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Where sky’s the limit

Where sky’s the limit
Towers rising into the sky amidst lush greenery, bubbling brooks, misty meadows and rolling hills to concrete jungles that were aesthetically pleasing to the eyes – were some of the colourful offerings that were on display among the veritable structures of city, suburban and rural habitation at the recently concluded 24th MCHI-CREDAI Property EXPO 2015 in Mumbai that witnessed developers from around the country making a beeline to showcase their creative exploits to buyers. Property developers rubbed shoulders with goggle-eyed customers.

The EXPO had kicked off to a lively start with Azeem Zainulbhai, CFO, Housing.com expressing the hope that this exhibition, while bringing together the key stakeholders of the real estate ecosystem, would act as a catalyst to fuel the momentum in the property space while helping people to ‘look up and live better’.

The Expo however turned out to be an eye-opener in aggressive marketing techniques including out-of-box ideas being deployed by builders in promoting their projects in India. The event drew national big banners like Nirmal Lifestyle, Ekta World, Ajmera, JP Infra, Kabra Group, Atul Projects, Kanakia Spaces, HDIL, Mayfair Housing, Acme Group, Sangam Lifespaces  etc. who pulled out all stops to impress customers at the Expo which had over 400 properties on display by over 60 builders.

Besides innovation showcased by almost every builder at the Expo, the core focus was on product quality at competitive prices 

supported by marketing techniques at a much different level. “It is getting very competitive and every builder is stressing on out-thinking competitors in their strategies to draw customers,” said Vivek A. Mohanani, Joint Managing Director of EktaWorld, which swept the Expo awards for innovative marketing techniques, customer information, responsiveness, design etc, while emerging as the most aggressive brand at the Expo. Others among the Awardees in various categories were Kabra Group, HDIL, Runwal Group, La Homes, Romell Group, Nirmal Lifestyle, G:Corp Developers, Olympeo Infrastructure, Shankheshwar Group, India Bulls Housing & Finance, HDFC Home Loans, AXIS Bank, Ahuja Constructions, Lalani Group, Atul Group and Mehta Group for excellence in innovative marketing etc.

Describing the four-day Property Show as being distinct in many respects, MCHI-CREDAI Exhibition Committee Chairman Bandish Ajmera said, “It is happening at a time when real estate industry is expecting a surge in activity in the wake of realising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of providing “Housing for All”. With enthusiastic participation from many leading developers, prominent Banks & HFCs and well-known property portals, it is creating a strong platform for buyers.”  

The Acme Group, which is eyeing development of over 10 million sq. feet with futuristic initiatives including LEEDS–certified construction, focus on redevelopment, slum rehabilitation and Greenfield projects and quality affordable housing, besides signing up with Godrej as its sustainability partner, and looking far and wide for township projects. The Group also signed an MOU with the NGO+Habitat for Humanity+as part of the Swachh Bharat Campaign initiated by Modi, where it will donate a value equivalent to build one toilet for the needy for every apartment that Acme Group sells, and also +adopt+ five municipal schools to maintain toilets meant for girl students.

Pravin Doshi, Chairman of Acme Group, said, “We have developed over 4.5 million sq. ft. through nearly 100 projects in residential, commercial, retail and industrial real estate, while providing free housing and upgrading over 1,500 slum tenements, redeveloping and upgrading approximately 700 MHADA society members and creating over 2400 rental housing units under MMRDA scheme. The company currently has over Rs 4,000 crores of project inventory through eight live projects of 4.5 million sq. ft.” 

Envisioning the future, Doshi noted, “While we are proud of our contributions on improving the real estate landscape of Mumbai, we see a clear shift in the consumer preferences in near future. Consumers of tomorrow will be fully conscious of their responsibilities towards environment and society. Bearing this in mind, we have initiated a slew of activities to be ready for future.”   

Highlighting the Acme Group’s new brand identity that blends tradition and ethos with a modern outlook, Munish Doshi, Managing Director of Acme Group said, “Our new brand identity is a graphic depiction of how we would look at our business in future. While we remain firmly rooted to our culture and ethos, our outlook to business will be contemporary and responsible.” Commenting on the Group’s market vision, he said, “We believe that tomorrow’s consumer will be far more discerning and would consider a social and environmental impact of his purchase. Towards this end, we have designed all future projects to be fully compliant on environment-friendly parameters. The company is investing in equipment to reduce maintenance costs in the long run – motion sensor lighting in common areas, LED lights, solar panels, rainwater harvesting and more.” Roshan Wadhwani, Sr Marketing Manager, ACME Housing India, said that over the past three to four years, ACME had taken on a fairly big-sized project in Mumbai which comprised as many as six 26-storied towers having over 900 residences and this had highlighted the need for change of the company’s logo. But today different types of families are calling the shots and  where earlier the man of the house was the decision-maker for the family, now the decisions are also being taken jointly by the family members due to working wives and children. Now we even have couples involved in the buying process – including the +DINK+(Dual Income No Kids). So instead of focusing only on the patriarch of the family, we are viewing a broader audience including couples, singles and extending it to the family (decentralisation of the decision-making factor has brought about this choice and so we felt the old logo needs to change into a fresh new identity.”

