Research across sectors, globally, has shown that companies encouraging a culture of integrity, are able to reap financial benefits. Perhaps the most important benefit, which often remains concealed, is that this culture forces individuals and companies to invent.
In the Indian real estate market, too much of the developers’ attention focuses on managing appearances and dousing fires. Conversely, when a developer makes a clear commitment and pursues an honest dialogue, even if a project is delayed, he may be able to overcome barriers to improvement. This may mean making some sacrifices initially and the results are likely to look worse, simply because one is telling more of the truth.
AS Sivaramakrishnan, head-residential services, CBRE South Asia, agrees that consumer touchpoints in India’s realty industry, are weak and a lot needs to be done.
However, to suggest that the real estate sector can learn from consumer brands, is a generalised perception that needs to be evaluated in the right perspective, he adds. This is because consumer brands are mostly driven by corporates, whereas, real estate is driven by small and localised property development firms. Several companies tried to grow across geographical barriers but backed off, to focus on their own geographical locations, he points out.
Over the last few years, there has been holistic improvement, which is not just confined to the quality of construction, points out Sivaramakrishnan. “It may not have improved to the level of the FMCG sector but the market is transforming, from a sellers’ market to a buyers’ market. The entry of corporate majors has made a big impact. Developers are now making efforts to engage with customers through various activities, such as throwing parties on specific festivals, connecting with home buyers on their birthday and wedding anniversaries, etc.,” he explains.
Sachin Sandhir, managing director – Emerging Business, RICS, feels that Indian real estate firms can learn a great deal from consumer brands. They can teach firms the art of generating brand loyalty, through consistent marketing and quality advertising. However, real estate firms also need to provide quality products at affordable prices, like most popular brands do.
“Unfortunately, consumers are often at the receiving end, in the real estate ecosystem. When projects get delayed or postponed, development firms may have to pay a small penalty. On the other hand, consumers suffer a lot more, in case of any delay or default. To connect better with home buyers, it is essential to maintain constant communication/dialogue and provide information that is transparent and unbiased,” maintains Sandhir.
The moot question then, is whether it is feasible for developers to engage buyers beyond the buying-selling activity. Analysts feel that it is possible and the only thing missing, is the developers’ intent to do so. An investor relations meeting, where prospective buyers can be called upon to discuss the rates of a project, is one such example, believe analysts. This can help a company, to analyse consumer sentiment and adopt a strategy accordingly.
Another example, is to engage buyers in making the layout and plans of a project. A pool of buyers can analyse the needs of the population in an area. Based on the feedback, the developer can design the project, catering to the right audience in the region.
(The writer is CEO, Track2Realty)