Tag Archives: Brand rating of Indian real estate

Brand rating is candid, complicated & controversial

Posted on by Track2Realty
Diary of a real estate journalist

Angry phone calls, hate mails, calling rating process as fake & professionals ignorant, engaging third party to discredit the study and even overt & covert threatening…it seems the builders in this country are too intolerant to accept the harsh reality of their actual brand positioning. Ravi Sinha writes down some of these experiences in the diary.

Ravi Sinha, Real estate journalist, Real estate blogger, Real estate analyst, Real estate brand rating, Diary of a real estate journalist, Property journalist diary, Open letter to builders, Buyer writes to builders, Journalist writes to builders, Property journalists credibility, Credibility of real estate journalists, Media and real estate, Media and property market, Journalists in the property market“Mr. Sinha! I am not happy with your brand rating,” says the angry and hysterical (it sound more theatrical) voice of a builder over the other side of the phone. By now I am used to receiving such angry phone calls.

As a matter of fact, I have rather started enjoying the deep-rooted insecurity of the developers. It is indeed amusing to observe the builders’ easy way out to find fault with the brand rating, media, homebuyers and the entire world at large rather than introspecting as to what can elevate them to a trustworthy brand.

“Excuse me! I am not your Girl Friend to keep you happy. My job is to help the investors make an informed choice in Indian real estate market. I am in no way obliged to keep you in good humour,” I prefer to be firm and nip such discussions in the bud.

Ever since I got into the hitherto-untouched & challenging business of brand rating of Indian real estate developers, I only get the reactions in extreme, depending upon whether the developer has been rated high or low. After all, every builder is a God’s gift to the world of brand, as per his own make-belief metrics.

“But how can you do it?” says another angry voice. My response is, “I have already done it. Do you wish to know the rating process now as how is it done?” Unfortunately, no one is interested in the rating process; all that they wish, want and demand is higher rating for the self which could be showcased and exploited to win over the gullible homebuyers and investors.

Of course, a large universe of the builders wants it for ego massage as well. Showcasing the trophies on the shelf gives them a false sense of superiority; a belief that they have arrived. There is nothing wrong in that, provided they are at the same time not sitting over the scores of dissatisfied buyers and consumer cases.

Brand rating challenges 

In a media market where all the awards and accolades have a price tag, an honest rating & ranking is a shocker for developers

Developers who fail to emerge as Top Ranked try to ‘Convince, Confuse & Corrupt’ the rating and if fail to do so then prefer to Dis-Credit the study  

An honest introspection to understand the Brand Rating and make amends to business practices is not a convenient option for the builders

In a business where most of the companies are non-listed the developers are reluctant to showcase their credentials including the financial figure and yet expect to be top rated

These cribbing of the builders anyway gives me ideas as to how poor is the understanding about brand perception within the sector. And hence, as an exception, when a developer from Mumbai called me to compliment for the last edition of the handbook and at the same time mildly put forward his disappointment with his company’s positioning I was pleasantly surprised. Though the developer too was not happy with his ranking, yet it was a professional conduct, for a change.

“I agree that consumer complaints for project delays are there with our projects,” said a humble voice. “But then you have to understand how much time consuming it is to get clearances in the city. I want to meet you and the team that does the rating to understand where do we as a company lack. I am ready to make changes at the functional level, if it is needed.”

Frankly speaking, such exceptions are few and far between and enough to win my respect, even if it does not reflect in my future rating. I am actually company blind (in terms of my personal opinion and perception) when evaluating the performance of the developers’ brand equity.

A Bangalore-based developer goes on and on. “You don’t understand how will it affect our business?”
My simple and yet curt response is that “I don’t think I am your marketing strategist to think about your marketing goals or strategy.” Some more shouting and I was constrained to give back the offence, “Do you realize that you are talking to a journalist whose phone is on recording mode? I will release your unruly conversation to the media at large.” The developer has been crafty, if not smart, to buy peace now, “No sir! I am not shouting. My voice is like this because I am on the speaker phone.”

One builder even goes to the extent of asking the corrigendum for a published news item in one of the English dailies about our rating and his brand name missing among the top ranked developers. At times I just wonder whether they even know the meaning of corrigendum. Such overt sense of entitlement without any substantial contribution as a brand exposes them as publicity hungry builders.  

Such tantrums also compel me to do some more thorough reference check about the builder, only to find that my rating was actually too liberal assessment. Some very nasty consumer complaints on the Facebook page and other online forums only suggest that their rating should have been even lower.

