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 development of the last quarter is securing the license/franchise to rebrand our office building in Brigade Gateway as World Trade Center! With this, we join the elite group of 29 to own WTC buildings worldwide. WTC is the most recognised and sought-after business address anywhere in the world. WTC Bangalore is the tallest building in Bangalore (435 feet) with many unique features, including—for the first time in Bangalore—an observation deck. It should be operational in a few months. It is a proud and positive development for Brigade Group, the city of Bangalore and the State of Karnataka..
It feels good to find a place among the Top Ten Builders in the country, in the perception survey conducted by Construction World, the most circulated construction industry magazine in the country. What is particularly nice is that we may be the only developer in the country to be nominated for the award for four consecutive years (2007-2010), from the time the awards were instituted five years ago.
India’s GDP growth is right on track by achieving 8.8% growth, against the estimated 8.5%, in Q1 of 2010-11. While we have become a trillion dollar economy after 63 years of independence, due to our billion+ population, our per capita income is just over a thousand dollars—way behind the populous Indonesia and even our small neighbour, Sri Lanka, till recently a strife ridden country. While considerable progress is happening in the development of infrastructure in the country, it is always short of what is needed for the long-suffering population and India’s fast growing economy. The country has too many major problems to tackle—be it high corruption, whose tentacles are far reaching and growing by the day; terrorism in Kashmir; Maoist/Naxalite insurgency in Eastern India; increasing religious radicals even in Southern India; and, most importantly, the growing influence of China in Pak-occupied Kashmir and Sri Lanka. The answer lies in bringing prosperity to the population, thereby reducing the influence of extremist elements. From this angle, the motto of the WTCA (World Trade Centers Association, New York) is quite apt: to bring prosperity through trade; and peace through prosperity.
The much-awaited direct taxes Code Bill, which promised to bring far reaching reforms in tax administration, turned out to be a damp squib. A mountain was promised; but a mole is given. The so-called simplified version is 405 pages long! Tax consultants and advocates will have a feast, for the next few years, from the confusion it creates and the clarifications to be given by the Tribunals and Courts. Businessmen and industrialists will end up spending even more time in non-productive work.
KPL-2 (Karnataka Premier League) Cricket season will be held from September 16th to 30th. While the KSCA (Karnataka State Cricket Association) did well in pioneering the State Premier League concept in the country, it has fallen short in publicising, popularising and managing the event well. Their present efforts are not adding value to the franchisees. I hope the young bunch of Bangalore Brigadiers will better last year’s performance of reaching the semi-finals.
The Galaxy Club at Brigade Gateway is ready and looking beautiful. It is a boon to the campus occupants and its members. The same goes for The Brigade School @ Malleswaram, in the Brigade Gateway enclave, started by our Not-for-Profit Brigade Foundation. The school has received a very enthusiastic response from the neighbourhood in its very first year.
At last, our efforts to start projects in Hyderabad are on track. Our maiden project, Brigade Zenith, will soon be launched in the up-market Banjara Hills.
I am happy and thankful to the Board of Directors for instituting a ‘Chair’ at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras to do research in the field of Construction Technology and Project Management. It will be in memory of our late Independent Director, Dr T. N. Subba Rao, who was always forthcoming with ideas and advice in the interest of Brigade Group.
The festival season is on with Ramzan, Ganesha Chaturthi, Dasara and Deepavali—all in the next ten weeks. I wish our readers happy celebration and a wonderful festival season ahead.