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Honest journalism needs honest eco system

Posted on by Track2Realty
Diary of a real estate journalist

View Point: It is much easier to blame the lack of honest journalism in the space of Indian real estate, but honest journalist is a liability for the vast universe of the developers. Ravi Sinha finds that the cribbing of developers against media dishonesty apart, builders are the perpetrators of quid pro quo with self-glory defined as honest journalism. 

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“Why should I take media seriously when the entire world knows that you can get anything published at a price?” questions a builder in the course of an informal discussion. Well, he was more or less echoing my sentiments only. I have always raised the issue of paid news and blatant violation of all journalistic ethics in the space of Indian real estate.

But wait! I had my own reasons to counter him and question his contribution to create an honest eco system. After all, I was also conscious of the fact that quest for media honesty has been mere overtones of a developer who wanted to take moral high ground in front of a journalist like me. My reputation always travels fast to make the other side conscious of the reality that he is meeting someone whom he would not be able to influence, forget buying out.

I am often told that I am playing with fire. Being so critical and upfront could be detrimental for my career and the media company that I represent. I am well aware of the fact that cribbing of the developers in their collective consciousness is not against dishonesty in media, but not being able to influence the journalists without a quid pro quo. In order to define and often dictate what should be the news point the real estate companies have to shell out money, and that is what is pinching them. 

It is hence no surprise that the so-called real estate magazines (I wonder if these are not marketing brochures) are full of developer’s glory, often as blatantly as glorifying one’s personal life or social life and elevating them as the God’s gift to the world of Indian business.

And why to blame these petty shops of real estate publications when the track record of mainline media is no better? Call it overt barter or covert quid pro quo but the fact of the matter is that every positive review and every coverage is earned with a price tag.

Even the builders’ version being quoted in industry specific stories are mostly plug ins. It doesn’t need a media expert to spot it out but even the common homebuyer can today assess what is a paid news. Some of these developers, especially in Delhi-NCR, are giving their pearls of wisdom to the real estate supplements of mainline dailies, repeatedly the same voices week after week, and carry home a feel good factor in peer groups.

I am still not sure to what extent it actually adds to sales velocity, forget any meaningful contribution to their respective brands. One of the English dailies recently ranked a relatively lesser known developer higher than other leading brands in the same Delhi-NCR market. The developer had apparently complained to the marketing team for not getting any tangible ROI or news coverage with this newspaper. It is a different matter that the said developer privately admitted to me that even he is not convinced with his higher ranking. It nevertheless proved to be good marketing tool for him to showcase it across the office premises.

And it is here that I was upfront in showing mirror to this developer who expected the honest journalism to be a one-sided journey. Howsoever I may hate this culture of give & take for a piece of news, it is not the fault of the journalists alone. After all, most of these poor scribes are freelancers, who are so meagerly paid that the exploitative mindset of large media houses goads them to survive on the MEA (Media Entertainment Allowance) of these publicity hungry builders

It definitely suits both the sides – builders as well as these journalists. Who cares for honest journalism? Why would they even bother to invest through legitimate means to a media that is balance enough to have critical overtones and points out what is not well within the sector.

Most of the awards in the sector are hence rigged and come with a price tag. When I see a real estate company with the tagline of ‘India’s most awarded real estate company’ I hang my head with shame rather than feeling confident about that developer. But the quid pro quo has definitely gone to the next level in Indian real estate today. I rather wonder isn’t it embarrassing when the industry body NAREDCO nowadays awards to those media groups and journalists who in return award the officiating developers in exchange.

I often question how will honest journalism survive in this eco system. It is not that I don’t face the challenges and resistance of not being a party to this cartel of corruption. Forget the builders, even a large section of builders’ ‘paid & pet’ journalists have issues with me. I am, after all, a game spoiler for them who is spreading the negativity with brutal honest and ruthless journalism.

I was once told by this Ghaziabad-based builder who was upset with reports of NGT violations in his micro market by one of the leading English dailies, “Why should I advertise with this newspaper which pins down our market?” “Excuse me!” Even though an informal chat, I took it as on offence. “You are not doing any charity gentleman. You are advertising with this newspaper because you are getting the ROI of sales enquiries with phone calls. Will you advertise with a newspaper (more credible but much lesser in circulation) for supporting high quality journalism?” The developer was now silent and deep within I knew I had earned one more frenemy.   

I believe in any given profession if you conduct with ethics and refuse to be a party to larger universe of corrupt coterie you will earn more enemies than friends. It is hence no wonder that whispers and rumours galore about me. The recent one that I heard is to be helping PR agencies and builders in exchange of my cut. I found it so funny that could not resist instantly sharing it with the world at large.

Through my social media post I also had a message for my critics: “Next time when you give me cut either give it by cheque or in case of cash grab it in your CCTV to expose me.”My not so dear critics! Grow up and get more creative. Such juvenile jibes only expose your insecurity against an honest journalist.

ROI (read sales enquiry) or WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) is what drives the developers in this part of the world. I can understand that it is business. But then don’t take a moral high ground that you are victim of dishonest journalists around you. You are rather perpetrators of dishonest media. You have never supported honest journalism in your business.

It is not that honest journalism and its objective assessment of your projects won’t give you ROI. I have a few case studies in Indian real estate where some of the cleaner players dealing only with objective and honest journalists have healthier balance sheets, consumer confidence and overall brand goodwill. But to translate those case studies as an industry reality, most of these developers have to raise their professional standards and think differently. The mindset, however, is: why to take so much of pain when the quid pro quo is the tried, tested & trusted short cut methodology?

In this eco system survival as an honest media company and ethical journalist has its own challenges. Being into the objective brand rating of Indian real estate, I am now used to face ignorant rant, cuss words and half-baked perspective of the developers who fail to get higher ranked with our reports. After all, every developer is somehow ‘Number One’ for having delivered (in many cases promising to deliver) iconic superstructures.

However, what I am not used to, and something that makes me pretty uncomfortable, is the Triple C (Convince, Confuse or Corrupt) mindset of the developers to get higher ranked. And what better way to force it down my neck than through marketing channels. The marketing team is often reminded by these developers that they don’t advertise with us because they are not being offered ROI. In this case ROI is nothing but rating of their choice that they could display.

