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New to real estate, but not new to business

By Nazih Abbouchi

With the real estate rollercoaster continuing to gather pace in Papakura and Franklin, Champak Mehta and Reece Prewett are in their element. Just one year ago the pair joined forces to form Southern Corridor Realty, purchasing Ray White Real Estate offices in Papakura, Pukekohe, Tuakau, Waiuku and Patumahoe and amalgamating them to create the new company.

“The southern corridor between Papakura and Pukekohe will see a city the size of Hamilton being built in the next 20 years,” says Champak.

“Buyers from Auckland are rightsizing and moving to the southern corridor because of the value, but more importantly for the lifestyle the area offers.”

Both Champak and Reece have had impressive careers in the high flying corporate sphere, but they have much in common with the rural roots of the Franklin area.

Both men have years of experience in the dairy industry with Fonterra, New Zealand’s largest corporate but born from the land.

Not only did Fonterra provide Champak and Reece with the opportunity to develop a wide range of business and management skills in a number of varied international situations, the two met each other – and their wives – through the company.

Champak comes from a rural background, born and bred in Hawera. Early in his career he lectured in physiology and pharmacology before spending two years as an army officer, then completing an MBA degree at Otago University.

In 2003 he joined Fonterra, spending nearly nine years with them, gaining extensive experience in strategy, business development and general management in a variety of roles in New Zealand, the USA and Singapore.

Following a brief return to academia he became the inaugural CEO of Potatoes NZ, where his time was split between Wellington, Ashburton and Pukekohe. “Visiting Pukekohe in this role helped me to make great connections in the area,” he says.

It was about this time that he and Reece started to formulate the idea of going into partnership in their own business. Like Champak, Reece had had a successful corporate career with Fonterra that saw him take senior executive roles in the Middle East, Japan, New Zealand, and Chicago, USA. With a degree in chemical and materials engineering from the University of Auckland, Reece joined what was then the New Zealand Dairy Board, and it wasn’t long before he began a series of fascinating overseas postings.

“I was posted to the Middle East during the Gulf War,” he recalls.

“It was an exciting time for a young guy in the middle of a war zone. We lived with our windows taped up and nuclear submarines in the harbour.”

The next posting, to Japan, proved a complete change of scenery and culture. After six years it was back to New Zealand, then off to Chicago for another three years.

“I was dealing with the best of the best in the corporate world, responsible for a business unit with revenues over two billion dollars, and a global staff of 34 people.

I’m proud to say that what I established is still going strong.” After 29 years Reece was looking for a change of direction. Enter Champak in likeminded mode, add an encounter with the Ray White organisation and an idea was conceived, coming to fruition in Southern Corridor Realty. Reece admits he’s never sold a house in his life. “But I was excited by the business prospects offered by joining the franchise.” Like Champak, he was particularly attracted by the Ray White values of customer service, professionalism and honesty.

The family ethos of the long-established company also resonated. “Ray White’s grandson, Brian, is still the company chairman, in his eighties,” says Champak. The two are also impressed by the people of Papakura and Franklin.

“A lot of families are moving here for the quality of life, the great sense of community, excellent schools and the value for money in property. We have both joined Rotary in Papakura, and we are now proud supporters and sponsors of the Papakura Rugby Club.”

Another aspect of the Ray White style that appeals to Champak and Reece is the way the company looks after its staff.

“Keeping up with the latest technology is a top priority. Salespeople have the best equipment and training, to help them maximise the time they can spend with their clients.

“In mid-September we are opening a new Pukekohe office in the old ASB building in Hall Street. It will provide the best possible environment for staff and be a showcase for our way of conducting business.

“One of the ways we are improving services for buyers is through LoanMarket, our in-house banking brokerage which purchasers can use to maximise their buying power by getting the best possible deal from the banks.

“We also offer professional property management services. For owners of rental properties this is a wise choice, particularly with the new regulations around smoke alarms and insulation.

“Southern Corridor Realty is pan-regional but with a local touch. We have a network of local people who understand the area, and are experts in rural, lifestyle and urban property. “We understand what it means to be customer focused and what it takes to build a great company in the midst of a highly competitive, fast paced environment. Our aim is to ensure that we are the most trusted real estate advisors in the southern corridor region.”

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