There was a time when I wanted to buy half of England.

(When I became) … financially secure, the question was: ‘Do I really want to keep doing this?’ My goal changed to doing it (making money) for other people.

When people tell me I’m overconfident, I say ‘no’ (it’s not really that); it’s just that whatever I set my mind to, I can do.

I push people all the time to take action. For some people, taking action (is not easy). It hurts them to move out from a comfort level.

I know I am happiest when I am helping people. When people do well, and I am a catalyst in that, it gives me great pleasure and joy.

I believe in knowing whom to know. Once I met some dental students and told them to give me their last exam question paper. I told them that I could answer all the questions on the paper.

‘Impossible,’ they said and asked me whether I had studied dentistry? ‘No,’ I told them. ‘Have you read books on dentistry?’ they asked. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Then how will you be able to answer the questions’, they asked. ‘All I want,’ I said, ‘is your lecturer’s phone number.’

Me

Me and growing up:
It was a quarter past midnight when I was born in London at St Thomas Hospital. Big Ben began to chime – a note that remains in my family’s mind and made my birth a memorable moment for them.

My dad, Umashankar, left India for England many years ago. He went with nothing and slowly worked his way up. One day he injured his thumb and had to go to a hospital, where he met my mother, Rosetta Cloe, an Englishwoman who was a nurse there.

He fell in love with her and kept returning to the hospital to get his bandages changed. Eventually they got married. I have two sisters – Angela and Fiona.

My childhood was spent in Heston, near Southall, London.

At school, I loved music and art. I had quite a good childhood in the UK. One day my father decided to return to India. He was tired of London’s grey skies, the rain and the cold …

In 1982, we went to India on a visit that lasted four months. We travelled to Delhi, Lucknow and Varanasi, my father’s hometown, and also the south Indian city (of) Bangalore.

The next year, our family returned to India for good, settling down in Bangalore. I was 13 at the time and had no idea how big and life-changing the move to India would be – for me the most exciting thing was stepping on to a plane. But then that’s always been my attitude in life: look forward to things, never look back.

I remember heat in India as being unbearable when we got off the plane in Mumbai that May. I also remember kids playing cricket on the road in that heat, which was an amazing sight. As was seeing a cockroach (at a friend’’s place) for the first time.

To say it was a huge culture shock for me (even though I am half-Indian), would be an understatement. I was not told not to drink water straight out of the tap in India or not to eat food from roadside eateries.

So, the first time I did these things, I feel ill with dysentery. That was part of my learning curve. Soon I built up my immune system and now I can eat anything.

Me and getting into IT
I was enrolled in Clarence High School, Bangalore. It was very different from the school I went to in (the) UK but I coped. I didn’t enjoy school very much. I was an average student who hated history because I couldn’t pronounce the names of the kings, emperors, the places ….

I got a summer job at a family friend’s computer centre where computer programming was being taught. It really interested me because I had never seen a computer before. I decided to learn more about it. Pretty soon, I discovered I was a natural at programming, and by the end of that summer I was teaching them.

I did my secondary schooling at the prestigious Bishop Cotton Boys’ School. The classes were smaller and I was able to make some good friends. I continued learning computers, topping my class in computer studies.

While at Cotton’s, I won a prize for developing a heart simulator software for medical students. Using this, it was possible to see the heart’s rhythms and analyse them.

The next year, I was barred from competing in the event because the organisers felt it would be unfair to everyone else. I did get a special prize and mention for a more advanced version. That was how my lifelong love for computers started.

After secondary school, my father wanted me to graduate – he had very traditional views about education, and had become even more traditional after moving to India.

My problem was I didn’t know any of the local languages, so it was hard to find a college that would accept me. Finally I was accepted at Sri Nijalingappa College. Half the classes were conducted in English and the other half was in Kannada, the local language which I didn’t understand.