Meeting with an honest and open mind to understand SWOT analysis of their brand’s market standing and ways & means to improve their perception is something that only a handful of developers have tried with me.

Then there is another challenge for honest journalism which even the builders are mostly unaware of – a cut for advertising to the corporate communication.  Right from the creative agency to printer and each and every vendor is expected to share the part of inflated bills to the communication, marketing or sales team that facilitates the work. In some of the cases it is worse than the government offices. 

For example, a Noida-based real estate company has hired a Mumbai-based creative agency at a monthly retainership of INR 3.5 lakh. The said agency is not worth more than INR 1 lakh even in its home turf, forget about the pathetic cut & paste in the name of creativity. Most of these corporate communications professionals wish to maintain a safe distance with an honest but problematic media company like us.

What is most appalling is the fact that even in cases where the developer is aware about what is going on at his office, it is business as usual. I remember I once pointed out to one Noida-based developer as to what kind of bad (read corrupt) reputation his corporate communications have in the market. But to my utter shock the developer tells me, “I know it! But what to do? I can only control it to some extent. From where do I get clean professionals. In this sector this petty pocketing is in the DNA of most of the professionals.”

Needless to add, the developer himself has given enough leeway to his corrupt team. Flexible amount is earmarked for MEA to somehow manage the negative media coverage of his delays & denials to the buyers and investors.

Honest journalism has always been a liability for the Indian real estate. Forget investing into the right kind of media, the sector has rather tried best to crush the voices of dissent. Industry body CREDAI went on to the extent of asking members to not advertise with a few newspapers which were also reporting negative news (as per their definition) about the sector.  

It is a different matter that this arm-twisting to control the media with self-defined version of negative news failed. After all, those who had to launch projects were not ready to take mandate by a voluntary group which serves the purpose of no one, other than select few lobbying more for self than sector. The prevailing mindset nevertheless is that if you don’t fit into our convenience you have no right to live in this space.

The space that I love – honest & high quality journalism in Indian real estate – is quite costly. After having spent now a decade as a real estate journalist, it would be an under-statement to say that I still feel uncomfortable with the ground realities of this sector. Yes! I have made a handful of good friends too, who understand and value honest and high quality journalism. That is where I have survived and made honest journalism sustainable despite of dishonest eco system around me.

Bouquets and brickbats are part of any challenging job but a recent mail by a Singapore-based investor made my day. He writes, “I don’t think across the world anyone does this kind of brand rating like Track2Realty BrandXReport. It is not easy and definitely won’t earn you friends among the larger universe of stakeholders. Everyone has better opinion of self than actual market perception. Isn’t it? It is not just good brain that can produce such high quality journalism but one has to be ruthless and single point focus…..” Yes sir! It is indeed my ruthlessness and single point focus that gives me strength and conviction in a market where I have less friends and more enemies, and even more in number are Frenemies.

Despite some encouragements, more often than not this eco system continues to disappoint me.  At times I wonder for how long will I manage to maintain my integrity and be seen as someone who is a challenger to swim against the tide. At personal level as a journalist, I feel there is so much to do in this sector; there is so much to explore; help all stakeholders with honest, objective ad informed choices. But I am also conscious of the fact that the large universe of players is not ready to support honest journalism, despite of otherwise cribbing against media dishonesty.

The day I quit real estate journalism it will definitely be a loss to me. But what about the sector? Well, the show of quid pro quo will go on and façade is always cleaner than mirror for the large share of vested interests. My quest for honest journalism is nevertheless stronger than the builders’ resistance to define what is honest & positive news.

Honest journalism & demands of quid pro quo 

Asking for an honest media is easy, supporting that honesty is not

Indian real estate wants to define honest journalism as per their convenience

Paying to undue demands of dishonest journalists pinches but an honest journalist is a far greater threat

Corrupt practices to buy out journalists are encouraged when the developer has so much to conceal 

 

 

CSR strategy not critically linked to brand image

Posted on by Track2Realty
Track2Realty Exclusive

Bottom Line: There are very few smart developers to understand the benefits of CSR as a means to leverage the band reputation. For most of them it is a mandatory compliance and hence budget is exhausted towards what pleases the self, finds Ravi Sinha.  

Tata Wallbook, CSR, 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, Track2RealtyA real estate company organizes painting competition and media is bombarded with press release as if this earth shattering news would change the world 

Another realty company takes a moral high ground with clean the city kind of sweeping drive for a day; media is invited to showcase the mega event of giving back to the society

More money is spent on the photo shoot and event management than the blood donation camp in the name of CSR

School for the children of construction workers is organized due to the compelling need to make the labours stick to it, and media is made to believe the realty company is a benchmark of socially conscious corporate entity 

Food is distributed to the construction workers and media is forced to believe that this massive selfie session is best CSR on the earth   

Welcome to the world of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the Indian real estate. The ground reality is that the real estate companies today get into CSR for fulfilling mandatory provisions and/or tax adjustments than any real concern for the society.

CSR definitely means different things to different realty companies and hence Indian realty fails to link CSR strategy with their overall brand image.

The corporate social responsibility in the Indian corporate sector has thus far failed to made inroads as a strategy. The leading brands have thus far failed to shift their focus to broader and deeper issues surrounding sustainability, accountability and governance concerns.

A number of developers argue that with real estate being a localized business, realty brands can afford to have a selective and partial approach in the formulation of CSR strategy. This is in contrast to the matured industries where a global brand strategy is defined from a multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder perspective.

This brand strategy, however, fails in the Indian real estate that is predominantly a local business but is increasingly striving to be seen in global markets. The realty companies have yet failed to formulate CSR strategy that enhances brand image either from a local perspective or glocal (global & local) objective.

What probably deters the realty companies from CSR, even though they agree that ‘doing good’ is good for business, is that the exact return on investment (ROI) for CSR programmes remains hard to measure. 

The prevailing mindset of the business is such that everything is calculated in terms of ROI and ROI alone. This is the reason why the sector is so sales centric and nit brand centric in terms of its communication and outreach to the society.

However, experience from other industries suggest that companies that make CSR a core pillar of their operations directly enhance their employee morale, agent tenure, the health of the communities where they work, and importantly, their bottom line.

