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  • Anilesh Ahuja

How Anilesh Ahuja Went from Investment Banking on Wall Street to Developing Real Estate in India

Updated: Oct 12, 2023



Growing up in the bustling streets of Mumbai, India, Anilesh Ahuja experienced the commotion of the crowds. Then, at age 14, his father moved him to a sparsely populated New Hampshire town in the U.S. There, he attended an all-boys school and felt alienated by culture shock.

Ahuja says, “Being a brown kid in Mumbai and a brown kid in New Hampshire” were completely different experiences. In New Hampshire, he was a person of color in a predominantly white student body; he calls this “a significant social hurdle.” He was also much shorter than the American students.

To add more confusion to the mix, Ahuja’s father pushed him to a higher grade in the all-boys school due to his high test scores. So instead of entering 9th grade in the middle of the school year, he entered 10th grade. It was a daunting situation.

“I was already height impaired, and then I was put in a grade with older kids,” he says today, reflecting on these formative years. “I stood at their waistlines! It was massively physically and socially challenging.”

Today, he says moving from a city of millions to quiet New Hampshire fueled his successful investment banking and real estate development career. It created a deep well of perseverance in his soul.

Anilesh Ahuja’s Background in America Gave him the Tenacity and Financial Wizardry to Develop Solitaire Valley

While the private boys’ school in New Hampshire served Anilesh Ahuja a bittersweet first taste of America, it infused his life with the ability to overcome obstacles. And it kickstarted a happier time when he attended the University of Pennsylvania. Ahuja says pursuing higher education at one of America’s top Ivy League universities was an “amazing” experience.

“It actually beat my expectations,” he says. “The University of Pennsylvania was my bouncing ground to Wall Street.”

After moving to New York City, Ahuja enjoyed 20 years of investment banking, sales, and trading in the Wall Street area of lower Manhattan. At the pinnacle of his career, he became the global head of mortgages at Deutsche Bank.

During this time, Ahuja reacquainted himself with a woman he had known since childhood in Mumbai. They were both doing summer training at Citibank in Mumbai while studying at their respective universities.

“I saw her come down to my floor, and I was like, ‘Wow!’” he says. “That was the beginning of the end. I was determined to marry this girl.” They married and had three children.

“ I married my best friend,” he says.

Ahuja’s recent return to India led him to join the board of directors at Solitaire Valley, a real estate development company. He is enthusiastically developing projects with his determined, dogged style.

Ahuja chose Uttar Pradesh, the most populated state in India, as the base for his real estate development company, Solitaire Valley. Ahuja’s first development is a new concept for India: An integrated township on 210 acres in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh. Like his company, the township development is also named Solitaire Valley.

The government of Uttar Pradesh has worked to make township developments easier to launch. It is also aiding developers of townships by attracting investments in their projects.

Ahuja’s development company Solitaire Valley also plans to build a wellness center in Prayagraj and several hotels in Ayodhya.

The Solitaire Valley Development Blends Community and Amenities

Anilesh Ahuja and a team of talented engineers and architects designed a detailed master plan as the foundation for the integrated township of Solitaire Valley. A gated community, the township’s design allows 14,000 families to live there and restricts the entry of non-residents.

Solitaire Valley will include an eclectic mix of housing, including luxury flats, four-bedroom villas, and apartments. Single-family dwellings range in size from a 100-square-yard footprint to a 250-square-yard footprint.

In line with India’s development rules, Solitaire Valley features housing for low-income groups; Ahuja says approximately 10% of the housing is earmarked for these residents. About 30% of the residences are for middle-class to lower-middle-class people, and the remaining half is for upper-middle-class to wealthy buyers. He says the inexpensive housing is almost eight times less costly than the most expensive.

“There’s a lot to add to society,” he says. He notes that his company is developing in tier-two and tier-three cities populated by less privileged and educated groups than in India’s largest metropolises.

“We’re trying to create an aspirational environment with schools, playgrounds, and conservation,” he says.

Solitaire Valley’s master plan includes mixed-use amenities for urban dwellers, including retail, recreation, grocery stores, two movie theaters, a restaurant, gardens, and parks.

The integrated township’s retail and recreational infrastructure is located in building clusters. This design ensures that the residents can access what they need near home. The residents of Solitaire Valley won’t have to travel long distances or be stuck in traffic to access basic needs.

Subhead: The Solitaire Valley Development Features Multiple Perks for Children

Anilesh Ahuja says every Indian state has its own rules about how much green space must be included in developments. Uttar Pradesh requires developers to contain 30% green space within the plan and 70% of construction.

Solitaire Valley includes more green space than is required. Ahuja says 56% of the township will be green space; construction will cover 44%.

“We don’t want to build on every square inch allowed,” Ahuja says. “We’re giving kids the space to be kids. They can play in the green spaces instead of just running around cars. I thought that this detail was very important.”

As another bonus, a preschool is currently located in the township’s current layout. Ahuja says Solitaire Valley will feature a full-fledged school once his company finds the right person to operate it.

A clean environment, proximity to nature, and state-of-the-art infrastructure imbue Solitaire Valley with an earth-friendly personality. The development is not a tier-one city like Mumbai, “where everyone lives in concrete jungles,” Ahuja says.

Solitaire Valley Includes Solar Power and Potable Water as Sustainability Elements

India has become notorious for its bevy of widespread power outages. Anilesh Ahuja says his team added solar panels to the Solitaire Valley township to enhance the electrical supply.

Ahuja says his team invested significantly in underground well-water systems and water harvesting to Solitaire Valley before placing a single brick. Potable water and solar energy are just two sustainability aspects of the township.

“These concepts are new to India,” Ahuja says. “We’re trying to create a carbon-neutral town to build that level of understanding and awareness amongst the people.”

Meanwhile, Ahuja is practicing his Hindi. “I don’t speak the language as well as the locals do because my vocabulary is limited,” he says. “I left India as a child. And I read and write at a different level. I’m learning. I’m trying to get myself back to that point where I’m not handicapped in any way.”

Ahuja reminds himself that pushing through and working hard is crucial. He has been in challenging situations and out of his “comfort zone,” he explains.

“Working in India is out of my comfort zone,” he says. “I’ve been out of the country for 40 years.”

He enthusiastically tackles the development of Solitaire Valley, envisioning a future that will be close to heaven. As the plan expands, it will reach almost 250 acres.

“In the next seven years, we will be done buying, building, and developing,” Ahuja says. “By then, Solitaire Valley should be, in my opinion, a perfect town.”

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