I decided to be frank and upfront and told him all about the existing land laws and how the odds were stacked up against private developers.
I informed him that DLF had started acquiring land but there was little it could do unless regulations were amended to provide private developers a level playing field.
I confessed that I was desperate and had my back against the wall trying to do something that seemed like an impossible dream.
At that time, DLF had no money or business worth talking about. Banks were forbidden to give loans to purchase land. There was no such thing as housing loans. The only capital that DLF had was my optimism and determination to revive the company and make it a real-estate giant.
Rajiv sensed that.
Intrigued, he asked me for details on land legislation, statutes and town planning regulations which, I had told him, impeded urban growth and development and were out of sync with the needs and rising aspirations of modern India. As he grasped the overall picture, I could see his interest growing.
We sat there for an hour and half, in the middle of nowhere, engaged in detailed discussions about the idea of creating an integrated, world-class township in Gurgaon.
That I realized that this young politician could be an agent of change.
He had an inquisitive mind, and an ability to grasp a complex subject very quickly and get to the core of the issue. He also came across as sincere and agreed that there was a need for fresh thinking on the subject.
He expressed a desire to understand the issue in greater detail and suggested I meet him and Arun Singh at his New Delhi office on Motilal Nehru Marg where I could make a presentation, after which we could discuss what could be done.
I was elated at this chance encounter and the opportunity it offered me personally.
I was just entering my fifties and while real estate was a high-risk business for private operators, age and existing laws were no barrier to dreaming big.
I had experienced technical setbacks in my earlier business ventures but I was determined to make it as an entrepreneur.
Since DLF was a family company in my control, with an established market reputation, I was convinced that my future lay in expansion into Gurgaon.
In my dreams, night or day, I was already picturing a city with well-planned residential colonies and commercial and shopping areas. If one has to dream, dream big, I would constantly tell myself.
My father-in-law had built colonies in an existing city; I would complement his efforts by building a city!
A chance meeting with the future prime minister of India now offered me the opportunity to make that dream come true. I prepared myself carefully for the crucial meeting.
It had been a challenging and intense time in my life.
The Urban Land Ceiling Act had been introduced, Willard India had to be kept afloat despite technological hitches and losses, there was no money, financial institutions were adding to the pressure and the burden of DLF was also weighing on me.
Since I had taken an irreversible decision of reviving DLF, it became more than clear to me that the time had come to disengage myself from the manufacturing activities of Willard India and American Universal and instead concentrate on real estate.