Berkshire Hathway HomeServices, the real estate brokerage arm of global investor Warren Buffet, has entered the Indian market through a tie-up with Orenda India. Sanya Aeren, its chief advisor – marketing and communication, says the global best practices of Berkshire and the huge untapped opportunities in the Indian market would position this alliance into the top league. Aeren spells out her plans to organise the property brokerage, penetrate into the market and also give a new experience to the investors.
Q: Property brokerage is a cluttered space in India. How does Berkshire Hathway position itself as a market differentiator?
A: With Berkshire Hathway, we want to disrupt the Indian market by providing world-class experience along with providing cutting-edge technology, by following the core values of longevity, trust, integrity and transparency. We want to bring a global mindset and global best practices to Indian real estate by bringing in 100% transparency between buyers and sellers, to ease the whole process of property transactions.
Q: Berkshire Hathway HomeServices and Orenda India is a great brand association. However, many such brand associations in the past have not worked in India. Even the Trump brand’s India entry has not been without its share of controversies. So, how do you plan to roll out the business?
A: We do believe that we have the potential to disrupt Indian real estate. As the world’s number one brand, we have access to Berkshire Hathway’s global listing syndication, professional training and ongoing education.
There is something called the ‘Exclusive Luxury Collection’, where our agents will also have access to Berkshire Hathway’s active referral and relocation networks and its cloud technology, which is a powerful platform for lead generation and marketing support, social media video production, distribution and much more. We also have access to so many portals and publications of Berkshire Hathway HomeServices, which include Global Mansion, Prestige Journal, Wall Street Journal, Chinese portals and Netjets Magazine owned by Berkshire Hathway.
So, with the global network that is coming in, we are hoping to revolutionise the market, by using the tools and platforms that Berkshire Hathway HomeServices brings in.
Q: Real estate being a localised business, how will the global network leverage from one country to another country?
A: We have a platform in place, whereby we have all the referrals listed. This way, an agent in India can connect to anybody sitting in Mexico, the US, Canada, or any other part of the world through the Berkshire HomeServices franchise by just a click. There is a system in place whereby they can connect with anybody who is a member of the franchise network of Berkshire Hathway HomeServices.
We are exposed to something called the Real Estate IQ system which combines Berkshire HomeServices’ marketing, global listing syndication, video production, etc.
Q: Which geographical locations and segments are you looking at in India?
A: We are looking at pan-India markets, including cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Kolkata. We also want to expand to Goa and Ayodhya in the next few months, with a few thousand advisors. With focus is on residential, commercial, institutional realty, we mean to cater to any segment with demand potential.
Q: Among the cities that you are looking at, Ayodhya is an interesting choice. Any specific reason, or is it just euphoria with the Ram temple?
A: Ayodhya has huge potential as it is inviting tourism, because of the recent developments. There is an airport coming up which is within 20 kms from the city. There is no key real estate player present over there. We can see a lot of development potential in the city.
Q: While most of the large brokerage firms are focused on the metro cities, you are getting into many tier-II and tier-III cities, as well. How will you deal with the trust deficit issues over there?
A: We will move to Lucknow, Varanasi and all these places where we see some potential. Now, there is a lot of development taking place in tier-II and tier- III cities, in terms of transportation. It is no more the same as it was around a decade back. Hence, there is a lot of demand in the luxury segment, because the millennials can trust their own cities to have such infrastructure support. So, these cities are moving more towards the metropolitan cities in terms of infrastructure development and transport network. Of course, a developing country will always have its own challenges and we have to overcome that.
Q: Post-pandemic, do you see any major shift in buyers’ mindsets?
A: There has been a major shift in buyers’ mindsets, when it comes to the residential segment. For example, people want to shift away from the cities. In fact, there has been a 10% increase in transactions in Gurgaon towards the Southern Peripheral Road, NH8 and Golf Course Extension Road. People want larger spaces, following the remote working culture. Without increasing the budget, they want to shift away from the cities. People are more health conscious now. Digital schooling of kids has led to demand for study rooms for the children. Working couples want their own separate spaces. Expat professionals have shifted back to their home towns and hence, we can see an increase in demand in those places.
Q: What is the fiscal topline that you have in mind, especially in terms of the market share of tier-II tier-III cities?
A: We have just entered the market and our research team is working on that. At this moment, all that I can say is that we will command a sizable share of the market. Tier-II and tier-III cities are challenging, in terms of trust and transparency and we have to overcome the challenges. Nevertheless, Berkshire Hathway HomeServices has definitely realised the growth potential of India.
(The writer is CEO, Track2Realty)