Another deterrent is that the nature of the business of real estate is very individualistic, whereas one of the first things to do when considering a CSR program is to think about your CSR partners. Working with local organizations can lend credibility to your efforts while increasing local exposure and overall community goodwill.

“It is generally believed in the sector that CSR can not be a brand driver the way other branding efforts are being evaluated in terms of ROI. However, this is one business where the investment of buyers is highest and hence word of mouth publicity plays a critical role. If CSR is adopted and practiced in the right spirit, it could give a facelift to the overall brand reputation of the brand,” says Vijay Menon, a CSR professional.

CSR brings a company to limelight as a socially responsible company. It also goes to say that a company understands the need of the day towards the entire society, may it be towards green revolution or towards special ability children or even patients with terminal illness who cannot afford treatment.

This forms a very different kind of branding for a company and has a rub off effect on the company rather than direct branding impact. CSR is, therefore, seen more as a responsibility towards the society rather than a business promotion activity.

“The broader understanding of the CSR clearly indicate that it must be linked to brand positioning in the overall scheme of things. To say that brands must operate responsibly in the communities they serve. is particularly true of real estate brands, as the category has historically been mired with perception issues,” says Vibha Uniyal, an advertising professional.   

CSR activities are a credible brand building tool and must be leveraged. While there have been very few case studies in effective CSR strategy by the Indian real estate, some of the much-hyped endeavours seem to have not moved ahead of project level.

On the contrary, certain low key but meaningful CSR programmes are increasingly being noticed and also giving a much-needed corporate outlook to the companies in a sector where developers strive to be seen as corporate.

While the value of a comprehensive CSR program can not be understated, the Indian real estate has by and large been slow to adopt. It seems the developers are unaware of the implications and costs of such a program, and its critical linkage to ROI and brand enhancement.

Some more matured property markets globally have successfully defined the CSR programmes for the right reasons. Their Indian counterparts are scaling up gradually but in order to remain authentic, it is critical that all levels of management are committed to a comprehensive CSR program for the right reasons — and not simply for financial gains, selfie sessions and some media visibility. 

 

 

Customer is not the king for builders

Posted on by Track2Realty
Track2Realty Exclusive

Bottom Line: Since customer has never been the king for the developers, they have failed to close doors on the market perception, finds Ravi Sinha.

Homebuyer Confusion, Confused homebuyer, Homebuyers grievances, Homebuyers' legal options, India real estate news, Indian property market news, Track2RealtyMany developers do not make themselves available to customers, making it necessary for them to deal with marketing personnel who are trained to be evasive and non-committal.

This is especially true in the case of large developers operating in the metros. According to him, in smaller cities creating such a disconnect, or permitting it to happen, is not possible and also not feasible.

The best way to connect and stay connected with customers is to provide a seamless pre-and-post sales support environment. Buyers should not feel that they have been abandoned once they have signed on the dotted line – developers should keep in mind that a lot of future customer comes from referrals by existing customers.

Nikhil Hawelia, Managing Director of Hawelia Group candidly says that the time has come for two-pronged approach—one is for the developers to sit with the buyers in case of any confusion and the other is for the sector to get an industry status that will weed out the dubious players in the sector. He asserts that collectively these two measures will result in greater transparency in the functioning of the business and will help in growth of the sector.  

“I had to deal with one such incident where the land acquisition has been an issue post the launch of the project. Realising the customers’ apprehensions, I offered to refund those buyers who wished so. As a result, most of the buyers were surprised with the offer and it gave them trust to stay on,” says Hawelia.

It is generally believed in the sector that the lingering mistrust between buyers and developers is the result of many things. Basically, the shenanigans of small fly-by-night operators and also crisis of some of the large developers who are seen as representing the entire industry have resulted in bad press for the entire developer community.

Certain developers do not get all the right permits for their projects, cut costs on construction or are not adequately funded and are therefore not able to complete their projects on time. When the media interprets such instances as indicative of a countrywide conspiracy against homebuyers, the effects can be anticipated.

Silent denials

Developers though agree in principle with the obvious benefits, they nevertheless are in the denial mode as far as direct interface with the homebuyers is concerned.

The fact remains that even though a lot of communication does happen before and at the time of a sale, it is often not the right kind of communication.

At times, the mismatch & mistrust is due to the developer’s fault, at others customers simply do not know what to ask even if they have doubts. And that demands better consumer connect for the benefit of the Indian real estate at large. 

Manju Yagnik, Vice Chairperson, Nahar Group defends that scenario is changing fast and the real estate has undergone a massive change in last one decade. According to her, there has been greater transparency and considerable awareness among the homebuyers. Therefore, it cannot be agreed completely that consumer connect is a missing link.  In fact, of late, social media and digital project promotions have effectively improved the consumers connect.

“Yes, we can say there is a slight gap that exists due to certain conditions such as perception and lack of understanding on various facts which are beyond the control of the developer. These conditions will include lack of necessary infrastructure, complex real estate regulations etc. Consumers are less aware of the formalities and rights involved while purchasing a property. But these flaws can be overcome by creating better awareness among consumers,” says yagnik.

Arvind Jain, Managing Director, Pride Group adds thatthe disconnect between developers and customers was a big problem in the past, but has decreased considerably.

“There are many reasons for this – one of them is that aspiring home buyers tend to do their homework nowadays. Thanks to the Internet, they have access to far more information than ever before. As a result, a developer’s track record and reliability is usually established even before interest in one of his projects is expressed,” says Jain.

While consumer connect might be evolving in the Indian real estate, it is yet way below the desired level. And since the developers are not connecting with the group that matters the most – homebuyers, they have failed to close doors on market perception. 

Digital reality

The digital space, no doubt, is bridging the communication gap but then it is more in the nature of addressing what could snowball into avoidable controversy. The effort no way is in the nature of addressing the consumer touch points. Nor is there any desire for innovation to give the homebuyers an enhanced consumer experience.

With the advent of e-commerce space, there has been an increasing demand from the customers to have a virtual journey of the projects as it will save time and will be hassle-free.

The drones showing online the status of the project and the online help desk for queries is a must for all well known developers. Lucrative and feasible financial schemes for customers will also help in connecting with the customers and also zeal them for turning up. However, these are all wishful thinking in the Indian real estate. 

