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.
Having entered our 25th year of operations, after a lot of internal deliberations, I am happy to release the organisation’s Shared Vision and Mission statements and Core Values. This should stand in good stead for the decade ahead and give Brigadiers a clear sense of direction, enabling them to work with a unified sense of purpose and to achieve set goals and objectives. Every Brigadier has to remember and constantly remind oneself of Brigade Group’s core values and ensure these shared values are not compromised in any way.
Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway, which had its soft opening in mid-March, has received very encouraging feedback from guests and industry professionals. This well-appointed 230-room, 5-star deluxe hotel with six F&B outlets and a 1000-seater banquet hall, is bound to be amongst the best hotels in Bangalore, and will be the pre-eminent Sheraton Hotel in the country. General Manager Martin Wuethrich from Switzerland and Executive Chef Gustavo Maurelli from Italy will bring their international expertise to lead Sheraton Bangalore in the path of success.
It is a fantastic achievement by the Indian Cricket Team to have won the ODI World Cup, after a gap of 28 years. It is very difficult to live up to expectations, having been the favourites to win the Cup. The credit undoubtedly goes to the players for their outstanding teamwork, superb leadership of Captain Dhoni and Coach Kirsten, and performing when it mattered most in the knock-out stage. Many analogies can be drawn to the corporate world from the strategies adopted in winning the Cup.
India’s 2011 provisional census figures, indicating a population of 1.2 billion+, is certainly a cause for worry, and not celebration. Speedy urbanisation is a matter of great concern to city planners. Meeting the infrastructural needs of the growing population will be a huge, daunting task. Our planners have to work overtime to ensure that demand for space and services are met, if one has to stop proliferation of slums in urban centres. There is a great need to decentralise growth by ensuring development of each and every district and taluk centre.
The Karnataka State and Central budgets for 2011 have been passed. Unfortunately, policies and tax rates are being tinkered with frequently, leading to confusion and a loss of direction to the business community. Real Estate hardly finds favour with the tax authorities. A few examples: in Karnataka, stamp duty rates on Joint Development Agreements have been increased by an unbelievable proportion and the VAT applicability principle in the construction industry has changed to compound the confusion. In the Centre, tax exemption to SEZ units is withdrawn by imposing MAT; Service Tax is imposed for hospitality business … the list goes on and on.
Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign was much needed and, hopefully, will serve as an eye opener to the government and corrupt people. The spontaneous response to Anna’s fast from all sections of society was most encouraging and heartwarming. High corruption in society is what is coming in the way of India’s planned and sustained growth, and stopping the country moving from good to great. If people’s simmering discontent about corruption in every sphere of life is to be avoided, fast and inclusive development across the country is the only answer. Otherwise, Egypt’s Tahrir Square kind of situation is not far off in our country. If one determined Narendra Modi and one determined Nitish Kumar can make so much of a difference in Gujarat and Bihar, imagine what a small battalion of such people could do to the growth of India. By showing honesty and progress, if Nitish Kumar can get 80%+ seats in the Assembly (highest ever by any party in any state in the country since elections came to be held), why don’t other politicians realise good development will ensure re-election and continuance in power?
Let us hope for the best!