I wasn’t enjoying my time there and at the end of the first year, I failed one examination. I was 19 years old at the time and decided to drop out of college.

I must say I was quite a rebellious teenager. I joined a rock band and set out to prove to the world who I was.

It was during this time that I was offered a job at the same computer centre where I had first learnt programming. I was asked to program a computer called the AS400.

It was a high-end machine used by large companies in the US and there were only five such machines in India at the time. I used to earn Rs900 (approximately Dh75) a month, which was really exciting for me.

Me and going to the UK
I spent a few years in Bangalore but, as my 24th birthday approached, I began to think it was time I made some serious money. My family had good friends in the UK and Australia, and I toyed with the idea of going to one of these places.

I was advised to go to the UK, get a visa and travel to Australia. Having spent 13 years in the UK, I was keen to check that out, rather than Australia, where I had never been.

My mother wrote to one of her friends in England, asking them about job prospects. Her son advised me to stay put where I was as there were no jobs in the UK. But I had made up my mind to go. I was confident that it would be a different story for me. So, in January 1996, I left India for the UK.

Within three days of landing in the UK, I had a programmer’s job at a software company, Oasis 400. They were willing to pay for my apartment as well. I remember being asked at the interview how much money I expected.

I told them they could pay me whatever they liked for the first month but at the end of the second month, I would tell them what I wanted. They agreed and I was hired for a salary of £15,000 a year.

It seemed like a lot of money. I worked 24/7, showed them what I was capable of doing and negotiated for a raise after the month was over. They then started contracting me out to other companies.

I figured if they could do it, I could do it for myself. I set up my own business as an IT consultant and went to work for major companies in and around London. I got a business partner and slowly the company started expanding. We opened an office in India.

The highpoint of my IT career was a consulting assignment with shipping company P&O, where I was paid a cool £700 a day. I really thought I had made it: nice house, nice car and a family (I was married by then).

Me and my family
I met Dorothy (now my ex-wife) while I was with the band in Bangalore (see box). She was the cousin of a bandmate, the bass guitarist. We married in the UK in 1998. Later that year, we got married in India as well – in a church in Connoor (near Ooty in south India). we have two children, a son, Ethan (6), and a daughter, Sophia (3).

Me and my life-changing moment
We were living in Milton Keynes, some 50 miles north of London. I had a four-hour commute to and from work in London city. It was a good life that I had, before I read a book that changed my life.

I was in a bookshop in ‘99 when I came across the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I couldn’t put it down. The title got me. (I have always read self-help books and only about three novels, all of them by Stephen King.)

The book didn’t give any practical advice but outlined concepts, especially the concept of passive income. In a nutshell, it was about working all of January and continuing to get paid for the job for the rest of the year.

I thought it was a great model. I had got used to making £700 a day, was good at what I did, but was slogging all the time. I was stuck in the rat race.

I was keen to break away from this and began thinking of a secondary income stream that wouldn’t take up much of my time.

One of the lessons I learned from being an entrepreneur was that when you are good at what you do, it’s very hard to let go and let somebody else take the load. So I found myself in the business all the time, doing everything.

The idea of a secondary income stream that would not depend on me was exciting. The book talked about a property portfolio through which I could buy, rent and make passive income. In 2000, I started looking for property very seriously.

It was during this time that the incident with Andy Southall happened in my office. Andy was a big inspiration for me. He stoked my interest in acquiring property further.

Me and the hunt for property
The challenge was that I had a good salary, but I didn’t have enough savings to make a down payment. The axiom: your expenses rise to meet your income was true for me. I never have had to worry about money, and when I want to spend it, I spend it. So I had to find a real estate deal where I would not have to make a down payment.

It took me a year of failures and trial-and-error method, a year of working weekends and late evenings … We had made it our life’s mission to look for property (that suited our plans). I was talking to brokers, real estate advisers, financiers, looking for a deal where I didn’t have to put my money down.