In contrast, the consumer brands’ strategic approach towards reaching their clients is always focussed. In the current marketing scenario few of the well known consumer brands have very effectively managed the e-commerce platform and have engaged customers to strengthen the brand recall. The real estate sector is yet trying to smartly utilise this platform to reach their target audience.

Realities of connect & communicate   

Growing consumer intelligence and activism forcing developers to connect with responsibility

Digital media helping buyers to vent out against the developer and mobilise the dissatisfied buyers

Developers are now collaborating with buyers for joint control of development to avoid litigations

Buyers as brand ambassadors can not only address complex issue of consumer connect but also help developer with word-of-mouth publicity

Integrated townships gaining ground in Coimbatore

Posted on by Track2Realty
Track2Realty Exclusive

Bottom Line: Integrated township is a new concept in Coimbatore and it is evolving through trial & error in the city.   

Coimbatore city, Coimbatore lifestyle, Coimbatore real estate, Coimbatore property market, Malls in Coimbatore, Multiplexes in Coimbatore, Coimbatore nightlife, India real estate news, Indian property market, NRI investment in Coimbatore, Track2Media Research, Track2RealtyWhen Sulekha Singh visited Coimbatore last month, she was looking for a property market where walk-to-work could be feasibility in the next few years. After having lived in Gurgaon for over a decade now, she had made her mind that any expectations of that kind of a fancy ‘live, work & play’ option would be an anomaly and there won’t be any integrated township in the city where she can settle with all the options in the vicinity.

However, this dental surgeon was taken for surprise when she found that the textile city of South India is not far behind other matured city and its property market.

“Frankly, I would have settled for any location where an apartment and a clinic would have been in the vicinity. But, of course, given the choice I will always go for an integrated township consisting of all the physical and social infrastructure which is also safe for my growing children. It was just a casual thought that I shared with the local broker and he instantly offered me options of not one or two but many townships coming up. It came as a pleasant surprise,” says Sulekha.

Facts speak for themselves. For instance, an integrated township is being built on an 850 acre property with a golf centric theme near Perur, Coimbatore. Does not it sound like something unusual? Coimbatore, after all, has largely been a city of working class looking for affordable housing and an integrated township with modern amenities means add-on cost. But this is not the only integrated township that is coming up in the city.

Ranging from 50 acre to 850 acre, integrated townships are slowly but surely catching up in Coimbatore and since this part of the property market has so far remained oblivious to the concept of a proper gated living, the developers are leaving no stone unturned to replicate similar success story that other matured property markets across the country have registered.

It seems what is driving the developers is the growing purchasing power of the city and most of these townships are house to every possible lifestyle amenity from club house, meditation centre, party lawn to open air theatres incorporated in natural environs.

As a matter of fact, some of the features are rather unique to this property market, including rock features, lotus pond, pergolas, canopies and other unique features being that some of the townships will be fenced in hedges and picket fences.

It seems the developers in this market have waited for long to get it to the maturity level. And hence, their concept in the integrated townships is goaded by the learning from other markets which have tasted success with such townships. But what is all the more unique is the fact that they have been able to customise the local needs with innovation in their projects and there seems to be many takers for this.

This also brings to the table the question that whether the integrated township can change the way Coimbatore property has traditionally been operating. Sameer Chopra, Chairman, RE/MAX India thinks so and believes that Coimbatore property will definitely get an image makeover once all these townships are fully operational. Today, Coimbatore market seems to be emerging as one of the preferred locations for real estate investments in the country, especially among those living abroad. He, however, finds the concept at a very nascent stage.

“There have been few projects on integrated township in Coimbatore. However, it is not a very emerging space in the city. The main reason is the investment rates are huge and citizens spending power is still a challenge in realty sector. Secondly, the climatic conditions and the mindset of the people is more inclined to the independent houses rather than integrated townships,” says Chopra.

Analysts maintain that there are challenges galore for integrated townships in a price conscious market like Coimbatore. The Coimbatore market is embarked more by salaried class people and hence the investment in integrated township is a challenge for them. Already in the city, the going rates for such projects are pretty high. In this background, these townships would definitely be out of reach for the middle class people. 

A section of critics also have it that the integrated township is a concept from west so one has to be very cautious in terms of city style and way of living. Mere imitating the western integrated township system will not really help; realtors will have to focus more on the living standards and mindsets of Indians.

Ramakrishnan, a local property agent says integrated townships, in its true sense, would be able to drive the city and the market into a higher growth orbit. However, the project needs to be sustained by bringing in adequate industrial/services component.

“The integrated township has not really picked up in Coimbatore till now because the city’s size/growth has not necessitated such developments till now. However, we do expect such developments in the near future. Challenges exist but focusing on a few aspects will ease the difficulties faced in developing integrated townships. Some of these challenges are expediting acquisition of a large tract of land that is contiguous and has good access to main roads, lowering the cost of acquisition of large tracts of land and building better township regulation at state level will facilitate in the building of integrated townships,” says Ramakrishnan.

An outside view of Coimbatore property market may not accept it, but the fact of the matter is that Coimbatore property market has come a long way and today can match any other Tier-I city in terms of quality offerings and, more importantly, the ready takers for it.  

Obviously, there are many expat communities in the city like Sulekha Singh looking for options in integrated townships and the developers are simply catering to it. They may be facing challenges as the concept is in its nascent stage, but the way they have taken the learning from other evolved markets and are customising the offerings with local flavour & need, it indicates a great future for integrated townships in the city.

Price may be an issue as of now since there are other projects available at reasonably lesser cost, but certainly the way this city and its property market is continuously evolving, integrated townships are the way to go.

Why property boom is scary to homebuyers?

Posted on by Track2Realty
Track2Realty Public Reporter

Bottom Line: Track2Realty correspondent Aishwarya Singh shares the experience of dealing with the developers and brokers as a homebuyer. It gives a holistic view of the property rally and how to play safe than be sorry, if misled by the booming market and property appreciation. This happens with most of the homebuyers, yet many of the gullible buyers fail to spot it in advance. 