Do such developers really feel that they own the media because they have advertising clout? And why to blame the builders alone? The conduct of most of the media houses is also that of ‘compromise’ for advertising. When marketing bosses sit over the editor’s heads, then such comprise, give & take and surrender of the soul (read editorial integrity) is inevitable.

“We completely reject your rating,” says an agitated voice. But then the seriousness of the rejection is such that the same developer is hell bent to discredit the study through a number of third parties, including the anonymous respondents. Ironically, none of these respondents come forward for an honest dialogue, when invited for a frank exchange of ideas.

Like Guerrilla Warfare and Guerrilla Politics, it seems there is Guerrilla Communication by the builders. Upset with the not-so-pleasant finding of Track2Realty Best Practices Report some of the builders resorted to Guerrilla Communication to discredit the study. They sent anonymous information seekers to question the Methodology and Scope of Study. 

Sadly, the kind of stupid questions that they ask exposes their not only identity but also vulnerability in front of this journalist. My dear builders! Please send some smart and academically sound proxies to discredit our journalistic endeavour. It is a different matter that you may still not succeed.

Mind it! While the quest for being top ranked is so high, they at the same time expect the drawing room accolades being bestowed upon them. In a business where the majority of the companies are not listed, the challenge for the rating team is to gather the ‘whatever information’ available in the public domain, and then go for a public perception survey, including the users’ experience.

If you ask any of these cribbing companies to share the actual financial data, they instantly get into their shell. After all, it is India’s arguably the dirtiest business where even the debt is not reported in the books and hence nearly every real estate company claims to be a debt-free company.

“How can you deny us a decent coverage,” growls a developer to the marketing team. “We get the kind of quality coverage that we deserve even with mainline English dailies.” By the way, the developer’s definition of quality coverage is top ranking and when he says he deserves, he means he has the money to buy that out.

Unfortunately for the builders, I have not allowed such marketing compulsions to creep into our system and processes. And hence, I am conscious of the fact that I have more haters than admirers within the built environment of Indian real estate. For a large section of developers, I am a negative person. In a way I am probably a bad omen to be maintained a safe distance with and not invited into even industry events. 

“Who knows he will come and find something negative to write about,” is the apprehension that keeps them at a safe distance from me. That anyway does not restrict my access to the information. It also fails to ensure that I will not be critical about what needs to be criticized. I am a negative person at the end of the day anyway because I have consciously failed to learn how to write positive (read glorifying) stories about negative functioning of the business. Anyway, the developers have enough set of positive journalists who join them for cocktails & dinner and what not.

Developers’ obsession to be in the news headlines and at the top of media publicity (that is how their understanding rests about top of the mind recall) is what has paved my way with love-hate journey of brand rating. They anyway continue to live with this reality that with the kind of money power that they have they can earn any award, trophy or brand rating as per their fancy.

Then there are developers who live within the closed doors of pampered coterie of ‘Yes Men’ who only say what the boss wants to listen. They naturally get disturbed when an outsider knocks the doors with a third party neutral observation through the rating to remind them that they are not as great as they have subconsciously started believing to be.

Of course, there are also some custodians of builders’ cause at large to preach me. “You are hitting the builders left, right & center in these challenging times.”
Now to be fair to my profession such preaching demands that I show them mirror to justify the larger cause of the homebuyers, “Had you thought about it when the buyers were trusting you, my rating would not have dented your credibility today.”

Another most funny defence of the developers being ranked lower or not finding themselves in the top 10 is that they have bagged so many awards from so and so group. Some of them even glorify it in the marketing collaterals as “India’s most awarded real estate developer”.

However, the credibility of such awards is so low that any average homebuyer, and I am not talking about the conscious and discerning breed, nowadays understands what it takes to walk away with an award trophy.

By and large every developer, whether ranked high or low (other than being No. 1) has this to say, “I don’t think I deserve to be rated so low.”
I feel from the next time I should put a disclaimer that all the companies being rated are Number One and not a single company is below that. I wonder whether that will stop them cribbing that we have not been fair to them. 

May be the sector would then love to find a big problematic fish like me in their net of mutual appreciation club. I will also turn from a negative person to a nice guy overnight, with guarantee of earning fame and fortune with the builders. The integrity that the profession of journalism demands has anyway been compromised by the fellow practitioners long time back.

 

Professional compliances defining brand leadership of real estate

Posted on by Track2Realty
Track2Realty BrandXReport 2017-18 released

News Point: In the sixth edition of Rating & Ranking the Brand Performance of Indian real estate companies, it is quite evident that the resilient brands with certain degree of professionalism have weathered the market slowdown and regulatory changes better. 

