Much has happened since the last issue of Brigade Insight published in Nov 2019.
The Wuhan Virus that originated in China during December last year has created unprecedented havoc around the world, the likes of which none of us have witnessed in our lifetimes.
Life has turned upside down - a 180O change; people have become helpless, more philosophical, many businesses have been run to the ground. India is staring at its worst recession since independence and other countries are experiencing the worst since the 2nd World War or the Great Depression of 1929. Helpless governments across the world are taking various measures to control the virus. It is unimaginable that an invisible organism (COVID-19) can bring the world to its knees! Over 27 million people have been affected so far and the numbers are increasing by the day, deaths are nearing a million, and with no end in sight till an effective vaccine is invented. Even after a vaccine is released, after successful clinical trials, the number of years it will take to vaccinate the world’s 7,800 million population, is anyone’s guess. No one knows, if the vaccine will provide lifelong immunity, or it should be administered every year like the Flu Vaccine. With all these uncertainties, life must go on. We need to do what we have to do, leaving the rest to providence, our destiny, our karma.
At times like this, the country’s leaders are in an unenviable position. Tough situations call for tough decisions. Damned if you take, and damned if you don’t take. Our PM, Shri Narendra Modi, known for his decisive leadership, bit the bullet by locking-down the entire country for 40 full days - the only time since 1947. It did create panic and resulted in untold misery to millions of migrant labourers across the country. It did help save lives and halt the spread of the Wuhan Virus initially. But once the lockdown was lifted and people started moving around, including the gradual return of the migrant labourers, the COVID-19 +ve cases started increasing. India currently has the dubious distinction of having the 2nd highest number of cases, next only to the United States. Now, livelihoods have taken precedence over lives, as can be seen with the economy opening up more and more, month after month.
During this crisis, many developed countries have come up with attractive stimulus packages for their citizens and businesses. Despite India being a developing country, our Government came up with a very ambitious, INR 20 lakh crores stimulus package. While it did raise expectations of the industry and the business community, unfortunately, too much fine print did not allow the benefit to reach the different sectors as intended. Personally, I believe, doles must be restricted for the economically weaker sections. For businesses, what is needed, is to unshackle them from a multitude of regulations and offer simple, transparent rules. As a stimulus, reducing taxes like GST, Stamp Duty, etc., for at least a year or so, would boost the economy. Otherwise, to return to positive GDP growth over 2019 or the prior figures would take a very long time. Oxygen, should be administered timely.
I am happy to report that during this pandemic, Brigade Foundation has taken several positive initiatives and has done its part to help the society and the community - supporting 11,000 workers with a combination of food, ration and direct transfer of money to remit to their families during the lockdown phase, distribution of lakhs of food packets, rations, truckloads of rice packets across different slums for the needy, donation of a 5-bed ICU container to KC General Hospital, starting a permanent health centre in South Bengaluru, in association with St. John’s Medical College Hospital; apart from numerous donations to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund in different states. I express my appreciation and deep gratitude to the doctors and health workers for their selfless service to the affected patients.
Brigade is present across all 4 verticals of real estate business - Residential, Office Leasing, Retail Malls & Hospitality and each of these verticals have supported one another during this phase. Currently, with international travel having taken a big hit and the lack of confidence felt by most, to undertake domestic travel, hotel occupancies have taken a huge hit.
Similarly, Mall operations and walk-ins are badly affected, with Multiplexes still not being allowed to operate and with the restriction on the serving of liquor in restaurants to date.
Thankfully, residential sales are improving month on month resulting in the hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. So also the collection of office lease rentals are robust.
What next, is the question each one of us will be asking? I believe life must go on in this ‘new normal’ situation but only by complying with safety norms as advised by the health authorities - wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, increasing sanitation standards, and avoiding crowded places. Otherwise, the negative impact on livelihoods can take catastrophic proportions. The concept of Work From Home (WFH) has helped businesses, particularly in the services sector, to survive and keep up their commitments. We humans, are social animals, and most of us are longing to get back to our normal routine of returning to our workplaces and interacting with our colleagues and other people. Till normalcy returns, we all must exercise patience and perseverance in whatever we are supposed to do. At Brigade, we believe that our Core Values have helped the organisation, in both, good and difficult times, to have come this far since our inception. We will continue to strive to live by our Core Values.
More than anything, we all need to seek God’s mercy and pray for normalcy to return soon.
—Jaishankar CMD, Brigade.
The most significant happening in the last quarter is the manner in which Barack Obama was elected as the President of the world's biggest economy, on the plank of promise of CHANGE. For me it was a moving experience to watch the final stages of the US election process and to listen to the high quality speeches. If one reads Obama's Audacity of Hope, one can realise what a clear thinking person he is. It certainly brings hope of a better tomorrow for the world as his views are full of sense.
By and large, the last quarter has seen the stock markets world over getting battered, India not being an exception. Once the December quarter results start pouring in, the mood is unlikely to become better. The spectre of falling rates, increasing unemployment and tougher visa conditions in the western economies is not the fodder stock markets like.
Unlike the bold 'bail out' packages of the US and European economies, the stimulus package/s announced by the Indian Government are at best knee-jerk reactions which are unlikely to have a significant positive impact. What is required is an extraordinary response to an extraordinary situation. Also required is a major initiative to spend US $50 to $100 billion on infrastructural projects like building highways—completing the golden quadrilateral and networking other roads that will generate large employment and improve the core sectors. Why not a 'Great Wall of India' bordering our problematic neighbours, which will also help in reducing infiltration? The three most important sectors of the old economy are agriculture, automobiles and construction. In the new economy unquestionably it is the IT sector. All these sectors require great support if the government is even half serious about improving the state of the economy.
The November terrorist attack in Mumbai is the most heinous and boldest ever, exposing all the chinks in our armour. It has made the citizens angry, dumbfounded and helpless. Many political leaders were behaving like Nero when Mumbai was under attack.
If the government does not ACT now by taking measures similar to what United States took post 9/11, I do not know what will make them move. The time has come to stop barking and start biting when driven to do so.
In an otherwise gloomy quarter, the highlight event for Brigade Group is the recognition from Forbes Asia as one of the 200 Best Under a Billioncompanies in the Asia Pacific region. It is a recognition of the hard and result-oriented work of the entire Brigade team for the past two decades. My sincere thanks to the valuable contribution by our Board Members, the entire staff of Brigade Group and our associates.
As the curtain comes down on what can be called as the most forgettable year in the recent times (from the economic stand-point), let me sincerely wish all the readers a brighter, happier and peaceful 2009.