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It definitely should not be at the cost of purchasing power of prospective home buyers to benefit the builders. The problem with ‘boom’ is that it is more often than not followed by ‘bust’ and while the speculators and developers may be smart enough to time the boom or escape the bust the average home buyer is the one to lose out.

If I look at the market in a very holistic manner then appreciation beyond a point is the genesis of speculators on prowl; something that can easily turn boom into bust sooner or later.

When there is boom the Reserve Bank of India often reduces the interest rates to encourage the homebuyers. But when there is panic in the market the apex bank increases interest rates to put a check on property speculation and potential bubble in the overall economy.

For an average homebuyer it then becomes unsustainable to even hold the property, forget selling it. A number of distress sales in the secondary market post Lehman crisis suggest realistic markets with moderate appreciation are the safer property markets. On the contrary, hot property markets are the ones to lose momentum pretty soon.

When the property market is hot, the sharks begin to circle; recognising the opportunity to fleece the rest of us out of our money. The problem with property scams (cartel of appreciation) is that they are hard to detect in advance and often perfectly legal. They are marketed convincingly and professionally, unlike the instantly recognisable scams we are used to in other walks of life. Property sharks are harder to pin down when the market is going up, but they are nowhere to be seen when the prices crashes.  

We as property buyers need to understand that home is something that is not a trading commodity; forget being speculated like a lottery. So, when a marketing company helping developers sell overpriced properties to unsuspecting investors talks about double or triple appreciation in the next two to three years, it is time to suspect the agent.

After all, they are the sharks in the property market who charge the developer high commissions, in return for quick, hassle-free sales. Such companies are legal simply because they do not charge buyers fees for their advice, but their commission ends up being paid by the buyer anyway, as the developer adds it to the sale price. The buyer is thus cheated without any law being broken where he can sue the broker and ends up paying off an overvalued property.

Every day the real estate brokers bombard us with cold-calling, SMS, emails, letterbox drops, billboards, TVCs, newspaper ads and what not. They promise unbelievable returns and property secrets that will make you millions. They first ascertain that you have the finances to buy an investment property and then they pounce.

While working on this story, I answered the phone to a cold-caller recently who said I could attend a free information night, including fine dining at a five star hotel, where I could learn how to build wealth through property investment.

I asked the sophisticated sounding woman on the phone if she was looking for media coverage of the event, to which she paused briefly, sounding confused. I asked her if she knew she had called a real estate reporter from Track2Realty. Suddenly, for once, she was the one trying to get off the phone. 

Later I attended one such investor meet night, was subjected to a lot of high fiving and hand clapping; designed to get you emotionally charged. Potential buyers were offered a chance to sign up for an investment on the spot. The developer wanted them to commit then and there; apparently to stop buyers going home, sleeping on it and realising it does not make sense.

To keep them there, they were even offered a one stop financial shop, featuring in-house solicitors, accountants and financial advisers. They say this is for your convenience, but in reality it was to stop getting independent advice from outside professionals, who may otherwise warn them away from the deal.

Due diligence by the homebuyers is a key negligent component in the Indian property market and it is easy to be misled by the testimonials on company’s website from ‘happy customers’ with only the name. If the testimonials are genuine it has to come from people who actually live in the developers’ project with full names, faces and contact details. 

I also wonder at times why to find out about great property deals from a telephone marketer. Property data is more accessible than ever before, thanks to newspapers, websites and apps; plus advice from real investors on web forums.

My hunt in the property market as a buyer made me realise one thing loud and clear—Get the basics of due diligence right. Always seek independent advice, engage lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and reliable brokers. Most importantly, stay away from property boom that promises unrealistic appreciation.

It may sound like missing an opportunity to make best use of a growing market. But then higher hopes more often than not bring higher disappointments as well. One has to make a choice whether it is worth it to bet with life’s most precious and costly investment. I am sure average home buyers won’t like that; the challenge nevertheless is to not to get tempted and trapped in the speculation of property rally.

Affordable luxury fuelling Pune periphery locations

Posted on by Track2Realty
Track2Realty Exclusive

Bottom Line: Pune periphery locations are attracting the homebuyers with better amenities and luxury at affordable prices.  

Pune, Pune property market, Pune real estate market, pune property prices, India real estate news, India property news, Track2Realty, NRI investmentThe satellite towns and periphery locations of major cities across the country have been stigmatised as the last refuge of the struggling homebuyers. The collective consciousness looks at these locations meant for buyers who have no choice but to compromise with their wants and needs.

These locations often have not helped their cause with poor infrastructure and connectivity, thus lending credence to the critics’ aspersions as down market locations. This naturally has a negative brand perception for the developers as well.

However, this is not the reality of Pune’s housing market as some of the smart developers have turned adversity as opportunity by adding luxury to these non-descript locations. A silent wave of image makeover has been sweeping across many of the periphery locations of the city in the last few years.

At a time when the critics were busy in writing off these locations due to one reason or the other, the analysts tracking the property transactions were exposed to a new reality of affordable luxury in these otherwise down-market locations.

And hence, the value of the ticket size may be having small but on the sheer volume of transactions these secondary locations across the Pune property markets are now giving the prime locations a tough challenge. More importantly, it is helping in the ever-increasing expansion of the boundaries of Pune.

Some of these locations are even having better track record of delivery and transactions during the slowdown than many of the over-glorified prime locations in the heart of the city.

The credit for this change of fortune in favour of periphery locations goes to one single reason: emergence of affordable luxury living for the aspiring middle class who could not afford even a basic roof over the head with the same budget anywhere in the city.  

A local property consutant finds a method in this when he says that the demands for affordable housing in Pune cannot be met unless the city’s boundaries expand – which, thanks to its many adjoining rural areas, is indeed possible and happening.

“We are seeing steady absorption of these areas into the municipal limits – and even before they thus absorbed, they become hotbeds of hectic development activity. Homebuyers are attracted to these newly developing areas because of the cost arbitrage that they can avail of there. However, it must be said that affordable luxury is a fairly new equation that not all developers have been able to understand and cater to. It requires a fine balance of luxury amenities and cost effectiveness,” says the consultant.

Manju Yagnik, Vice Chairperson, Nahar Group believes there are multiple developments that have in fact grown the city by leaps and bounds extending its boundaries to nearby areas which were considered rural, and now come under the municipal limits of the city.Pune is one of the few cities that offer luxurious homes at an affordable price tag. This has attracted people from Mumbai and other cities to settle down here as it offers prices that are affordable along with various job opportunities too.