“We are also promoting the concept of happiness at such exhibitions where consumers can even add on their dreams and passions – in this residences – such as: an astronomy deck, gardens, swimming pools, gymnasiums, bigger kitchens  and other modern-day demands, besides benefits like: flat possession on time, transparency with builder. Some people are obsessed with global cuisines and they want special kitchens to cater to those needs. Ina unique ?, when people come here and tell us about their dream houses, we ask them to draw it on a sketch board with marker and then click a photo that they can take away with them for memories that they can create into future reality.”

Ruben Chheda, Deputy General Manager, Mayfair Housing, said the continued offshoot business success following participation in the EXPO had led to the company’s association in nearly most of the editions of this event as, despite economic slowdowns being a part of the cycle which affects everybody, its forte lay in its involvement in basically small developments. “The chances of us getting financially stuck are very rare as we have limited ourselves to between five to seven projects to be completed in a +window+ of  two to three years and everytime a project (or projects) – is complete, 
others take their place in an ongoing process. Where the Mumbai market is concerned, I have hardly seen any decline in pricing over the years. Secondly, land is very scarce in Mumbai, and thirdly consumers are very location-specific with preference about where he/she would like to live – no matter what the cost is,” he said, adding, “Hence, even in a slowdown, the housing market does not see fall in prices, but only a drop in volumes of the number of units sold per month.”

Housing for all
Bollywood Superstar Shahrukh Khan, during a press conference last year, highlighted it correctly when he urged for providing more housing and making it affordable for all in India in support of the Central Government’s call for “Housing For All By 2020”. “This is a beautiful scheme. Not many are born with a silver spoon in their mouths and I was one of those who desperately needed a house to live in during my early days,” said the actor while narrating the circumstances of his childhood and early days as a struggling actor without a place to lay his head down and rest.

Describing the gloomy scenario of his homeless days gone by, the actor was at his wittiest best at the function where he penned an agreement with DHFL to become their Brand Ambassador. Expressing no liking for possessions like cars, jewellery, he said his only love was for a owning a house and this obsession bordered on the level of “greed”  due to his bad days earlier – following which the first thing he did was buy a house in Mumbai after becoming rich through Bollywood films.

“I never get into fly-by-night operations or the Do lagao, Panch Banao business, but prefer to work hard with passion for my work and also changing the lives of the consumer”. My mother always used to say, “Don’t cut your expenditure. Increase your income.” While I don’t have a house in Delhi, I still own today the first house I bought in Mumbai.”

He urged businesses to face up to challenges by being creative and free-flowing while moving with the times and noted appreciatively how “people in the film industry give rings to their creative people.” His advice to one and all was: buy a house of your own first with your money. “The most beautiful moment in my life was when I opened the door of my own house, entered and closed it to savour the joy of living in it. People at the lower strata in life are the most disjointed due to lack of housing and my endeavour as DHFL ambassador will be to enable people to buy houses of their own,” he said while jovially expressing his love for the Taj Mahal as his best choice of house.

Make available funding
“Policy changes ensuring ease of business in this sector are expected to come in and these will positively motivate people to look at the construction sector in a different, positive way,” J S Augustine, Advisory Chairman, MCHI-CREDAI Exhibition Committee, and Chief Innovation Strategist, Nirmal Lifestyle told Millennium Post in Mumbai.

To a query whether developers aremoving into Tier II cities and other including rural areas with their projects, Augustine said that unless the Central government brought in incentives for such development in these areas, big brands would not think of going there. “The incentives needed in this regard include: tax free, funding, subsidies etc. There were lots of expectations from the government under Narendra Modi, specially for affordable housing, but unfortunately this was not addressed in the previous year’s or this year’s budgets. Though expectations were created that affordable housing will get a fillip, we did not see it in action by the government. So it did not motivate any developers to look at that space so seriously and hence affordable housing did not take off the way it was made out. Even now it’s not too late if maybe the government thinks of giving some push to this sector during the course of this year, lots of developers would seriously create affordable housing.”

Highlighting the problems facing the construction industry, he said the biggest issue is about approval time as land investments are so huge that delay in approval means added costs to consumer – due to borrowing costs – and for which Government should have speedy approval systems in place. Another issue was that Government give industry status to housing and make available funding at a cheaper rate which will enable projects to be available at better prices to consumers.

To a question about the real estate industry expecting a surge in activity following Modi’s dream of “housing for all,” Augustine said the industry was awaiting expected policy changes at both Centre and State levels, which will help real estate business in bigger, easier way than before, leading to better activities.
Dominick Rodrigues

Dominick Rodrigues

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