That year, I went through plenty of property deals, which didn’t come through: it was a baptism of fire. I was looking for a way of perfecting a system where I could buy property without paying money upfront.

I was sure it was possible – after all, when Donald Trump wanted to purchase property he wasn’t putting his own money as down payment. If he didn’t have to, why should I, I asked myself.

Finally one day, when I was on the brink of giving up, my wife suggested I call a new broker whose advertisement she had seen in a local paper. So I did … and I realised that I had found the right broker, the right mortgage product, the right solicitor and the right house. But I must say, it was a very steep learning curve.

The house I bought for £250,000 was in Milton Keynes. The minute after buying the property I had an equity of £25,000, so I owed £225,000. Three months after that I was able to take out £50,000 of tax-free money from that property.

And it paid me £800 in rental income (the difference between the mortgage payment and the rent received). It was a very good investment. I did it again and again and again and again. By 2003, I had a multi-million pound portfolio – which gave me more than £700 a day! Now my next big question was what else could I do?

The goal had been to replace the income from my computer company with the income from my property deals. It took a little over three years to achieve. That gave me freedom. I was free to continue working at the IT business or to quit. I loved computers, so I kept going.

Me and becoming a coach:
I had a mentor, Robert Umpleby, who promised to double the growth of my IT business and delivered on the promise. He gave me a workbook called Find Your Uniqueness, which gives clarity to a business. I went through this document, analysing and weighing my strengths. I woke up two days after reading it and knew instinctively what I had to do next.

I wanted to teach people how to buy property. I had developed a £100,000-plus passive income stream, had a multimillion dollar property portfolio and a passion to teach others.

That was on a Tuesday. By Saturday I had 11 people attend my one-day course. Three months later, those 11 people had bought £500,000 of property.

This is it, I thought and I started getting a buzz out of it. I had helped them get out of the rat race. My company, Reality Expansion, helped many win financial freedom in the UK. In January this year, I parted ways with Reality Expansion. My ex-wife still runs the company, though.

Early this year, I returned to Bangalore where I am currently CEO of Sumansa, an event management company that will hold property shows around the world. The first one was held in Dubai last month. It was geared towards non-resident Indians who want to buy property in their home country.

Myself
This scheme of yours – of buying a house with none of your own money – seems almost too good to be true. Aren’t prudent investors always suspicious of get-rich-quick schemes?

It does seem like a scam. (But) just because you can buy property without any money, create a positive cash flow, why is it so strange? What makes you think you cannot do that? You can. It’s just about knowing the right people.

It’s not something you read about in the papers every day, but it does happen. One of my favourite sayings is: Impossible is only someone’s opinion. I got that at one of the parties we used to throw for our students and delegates.

There was this woman who, at 19, was diagnosed with leukaemia. Her doctor told her she just had two weeks to live. She fought the cancer, and when she attended the party, she was 29. It was she who said: ‘Who says you can’t do something. Impossible is only someone’s opinion.’

My life has never had a plan. I just instinctively know what to do, and when to do it. And that approach has served me very well. Incidentally, I would like to settle in Dubai for now.

Which of your students’ success touched you deeply?
In August 2003 I had a student, a pastor’s wife. She was an elderly lady who was worried about her future and how she and her husband would get by on just his pension. But she was one of those people who just ran with (my idea).

In six months, she had a million-pound portfolio. She is probably a multimillionaire by now. She thanked me in an e-mail. I replied, ‘You can take a horse to the water, even make it thirsty, but you can’t make it drink. You applied what I taught, hence the results.’

A property is an asset. You just define it with criteria and run it through our software, how simple does it have to be? Yet it’s still an emotional decision.

I would like people to make informed decisions; it’s not a bad thing to make decisions based on emotion, but I do want people to understand what they are doing.

I believe anyone can have whatever they want in life, if they want it bad enough. The flip side to that is you already have what you always wanted. The mind is a machine. It will do what you ask it to do.

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