“Today, Pune has also become a leading IT hub with leading IT companies making their presence here. With increase in demand for residential apartments, there is a growing trend of home buyers preferring to buy homes that are designed by well-known international designers and has an address to flaunt,” says Yagnik.

Kishor Pate, CMD, Amit Enterprises Housing agrees that unlike neighbouring Mumbai, Pune has massive scope for multi-directional spatial expansion. The city is constantly adding more outlying villages to its borders in order to meet the increasing development requirements. This is necessary because the city is witnessing rapid inward migration, brought on by the employment opportunities in the Information Technology, manufacturing and services sectors.

“These new areas help to reduce the stress on the infrastructure and housing supply of the inner city, and also provide a means to meet the demand for affordable housing, as property rates in emerging locations are lower. In emerging areas where affordable luxury projects are being deployed, such housing is a definite draw as long as the location itself meets the basic requirements of connectivity to key hubs of the city,” says Pate.

Anil Pharande, Chairman, Pharande Spacesmaintains that job creation is what drives real estate demand in Pune and PCMC, and supply always chases demand. In previous times, PCMC was perceived as a satellite city, but has today become an integral part of the Pune real estate market because of the massive amount of employment it is generating. At the same time, the rapidly expanding road network has reduced travel time between various employment hotbeds, leading to the proliferation of housing along these corridors.

“Developers who build affordable housing do so to attract the demand for homes with an extra lifestyle edge which do not cost the earth. This is possible by developing such housing in emerging areas with lower land rates and passing on the benefits of the lower cost to buyers. This strategy for proving affordable luxury has worked very well in areas like Punavale, Moshi and Spine Road, which are in high demand due to their proximity to PCMC’s manufacturing belt,” says Pharande.

Analysts believe the areas to look out for in Pune are Hinjewadi IT Park, the industrial belt of Chakan and Talegaon. Also areas like Wakad, the upcoming areas like Tathavade, Baner and Balewadi have seen lot of growth. There is also a lot of development being seen on the Paud Road, Kothrud area like Bhugaon and Bhukum.  

Areas on the western side of Pune include the corridor are Pimple, Pimple Saudagar, the entire western zone has a good growth potential considering the job opportunities in these areas. Undri, Ambegaon and Wagholi have managed to retain their drawing power, thanks to their superior locational attributes and the favourable pricing of properties.

There, of course, is a rider. Infrastructure development would be a key aspect for real estate growth in Pune as the new areas in the periphery being developed need better road connectivity and other infrastructure such as electricity and water.

After all, luxury housing of any kind, including affordable luxury, must be able to deliver a certain lifestyle equation. For instance, areas like Amebgaon have become affordable luxury destinations because of their superior connectivity.

Generation change in Noida real estate

Posted on by Track2Realty
Track2Realty Exclusive

Bottom Line: There are many second generation developers in Noida real estate market but most of them are living in the shadow of fathers. Track2Realty speaks to a cross section of people who defend the privileged lot as being more process driven.  

Two generations, Clash of generations, Second generation builder, Second generation property developer, Young property developer, India real estate news, Indian realty news, Real estate news India, Indian property market news, Invest in property, Realty Plus, Track2Realty, Realty Fact, Realty NXT, Realty Myths, Housing.com, Construction World, Housing news, Makaan.com, PropEquity, Liases Foras, Prop TigerWhether it is the clash of two generations or natural progression where the generation next has taken the business forward to the next level, the tale of two generations has always been a subject of interest in the business community.

The dynamics of the two generations get all the more curious in the business of real estate since the nature of the business is such that often the grounded wisdom of the first generation is juxtaposed to the fancy ideas of the second generation.

In Noida market many second generation developers have overtaken the business and hence it is worth a look to evaluate the performance of the respective generations. This can also show the way forward as far as the growth and future of the city property market is concerned.

The fundamental question here is what has been the difference between the first generation and second generation in terms of functioning. In Noida market there are a number of second generation real estate developers and what makes the curious case of generation gap newsworthy is the fact that they are living in the shadow of their illustrious fathers.

Market watchers also point out that Noida is a case study in the Indian real estate where the generation change has been symbolic and not substantive. It is a market lacking innovations where the second generation has not been noticed on their own.

Analysts point out that it is not just about being two different generations, but two different thought process and work culture in many of the cases. This difference of operations can therefore confuse any market tracker.

While the first generation real estate entrepreneurs secured their positions in this most competitive field adopting conventional methods of construction technology and business practices; the second generation is more dependent on  technology, branding and latest construction practices prevalent in developed countries banking upon on the reputation they inherited from their predecessors.

Experienced with the transition of the business to his next generation, RK Arora, CMD of Supertech maintains that it won’t be right to say second generation lacks the understanding of ground realities of business. According to him, the second generation is privileged with strong business foundation, established brand reputation, protected opportunities and lower risks.  They are exposed to the real estate atmosphere from their childhood making them capable to face any challenge once the business is handed over to them.

“Transformation is taking place in Noida real estate as well.  Once the real estate in Noida was all about construction of flats and housing complexes but the situation is fast changing.  With the transformation of the city into an international hub, the real estate needs are also changing.  Malls, multiplexes, sports complexes, infrastructure, educational institutions, IT & ITeS parks and much more come under the umbrella of real estate,” says Arora.

A second generation developer Nikhil Hawelia, Managing Director of Hawelia Group saysthe core of the business remains the same but functional difference can be said in terms of use of technology. According to him, living in an era where new technology is coming or changing very fast, the second generation keeps pace with the developments. They try to bring in innovation, technology and international aspirations into the world of property that has been rather old-school so far. 

“I do not agree that second generation lacks the understanding of ground realities of real estate business. To some extent it also depends on the natural instinct of understanding the nuances of real estate business. If the person has right understanding of the business and organizational skills, he or she can be seen as a right person to take bigger responsible role for the company,” says Hawelia.

In contrast, a first generation developer in Noida real estate, Abhay Kumar, CMD of Grih Pravesh Buildteck says the second generation developers get most of the things in plate by their fathers and forefathers.