Track2Realty BrandXReport 2017-18, Brand X Report, Brand rating of Indian real estate, Brand performance of Indian real estate developers, Best builders in India, Best brands of Indian real estate, Brand Trust of Indian real estate, Bangalore developers top brand leadership, India real estate news, Indian realty news, Real estate news India, Indian property market news, Investment in Indian property, Track2Realty, Realty Fact, Realty Plus, Realty Myths, Realty Nxt Amidst the market uncertainties, Track2Realty BrandXReport 2017-18finds that the developers like Sobha Limited, Prestige Group, Puravankara and Embassy Group have adapted to regulatory compliances and changing market dynamics better than the sector at large.

These are the brands that have further consolidated their reputation as the Trustworthy Brand. The testimony of the fact is quite obvious with their Brand Rank as well as Brand Score. Most of the Brand Leaders have improved their Brand Score, compared to the last fiscal year. K Raheja Corp is the only developer to make an entry into the Top 10 National Brands after a gap of two years.

What has been an interesting finding during this fiscal year is the fact that a number of relatively smaller developers but with  impeccable track record of delivery and consumer satisfaction are breaking the myth that it is the sheer volume and premium that elevates a company at the Brand Leadership Chart.

On the contrary, some of the fastest selling developers with larger market share but mounting consumer grievances are losing out as the Desirable Brands. In the first round of scrutiny, this time the study rated pretty low to the developers where the share of aggrieved homebuyers has been more than 50%. What it has actually led to is the exit of a few leading names by the market share on the Brand Leadership Chart.

The fiscal year has been witness to the seasoned and responsible brands consolidating amidst the market uncertainties borne out of overall slowdown and a number of regulatory changes. Those who have adapted to the emerging market realities and have realised that it is the buyer who is the demand driver and not the investors have strengthened their market positioning. It is hence no surprise that most of the brand leaders are emerging out of the best performing markets.

On the contrary, the notoriety of the North Indian markets in general and Delhi-NCR is particular has led to many large players by market size either exiting the Brand Leadership Chart or are at the bottom of the pyramid. DLF is the only real estate company from North India to have its presence among the Top 10 National Brands, even though the company is nowhere near to its past glory.

Five of the Top 10 Brands are yet again from the South Indian markets, and developers like Sobha Limited, Prestige Group, Puravankara Limited, Embassy Group and Brigade Group are among the Top 10 Brands at the national level. As a matter of fact, Sobha, Prestige, Puravankara and Embassy are among the Top 5 National Brands in this year’s study.

Godrej Properties once again is the only corporate conglomerate to be among the Top National Brands and a brand that is at the top of the Leadership Chart in all the four regions. However, at the national level the brand has slipped one place to be 3rdNational Brand, as against the 2ndposition last fiscal year.

After the South Indian market, it is the West Zone where the Mumbai-based developers have pretty impressive presence at the Brand Leadership Chart. Other than the Mumbai-headquartered Godrej Properties, it is Oberoi Realty, K Raheja Corp and Lodha Group that is in the elite list of Top 10 National Brand.

In North India, the exit of one of the largest by market size, Supertech, in the wake of mounting consumer backlash is a testimony of the fact that size alone can no longer define the Brand Leadership. The story of another large developer by market size, Gaursons, is no different.

On the contrary, a relatively smaller developer with limited footprint, Gulshan Homz is strengthening its Brand Positioning. Similarly, two of the smaller brands by market size, Central Park and ABA Corp make their entry into the elite list of Top 10 Brands in the region. M3M India makes a comeback into the Top 10 Brands and its Trump association seems to be working in favour of the developer. 

The trend of top developers consolidating their brand leadership is quite evident in West Zone as well where the top three names, Godrej Properties, Oberoi Realty and K Raheja Corp has improved their performances this fiscal year. Kalpataru makes a comeback into the elite list of Top Brands in the region after a gap of one year, while Indiabulls Real Estate also makes space into the list of Top Brands.

In the best performing and fiercely competitive South India, most of the Leading Brands like Sobha, Prestige, Embassy, Puravankara and Brigade have improved their Brand Score.

These brands have also consolidated their National Ranking and Sobha Limited continues to outperform the market. Embassy Group has remarkably improved its Brand Performance to be 3rdBest Brand in the region, while Salarpuria Sattva has also improved its Brand Ranking this year.

