Karan Sethi on Trust


“Sometimes one has to resort to the take it or leave it approach – you do the best you can, and if you win the deal, great – and if you don’t – it was not worth it. Sometimes if you bend over backwards – the deal goes through, but will cause trouble in future” Karan Sethi, ace business developer.

Wise words from one so young.

Karan Sethi is a business developer in the real estate sector with 14 years of experience under his belt. He’s young – just 37 – but his thought process is that of someone far beyond his years. What makes him so good at what he does?

Business Development, or ‘BD’ as it is known, is a calling. You require resilience, persistence, a lack of ego, a willingness to negotiate, a willingness to engage, and a willingness to walk away.

The thrill of the hunt is what sustains you, and the pleasure in creating one’s ‘tribe’ makes this sublimely gratifying.

Challenges are inevitable, but facing those challenges head-on with a proper plan is the way to go. Breaking through the limits and rising above the horizon of hard work will place you on the top.

Karan believes in the “win-win-win” approach, “Even if it means going beyond one’s own scope and hand-holding my clients through the process to ensure they have a smooth experience.” This is what makes his clients love him. He takes the trouble to understand them, and so is able to deliver the best possible solution. He is building his tribe by building trust. They trust him for all the advice they need while looking for a property. And he doesn’t let them down!

He told us of a UK based client setting up in Mumbai, who relied on him for advice on areas outside his scope, because they did not know how the real estate system worked in India, and they trusted him. This was many years ago, and while he moved on from the job he was in, the client stayed. He nurtured the relationship with the client without poaching their business – and he was recently able to introduce his current boss to the same client in London!

Be the Ambassador of the firm you work for

Karan says it is totally “unethical to talk negatively about the firm. This could also cost you your credibility”. Trust is built on nurturing relationships, never letting people down, and that goes for friends, family, fellow team members and customers. The confidence of the buyer will come from the trust in the team. Good teams work well together, and everyone benefits.

Karan admits that his success is due to the on-the-job training he received from “very good leaders”, his boss in JLL, Pankaj Renjhen, MD Retail, and Vivek Dahiya, MD, North India, (DTZ) Cushman & Wakefield. 

Pankaj gave him his first small deal to crack within a few months of his starting work, and after that there was no looking back! The confidence to handle situations on his own came from these leaders who empowered him. He never returned from a meeting with them without having learnt something new.

While his gratitude is obvious, I can also imagine the eager young intern who listened actively, fiercely committing to memory the real life drama he saw played out in front of him by his gurus.

Karan is firm about the power that integrity holds – be honest, he says,

You don’t know everything so don’t pretend you do.

Always ask permission to find out and ‘get back’ – you also buy time to strategize if things are not going your way!

He’s a consummate sales hero – one who believes in humility, accountability, integrity, transparency, following process and is a true professional!!

He is on the path to organizing a very disorganized sector in India – real estate – and we wish him luck!

Karan Sethi is a National Level tennis player, a singer whose voice Doordarshan tried to recruit, and a young man who quotes his dad. An alumnus of Vasant Valley school, Delhi, he graduated in Information Systems (IT) and went on to do his MBA from Amity Business School. He has 14 years of experience working in the Corporate Real Estate and Design & Architecture industry.