The first generation developers have provided deep pockets to their successors where they have ample margin to commit errors and keep trying till they get success; at the same time they get huge experience of their predecessors easily available. Combination of funds and experience of their father creates ground for success.

“Second generation developers are usually not nurtured from the scratch level whereas the first generation developers are extremely hard working and also they enjoy good relations in the society which is an added advantage. Second generation developers are usually too professional, lacking the in-depth knowledge of the creation per say. They are in general well educated but not well trained. It has been observed that the human values are less in the second generation developers compared to the first generation ones. First generation developers try their best to nurture their children to become the best suited for the succession but mostly they are not able to hone overall skills,” says Abhay. 

What can be vouchsafed is that the transition has not given any case study of success to the Noida market. In some cases the baton has been passed to the next generation pretty successfully, while in most of the cases the first generation is busy in grooming the generation next.

Some of the second generation developers have actually been credited with the skyline of Noida getting changed drastically in recent times. The city has witnessed some exceptional launches & construction of projects. But overall the large share of second generation developers are yet to arrive and are mostly living in the shadow of their fathers.

 

Puravankara introduces India’s first Home Exchange plan

Posted on by Track2Realty

News Point: As part of Puravankara’s flagship expo- BIG 72 Hrs, the developer partners with leading banks, valuation experts, online portals and brokers to offer a ‘Resale Assistance’ Program with slew of benefits for registered users between June 15-17, 2018 in Bangalore. 

Puravankara Projects, Purava Amaiti, Ashish Puravankara, Ravi Puravankara, South Indian real estate market, Bangalore property market, India real estate news, NRI investment, Indian property market, Track2RealtyIn a first-of-its-kind initiative, Puravankara Limited, has announced a Home Exchange Plan – an initiative with multiple benefits for the home sellers who are looking to upgrade their homes.

The innovative initiative, part of Puravankara’s flagship expo – BIG 72Hrs attempts to mimic consumer behaviour in the automobile industry i.e. to “Exchange an old car for a new one”.

While the housing industry is constrained to replicate the exact version of an Automobile Exchange into the context of homes because of the fragmented nature of the Housing market, Puravankara is attempting to assist home buyers to sell their existing home though a formal process, so as to help the customer plan for the finances required for the new home purchase.  

The mega event is slated for 15th-17thJune, 2018 and will entice both First Home buyers and Home buyers looking to upgrade their home, with very attractive price and payment plans.

The move will further propel the company’s ambitious plans to invest INR 3,000 crore and achieve the construction target of 15 million sq. ft. in 2018-19 under Provident for premium-affordable housing and Puravankara brands.   

Home Exchange Plan – Quick, Reliable and Convenient

This new initiative has been conceived to address and simplify the needs of home sellers that intend to upgrade their homes. Puravankara has partnered with leading banks along with their certified valuation experts, also partnering with key brokers (from all corners of the city) and premium online real estate portals for a three-day event in Bengaluru.

There is extensive research that suggests a keen interest among property owners of the working populace to upgrade their real estate assets. However, the complex and vague procedures of valuation and resale discourage the move. All they need is additional help to streamline the re-sale process to give them greater predictability of being able to sell their old home.  

In the coming weekend, new home buyers can visit Puravankara’s Big 72 Hours Home Fest to have their existing properties-instantly valued so as to help them plan their new home purchase.

India’s first ‘Resale Assistance Program’ by Puravankara

Upon contracting to buy a new Puravankara Home, purchasers can choose to enrol themselves into the “Resale Assistance Program” with the following benefits:

Flexible payment plan on the new Puravankara home they choose to buy

Valuation certificate from third party valuation agencies

Easy loan facility against existing property – partnered with HDFC, ICICI and SBI

Complimentary assistance from empanelled Brokers

Complimentary Premium Listings onto top online property portals – housing.com  and 99acres

Complimentary participation into an innovative “Re-Sale Home Mela”

Hassle-free processing under one roof, all of which are designed to help the consumer to sell their old home 

The initiative comes at a time when the Indian real estate market is undergoing a transformation with the recent implementation of RERA and GST. With the festive season coming up, through this initiative, Puravankara will reach out to over a lakh of first time home buyers, NRI communities and investors to promote their affordable, ready-to-move-in and luxury homes.

Speaking on the campaignAnand Narayanan, Chief Operating Officer, Puravankara Ltd said, “We found that eight out of ten residents in Bangalore who are looking to resell their existing properties are often unaware or misinformed about the resale/upgrade process – from valuation to finding the right buyer. As a result, the process gets derailed, delayed and eventually dropped owing to the confusion. They do not end up upgrading to their dream home. We decided to address this issue by adding India’s first Home Exchange Plan and Resale Assistance Plan to our ongoing flagship program BIG 72 Hrs, and help home sellers get the best and find the right buyers for their existing properties.”

“With the implementation of RERA and GST, we strongly believe the trust between home buyers and builders will further improve. This initiative, by Puravankara will offer a platform for brokers, valuation experts, banks and online listing portals to come together and develop a new segment – home sellers can transact with ease, transparency and convenience bringing a brand new customer experience to the forefront,” he adds.

Homebuyers’ awareness not limited to one-time purchase

Posted on by Track2Realty
Track2Realty Exclusive Survey

Track2Realty survey tried to find out whether a homebuyer would be interested in the sector and respective developer once he has bought the house. The results are surprising and contradict the widespread belief that one is interested in real estate till one buys the dream home. 

Jaypee Homebuyers Protest, Jaypee homebuyers, Options for Jaypee homebuyers, Legal remedies for Jaypee homebuyers, Homebuyers victim of Jaypee, Delhi NCR property market fraud, India real estate news, Real estate news India, Indian property market, Track2Media Research, Track2RealtyIn any given debate about the low public perception of the real estate sector in general and the developers in particular, the defence has always been that real estate is a one-time purchase product and hence the focus of the builders is on the product and its sales channel than the brand.

It has been reiterated within the built environment of Indian real estate that once the buyer has bought his dream home he is least bothered about the brand index of the developer or the reputation of the sector at large.