East Zone continues to be the least brand conscious part of Indian real estate. This is the only region where most of the leading names have lost their Brand Score this fiscal year. Ambuja Neotia continues to be the Brand Leader and the brand that has remarkably improved its ranking is South City Projects that makes a giant leap from 8thposition to now become 2ndBest Brand in the region. 

Forum Group is another significant Brand Performer that makes a giant leap from 9thspot to be at 4th position at Brand Leadership in the region. Shrachi Group and Hiland enters into the big league of Brand Leaders.

In residential segment the exit of Tata Housing in the wake of controversies is no surprise. The top names like Sobha, Prestige, Godrej and Puravankara have strengthened their Brand Leadership. Sobha continues to be the Brand Performer in a segment that touches & shapes the Public Perception about the sector.

Unlike other segments where the leading names have consolidated their Brand Score, the trend has not been visible in Office Space segment. Embassy Group continues to be the Brand Leader for second consecutive year in this segment; improving its Brand Score as  well.

Other than Embassy, K Raheja Corp at Number 2 could also improve its Brand Score this fiscal year. DLF could consolidate its brand reputation this year and after having dropped to 5thspot it now jumps at Number 3 in Office Space segment.

India’s 2ndlargest mall, Lulu Mall at Kochi enters into the Top Leadership position in the Retail Segment for the 1sttime and makes an impressive debut at Number 9 as news of developer’s 2ndmall in India brings it to the centerstage. Phoenix Market City is increasingly scaling up on Brand Index and promises to up the ante with uniform performance across the cities.

Embassy Group is by all means the Brand Performer in the Hospitality Segment that has improved its Brand Score and elevated itself to Number 1 in the segment. Brigade Group loses its Brand Leadership in the segment to fellow Bangalore-based developer; also loses its Brand Score this year.

Sobha continues to be Brand Leader in the Luxury Segment for 3rdconsecutive year; improves its Brand Score to further consolidate its Brand Leadership in the segment. But it is the Embassy Group that is the Brand Performer and Market Disruptor in the segment; enters the elite list of Top 10 Brands impressively at 4thspot. Another new entrant into the elite list of Luxury Brand Leaders is Mumbai-based Kalpataru that debuts at 10thspot. 

The leading developer and once undisputed market leader in Redevelopment Segment, Omkar Realtors & Developers, has lost its Brand Score this fiscal year and yet maintains its Leadership Position. Brand Performer in Redevelopment Segment is Rohan Lifescapes this fiscal year that has jumped from 10thLeadership Position last fiscal year to be 8thCredible Brand this year; also improves its Brand Score. Other developers to improve their Brand Rank and Brand Score are Kalpataru Group.

Ashiana Housing continues to be Brand Leader in Senior Housing Segment but it is Antara Senior Living that is the Brand Performer in Senior Housing; makes a giant leap from 10thspot last year to be the 2ndMost Desirable Brand this fiscal year.

In the CSR, Sobha continues to be the Brand Leader and clear ahead of the competition curve. The Brand Leadership in the segment is followed by Embassy Group at 2ndspot and Rustomjee at 3rdrank.

Overall, the Brand Leader of Indian real estate for the 4thconsecutive year, Sobha Limited, has also been voted Top Choice by the consumers. It is followed by Prestige Group, Godrej Properties, Puravankara Limited and Embassy Group. Even the NRIs have voted Sobha as the Top Choice, followed by Prestige Group, Embassy Group, Puravankara Limited and Godrej Properties. 

In terms of the media perception Sobha Limited is the only brand to have more than half coverage as positive news in its tonality (52% share) and least news with negative tonality (10%).

Only segment where Sobha fails to register itself as the Top Brand is the Employment Chart of the sector where Embassy Group is at the top of the Leadership Chart. It is followed by Oberoi Realty and Godrej Properties.

 

Simplifying a relative study of brand rating

Posted on by Track2Realty
Track2Realty Exclusive

Bottom Line: In the process of brand rating team Track2Realty has encountered many critical reactions, often emanating from the dissatisfied developers who would like to define the brand metrics as per their convenience to stand at the top. Track2Realty Brand X Report 2016-17 hence tries to decode what is brand perception audit for the better understanding of the stakeholders. 

Realty Branding, India real estate news, Indian realty news, Property new, Home, Policy Advocacy, Activism, Mall, Retail, Office space, SEZ, IT/ITeS, Residential, Commercial, Hospitality, Project, Location, Regulation, FDI, Taxation, Investment, Banking, Property Management, Ravi Sinha, Track2Media, Track2RealtyThe real estate developers in India are, more often than not, having inwardly obsessed approach to deny that a study is a relative study. They live with the illusion that they understand exactly what their brand represents. However, such mirage may be more reflective of their aspirations for the brand, rather than the reality of public opinion.

