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.
There is no dearth of headline making news in the last few months—worsening US financial crisis; Nuclear agreement; Terrorist attacks; New BJP Govt. in Karnataka; High inflation; Volatility in crude price; natural calamities & impending Presidential Election in the United States.
It is amazing & unbelievable to see century old institutions which are revered in the financial circles—Bears Sterns; Lehman Brothers; AIG; Merrill Lynch; Washington Mutual, Wachovia—drop like 9 pins. Who knows whether the worst is over or yet to come? Greed to make more and more money with casino like operations & throwing caution to the wind has resulted in this financial catastrophe of humungous proportions, affecting each of us in some degree or the other. The magnitude of the problem is difficult to comprehend.
The uncertainty of life has increase with increased terrorist activities. This is extremely sad. Before it is too late, it is time for us as a nation, as corporates & as responsible family members to take all required security measures to avoid being victims of terrorist attacks. The whole meaning of safe neighbourhoods and safe cities has changed with the ease at which fundamentalists are able to operate. If the government desires to ensure the safety of its citizens and desires to maintain the secular nature of the country, then it needs to take tough measures without bothering about the political consequences of such decisions.
Full kudos to our 'Sing is king' Prime Minister for finally taking bold steps to conclude the much delayed Nuclear deal to enable us to produce Nuclear Power to meet our energy needs, without which our industrialization & economic growth will be severely affected.
High lending rates by financial institutions have curtailed the demand for residential units and other luxury items. This can lead to a negative chain reaction by reduced demand for services and core sector products like steel, cement etc. This is also likely to bring down the country's GDP growth from a very healthy 8%+ to a modest 5-6% growth. For the economy to bounce back, it will take quite sometime. Even then, it would be wise for genuine buyers to take their decision to buy properties (but on floating interest rates, if one desires to borrow). Otherwise, year on year inflation of 8-12% p.a. will only jack up the prices of real estate in the medium to long term.
A silver lining for non-residential buyers, in an otherwise gloomy scenario is that the rupee has depreciated by 20%+ making it attractive to buy properties and to make investments in India. Better to strike gold when the opportunity exists.
With single party rule (BJP) in Karnataka, expectations for improved infrastructures & governance were running high. But ground realities seem to be different. Action on many long pending people is yet to be taken. Citizens are still hopeful of positive steps by the government.
Impending Presidential election in the United States in November '08, and parliamentary elections in India (March '09), will be interesting to discuss and watch. They will certainly keep the media busy.
Let me hope the festival season of Dussera & Diwali will bring some sparkle to our lives.