Track2Realty Public Perception Survey, however, proves these assumptions wrong. More than half of Indians, as many as 54%, track the real estate news, analysis and launches even after they have purchase their house. Even more in number, 58%, monitor real estate sector and developers’ performance along with reputation for future investment purposes.

Close to two-third of the Indians, 62%, are tracking the stock market performance of real estate companies for investment over there. Close to half the Indians, 48% to be precise, feel an investment in second property makes more financial sense than investment in any other asset class.  

These are the findings of Track2Realty pan-India survey. The survey was aimed at understanding the awareness level of the Indians with real estate as a sector, product and business with critical linkages to its reputation and brand trust. The survey has been conducted for the fifth consecutive year in 20 cities – Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Jaipur, Lucknow, Bhopal, Patna, Bhuvneshwar, Coimbatore, Pune and Chandigarh – between March 15 and April 07.

A structured set of questions that was based on the homebuyers’ top of mind recall and understanding leading to their investment decision post the purchase of first house was given to the respondents. They belonged to a mix of the luxury, mid-segment and affordable buyers. The survey tried to capture the mind of the homebuyers who are often seen as one-time buyer and hence not as serious & repeat TG as in other industries.

“I read real estate news and keep a tab on new launches. I also watch television programmes on real estate. In a way I feel property related information is not confined to buying a house but it is also an investment avenue for future. No other asset class can give this kind of return,” maintains Sumit Gupta in Noida.

“Of course, I have bought my first house and have no plans to make another investment as of now. But then property information is not confined to buying a house alone. In a short supplied market like India, real estate sector has to grow phenomenally and realty stocks are really something to watch out. That demands a thorough knowledge about the real estate sector and the developers’ reputation,” shares a Gurgaon resident, Ankit Chawla.

Will investment instruments like REITs and InvITs manage to bridge the gap between real estate as one-time investment versus other consumer products? A large majority of Indians, as many as 68% feel so. The general feeling is that once the initial confusion is over these investment instruments would be a great leveler for average middle class Indians.  

“Investment instruments like REITs and InvITs clearly suggest that we have to move ahead of the mindset of real estate as a one-time investment. And I feel more than the homebuyers the developers need to be conscious of this reality. The sooner they understand this and change their brand positioning from product to service the better it will be for all the stakeholders,” opines VK Sudarshan in Bangalore.

It is hence not surprising that the stock performance of branded and reputed developers have in recent times outperformed the sectoral indices and even the overall performance of Sensex and Nifty.

82% of those who invest in the stocks of real estate companies are pretty clear that they will only invest in the stocks of the developers who are known for the corporate governance, even when some other realty stocks are tempting in the short term.

Which are the realty stocks where the Indians feel safe to put in their money. The top 5 picks are Godrej Properties, Oberoi Realty, Sobha Ltd, Mahindra Lifespace and Brigade Enterprises.

On a scale of 0-100 the study tried to figure out the AQ (Awareness Quotient) of the Indians. This comes as a real surprise that the AQ of Indians stands at a healthy, rather impressive, level of 712. The KQ (Knowledge Quotient) of the sector has also been quite high at 560 on the scale of 0-1000.

The survey also tried to figure out the social media reputation index of the developers. The buyers were asked as to how seriously they take the social media reputation of the builders. 78% of the buyers think online reputation management of the developer is the first critical metrics to judge the reputation of the builder.  

Even more in number, 84% of the homebuyers feel this is the primary source of information and once they are convinced about a project or developer through online searches then only they go for secondary reference check.

“Physical search or verification is always step two for me once I have shortlisted a few properties. The stepping stone is their online reputation that nowadays clearly indicates what kind of a builder one is, what is the standing in the given market and among the buyers and what are the future prospects of the property or the stocks,” feels Sameer Sabharwal in Mumbai.

For nearly half the respondents, 46%, real estate news is nowadays as much area of interest as the political or sports news. In terms of their interest level with the business & economy, real estate news is third after stocks and corporate news.

Do these buyers trust real estate news? Not really! Nearly everyone, as many as 90%, feel real estate news is more like marketing brochure of the developers. 84% point out that real estate supplements of daily newspapers are not trustworthy as they often fail to differentiate between editorial and advertorial.

96% do not find any real estate magazine worth reading. What is their top choice for getting real estate news? 82% rely on select digital media to keep a tab on the real estate news and developments. 72% nevertheless maintain that digital media is challenging to differentiate between information and unsubstantiated facts. 

“How can real estate news be credible when the news in any other sector is not so reliable nowadays? With the kind of money that these builders have they can manipulate the news as per their convenience. Yes, financial reports etc where there is a watchdog in SEBI are accurate but definitely not the analysis or positive review,” believes Rishabh Jain in Kolkata.

In the perception of homebuyers how can developers scale up their reputation? 74% feel it is after-possession experience that would make them rely the same developer again. Will they go for word of mouth if their friends and family are happy with the builder? 70% says yes.

Can consumer connect and referral programmes of developers enhance the homebuyers’ AQ and KQ? 82% of the homebuyers feel he developers can make them repeat customer, whether through self buying, referring to others, or investing in their stocks, if only they take up consumer connect programme more seriously.

In this survey there is something really worth introspection for the developers. The study has indeed challenged their conviction that house is a one-time purchase product and hence focus on the product and the sales. Moving forward, only the paradigm shift in the mindset would differentiate between the reputed brands with healthier balance sheets and the brands that would wonder what went wrong with their sales strategy.

Survey Highlights 

54% Indians are interested in property market post purchase as well

58% monitor realty news

62% Indians track realty stocks

82% are interested only with stocks of reputed developers

48% believe realty is still best asset class

68% respondents believe REITs and InvITs would be catalysts to interest level

Top 5 realty stocks are Godrej Properties, Oberoi Realty, Sobha Ltd, Mahindra Lifespace and Brigade Enterprises

Awareness Quotient with realty is 712 (On the scale of 0-1000) 

Knowledge Quotient with realty is 560 (on the scale of 0-1000)  

Digital media is biggest influencer for 84% Indians 

90% don’t trust realty news

84% Indians call realty supplements with newspapers as advertorial

96% reject realty magazines

74% advise after-possession experience to improve for imager makeover 70% homebuyers go with word of mouth 

82% homebuyers feel better consumer connect leads to trust

 

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.

 

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