Bottom Line: Though affordable housing might be its USP for long, the entry of malls, multiplexes and other lifetyle options have turned Bhiwadi into affordable luxury destination.
Mayank Talwar, a mechanical engineer was transferred by his office to Bhiwadi in the year 2010; much to his disliking. After all, he had worked in some of the leading cities like Pune, Nagpur and Gurgaon. At a time when the recession was at its peak and companies offering pink slip he had no choice but to move to what he thought like a capital punishment.
Four years down the line, Mayank has all the reasons to feel it was a stroke of luck that brought him to this city. Reason: Today he finds the same kind of lifestyle options emerging in Bhiwadi that he was missing out when he first moved over here. The best part of the deal is that he could afford to buy a relatively luxurious apartment in Bhiwadi; though he could not afford even affordable apartment in other luxury cities that he previously worked.
“I have all the reasons to smile for my stay in Bhiwadi as I could buy a luxury apartment with the kind of moderate budget that could not offer me even a decent roof over the head in other leading cities. Moreover, with the kind of malls, retail brands, hangout zones and night out options that are emerging in Bhiwadi I feel it was blessing in disguise that I was transferred to this city. Bhiwadi truly offers all the lifestyle options today and the best part is that it is affordable luxury living over here,” says Talwar.
Analysts tracking the market in this part of the world are not surprised either. They believe the seemingly two contrasting concepts of affordable and luxury has shaped up so very well in the city that the aspiring middle class with relatively moderate budget and luxury choices finds Bhiwadi a natural nestling zone. After all, Bhiwadi carries the tag of affordable destination since land price in this micro market is still on the lower side compared to Gurgaon and this is the reason why property in Bhiwadi is available at approximately one tenth the price of Gurgaon. However, due to its location, Bhiwadi has been pulling out buyers from NCR, Gurgaon, Manesar to name a few.
Moreover, Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO) is providing excellent facility with no issues on infrastructure, water, power whereas these are the bottlenecks even in the neighbouring industrial model township Manesar. It is working two ways—while it is attracting more and more industries over here, even the aspiration level of the local population has gone up and that spells well for the overall economic growth and property market of Bhiwadi.
Nikhil Hawelia, Managing Director of Hawelia Group thinks for long the markets in general and the housing market in particular has been characterised by two contrasting mindsets of affordable and luxury but the quest of the biggest buying group in middle class has been a fine balance of both. He says it can easily be vouchsafed that Bhiwadi fits into this space and ideally this should be the positioning of Bhiwadi.
“The best part is that affordable luxury living in Bhiwadi has not emerged by design but by default to a large extent, as the city was initially planned as the industrial zone from commercial standpoint and retirement zone from residential standpoint. This natural evolution, instead of a concept being pushed by the market forces, suggests that affordable luxury is a sustainable concept in the city and it is here to stay. For the ultra luxury seekers there is always a high end property market in the nearby Gurgaon city,” says Hawelia.
However, Gaurav Gupta, Director of SG Estates finds the affordable luxury living ingrained in the very basic DNA of the city. He asserts that there are not one or two but a multiple of factors that have helped NCR locations like Bhiwadi and Raj Nagar Extension getting shaped up as affordable luxury locations. The best part is that these markets do have their own distinct identity without competing with the ultra luxury locations in the vicinity.
“It is not just about the vicinity to the ultra luxury locations like Gurgaon which is helping these locations; rather the economy of the region is driving the market to a point of affordable luxury. Very much like Gurgaon where the young expat professionals have raised the bar of living, in Bhiwadi too they are the prime demand drivers. However, unlike Gurgaon where the presence of IT/ITeS and hence better pay package leads to demand of ultra luxury living, in Bhiwadi the major economy is the manufacturing sector. In manufacturing sector you don’t have as high paying jobs as the IT/ITeS and hence the positioning of the city has been as affordable luxury destination,” explains Gupta.
Dhirender Gaba, Managing Director of Fairwealth Housing does not seem to agree with the theory of economy of sustenance that has positioned Bhiwadi as the affordable luxury destination. According to him, this is the first wave of luxury and lifestyle choice in the city and the process of evolution will take its own time before the city transforms into a complete corporate city that is a choice destination for the upwardly mobile young professionals. The early indications are definitely encouraging for all the stake holders in the city.
“Bhiwadi has rather picked up fast due to peer pressure of lifestyle choices in Gurgaon-Manesar region. Most of the urban corporate destinations have taken time to scale up in the value chain of luxury and lifestyle. But if the aspiration quotient of the city as affordable luxury destination is any indication, there is a mega global city emerging out of Bhiwadi. What I can bet over at this point of time is the fact that the positioning of Bhiwadi as a key corporate city can only be delayed but not denied,” says Gaba.
The question is in the absence of high paying economic activity like IT/ITeS will the city keep the desired pace to sustain the projected growth and the life style. Critics often point out that in the absence of steadfast pace of economic activity the market may end up being another investors’ haven. However, developers active in this market maintain that more employment opportunities have seen people preferring to stay in Bhiwadi than commute to work. Also, a large number of floating population from nearby cities and across the country is still high, which needs to be catered to in terms of their aspiration and lifestyle choices. The rise of nuclear families have further seen emergence of more demand for dwelling units in the region.
The biggest challenge for Bhiwadi for quite some time has been the socio-economic barrier as spending habit was not there in the old Bhiwadi population. But with the expat young population settling in the city not just the eco system but the whole mindset changed over a period of time.
Today, malls and lifestyle driven brands are further promising to change the lifestyle of the city and Bhiwadi may change its outlook in another few years. Most of the real estate developers in the city are also seasoned players in business who understand the opportunity cost with land being cheaper. They may eventually have the first-movers advantage and their initial foray have already been proved to be a game changer move for the city. It is still a transition phase of lifestyle and it is also a learning curve for Bhiwadi.