Brand perception is owned and shaped by the consumers and not brands. Regardless of your medium, message or misunderstanding, whatever people are thinking and saying about your brand, that is your brand. 

The problem with most of the real estate brands in India is to perceive their customer’s perception as unreasonable. They maintain that consumers are only aware of a limited information about a brand when they are thinking about making decisions. This is myopic view of the brand and the market.

This school of thought fails to understand how conducting a brand perception survey is to assess the reality of market view about your brand, what brand attributes are preferred by the customers, and to identify how the customers competitively position your brand with the other competing brands in the marketplace. 

Track2Realty, on its part, tries to decode some of the myths surrounding the brand perception analysis. We are taking up some of the most common grouse & arguments and are offering a reality check for the better understanding of the brand perception. This may not be enough to stop the cribbing voices but nevertheless helps in making them understand about the study of brand, something that can help them if only the custodians of the brand are open to introspection and course correction:

Argument: Brand rating is just a perception.

Reality Check: Oh yes! Branding is always intangible and can’t be measured in absolute terms. So, basically it is about perception about a given brand than the measurement in terms of tangible and absolute numbers. Moreover, in a business where the large universe of the companies are not listed and even the debt is not reported on the books, any metrics applied will not calculate it in absolute numbers. We hence call it Brand ‘Perception’ Audit Report and not Brand Audit Report, since brand itself is all about perception. 

Argument: What is the basis of this ranking?

Reality check: The basis has been clearly defined through the metrics that has been employed to assess the performance of the brand. If only the developers look at these metrics and work out what causes spikes in the conversation around their brand, the perception will definitely change over time. Of course, the developers have to accept the reality that the brands rarely exist in isolation. Measuring the brand perception of your competitors can help you understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie. The methodology and the metrics of evaluation are same for all the competing brands in the business.

Argument: I don’t think this brand rating has done justice with us.

Reality Check: Any study is a relative study and it is all the more challenging to evaluate something that is not tangible. Brand, after all, is not something that can be measured by any standards. It is a collective experience & perception of the public at large and hence we factor the public perception as the most important benchmark. Our jury board just evaluates what is already in the public domain and, more importantly, in the public perception.

Argument: Just look at our scale and what all we have achieved & sustained for such a long period of time.

Reality Check: Our brand rating in any given fiscal year is not about tracing the historical legacy but the performance of the brands in that fiscal year. While a sound track record definitely helps in having better top of the mind recall and positive public perception, the study on its part is always cautious to evaluate the performance of the said period only. Moreover, scale of operations is just one of the USPs of a brand.

Argument: No one has delivered more than us.

Reality Check: Size is not brand; failing which probably some of the largely sold FMCG products (say for instance, Patanjali) will be labeled as better brand than most of the multinational quality products. In terms of the real estate business also, size alone cannot determine the user experience or aspiration for the project or the developer. Delivery in the past is definitely no claim to fame when evaluating the performance of the brand in the given fiscal year.

Argument: Our sales figure shows who is Number One?

Reality Check: It is not the sales number that alone defines brand at any school of brand management and our brand study is no different. A developer might have sold a record number of units/spaces, but if the post purchase experience of the buyers is not positive then the developer does not stand as a credible brand. This is all the more true in a business like real estate where the product is sold much before it is manufactured. Sales figure indicates more about advertising clout and is critical linkage with the sales channel than the trust quotient of the brand.

Argument: We have won so many awards.

Reality Check: Excuse me! You are just a publicity hungry real estate business that believes in ‘beg, borrow or steal’.  Most awarded does definitely not mean most trustworthy in this business. Who does not know that in the business of real estate every award has a price tag and these are not credible endorsements? If you still feel buying so many awards entitle you as the best brand, please go ahead and display it on the billboards across the city. Please excuse us. Out brand study is not bothered about your award trophies.

Argument: Public perception is misleading. Our buyers are so high profile that they would not speak to such surveys.

Reality Check: Any survey is subject to random sampling and definitely not door-to-door survey among your high profile buyers. Hence, it does not necessarily mean that the researchers will speak to those buyers who have volunteered to be your brand ambassadors. If your brand is really strong and performing then the word of mouth publicity should be strong influencing factor beyond the only metrics of user experience. By the way we are open to suggestions, if any, for better methodology to evaluate the brands.