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MUMBAI: With Donald Trump Jr, the US President’s eldest son, going around India hoping to sell luxury apartments worth a billion dollars, the American media has not taken very kindly to his trip, their concerns centering on the family using the President’s status to further property sales. Little wonder then that he uses an interaction with TOI to dispel that notion.
“The other day I was asked a question at an interview: ‘What separates India from some of the emerging worlds you’ve been to?’ I’ve been lucky to see it all and gave a heartfelt answer about the spirit of the Indian people, even with the disclaimer of understanding some of the poverty that’s there. Of course, Washington Post ran with, ‘Trump likes poor people because they smile!’ That’s not what it is. The aura I see here and fell in love with, I don’t see in other parts of the world.”
As a corollary, he adds “The Indian press is rough at times too but perhaps a little more fair than the US press which is a total disaster! Anything I say can and will be manipulated to suit their narrative,” he laughs, but maintains: “My statement stands.”
Looking natty in a white shirt and blue tie and suit with a red tika blazing on his forehead, the 40-year-old executive VP of the Trump empire soon settles down for a quick yet unhurried chat. He has just attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony atop the 78-storey Trump Tower in central Mumbai which will be ready for occupation next year.
The luxury market in Mumbai may have been stagnant for the past five years, but Donald Trump Jr says reforms in the real estate market will weed out the bad actors and the industry will bounce back. “I think it’s a natural reaction to some of the reforms that have taken place. To me, it’s great because those things were necessary. There was a negative perception about developers because they would make a promise here and deliver something very different, if they delivered anything at all. That’s a big problem because consumer confidence gets shot. It was a blight on the whole industry,” he says. Reforms over the last few years, he adds, may have created some difficulties for developers, “but it doesn’t for those who have the right intentions”.
Don Jr is not a newcomer to Indian shores, having made seven jaunts over the past decade. With India turning out to be The Trump Organization’s biggest international market with four real estate projects underway, the country’s “understanding of brand and luxury” he feels has made it a big draw.
His father is never out of the conversation for long even as his minders warn against asking him any political questi-ons. Junior admits missing their father-son moments, “I don’t get to see him nearly enough. He’s incredibly busy. Given all that he has to deal with on a daily basis, for me to just call him and say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ seems a bit trite,” says the executive VP of the Trump empire.
Taking over the reins from his father wasn’t simple but the elections eased him into the role, he claims. “The campaign frankly was a naturally good transition. While we were very active on that, it was a two-year process when we (he and his brother Eric) started handling existing assets and reorganizing the business.”
Trump Jr who will make his journey back home on his private jet this weekend, rues not having had the chance to explore the country yet. “I’m not so much for tourist attractions but getting off the beaten path is what I must do soon.”
But there’s one thing that this American can do, that many he brags, cannot. “I can handle spice,” he beams. “Especially when they go: No, no, no… you’re an American you can’t, I’m like I promise I can. Oftentimes, better than the locals.”