By Arvind Subramanian, MD & CEO, Mahindra Lifespaces
A decade of progress: It’s been an eventful decade for India’s real estate industry. Sales, project launches and investor activity in residential real estate spiked in the early part of the decade. Visionary initiatives such as Housing For All and 100 Smart cities heralded a new era for urban infrastructure in India. 2016-17, with its spate of regulatory changes such as demonetisation, RERA and GST, emerged as yet another watershed year for the sector. Some of these structural reforms and initiatives have borne fruit over the last couple of years, resulting in a gradual yet steady improvement in key performance metrics. The decade has also birthed alternative, future-focused concepts like student housing, built-to-rent and co-living formats. Technology has gained a strong foothold across the product lifecycle, from construction to customer relations, marketing and sales.
The engine of innovation that was 2020: 2020 will forever be remembered as a once-in-a-century year of a global health crisis, but also as one that accelerated the adoption of disruptive technologies. Across industries including real estate, Covid-19 has not just brought about the need for change, but also points a way forward, albeit unwittingly. Successful business experiments in product, design and service delivery that might have otherwise taken years to unfold have been put to test, resulting in better outcomes for customers. A case in point is the zero-touch launch of our latest value homes project ‘Happinest Palghar’, where, for the first time in Indian real estate, the zero-touch sales process was concluded entirely online via a customised, mobile-first technology platform, and without any face-to-face meetings or physical visits. Changing consumer demographics, attitudes and habits have now made online homebuying a reality in India. Going forward, we can expect homebuying to comprise a balanced combination of physical and digital experiences, depending on specific micro market needs and customer expectations.
The changing value of spaces: Prolonged confinement to our homes during the lockdown and the rise of remote working have resulted in the re-emergence of real estate as an asset class that is now well-appreciated beyond its traditional, financial value; and for its role in enabling the health and wellbeing of occupants. Unaltered for decades, the fundamental design of apartments and residential communities is now suddenly in the spotlight as the means to a healthy, harmonious and collaborative future for our families and loved ones. Demand for home ownership is now accompanied by customer expectations around acoustic buffering, flexibility, functionality and fungibility of spaces. Personal spaces need to be both virtually connected and physically enriching. Going forward, sanitisation zones, home office spaces and amenities for physical fitness and intergenerational social interactions will likely become par for the course in residential projects. Growing awareness and consciousness of the environmental impact of buildings will boost the development of ‘green’ rated homes, even as sales and marketing efforts will increasingly ascribe quantitative values to the tangible benefits of ‘conscious realty’, including reduced utilities expenses and maintenance costs.
2021 and beyond: With homebuyers and investors back in the markets since July this year and a good festive season so far, residential real estate may well be poised for a period of sustained resurgence, with Covid-19 restrictions as a caveat. NRIs, salaried professionals and millennials will form increasingly larger chunks of the homebuyer base and prospective customers will demand intelligently designed spaces to cater to all family members. Consolidation in favour of trusted real estate brands, already underway, might strengthen further. Many future homebuyers will gravitate towards self-sustained gated communities in urban peripheries for a better lifestyle at more affordable prices. The next decade will also mark a technological revolution in real estate; intelligent application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will help improve business efficiency and enable on-demand, customised services and experiences. Real estate will come to be synonymous with more than just a safe haven – as the exertion of human life and vitality against an invisible, microscopic enemy.