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.
How things dramatically change in a very short time! The three very significant developments in the last few weeks are:
S&P downgrading Credit Rating of United States from AAA to AA+ and the resultant turmoil in world financial markets;
Central Government’s clueless and immature response to Anna Hazare's movement against corruption;
Dramatic collapse of performance of Indian Cricket Team—from World Champion status to school boys team level.
All were avoidable and self-inflicted; due to complacency, arrogance and politics. But all the developments have shaken the world / country / establishment. It would take quite a while for normalcy to set in.
India was on the path of recovery from the recessionary conditions of 2008-2010, till inflation within the country and multiple scams involving thousands of crores were unearthed. Naturally, an anti-corruption movement is required to cleanse the system, at least to some extent. While corruption is a worldwide problem and existing probably from the time civilization started, it has reached mind boggling and dangerous proportions in our country, which is bound to destroy us if not tackled now. I hope and pray a positive outcome will emerge from the spontaneous, tremendous and voluntary support the Anna Hazare movement has received.
From the beginning of 2011, the mood in the real estate sector was one of optimism, which was expected to turn to bullishness. Unfortunately, due to the macro economic factors plaguing the world, cautiousness has set in. High interest rates have not helped the mood at all. I hope and wish there will not be any worsening of global factors and ratings. Due to the inherent strength of the Indian economy and latent unsatisfied demand of the past 3-4 years, pessimism is unlikely to set in.
Tourism is one industry which can have a far reaching positive impact on any economy and will help in generating employment in the unorganised sector for the uneducated class. Statistics of just Singapore and Hong Kong make startling revelations. Singapore, with its 5 million population (size less than Bangalore), attracts 12.5 million tourists (2.5 times its population). Hong Kong, with its 7 million population, attracts 36 million tourists (5 times its population). Whereas, India, with 1.2 billion population, gets only 5 million tourists, i.e., a dismal 0.05%. China gets 56 million tourists and earns USD 185 billion a year (about the same as the entire annual export earnings of India). India has the potential to earn at least USD 100 billion (if not more) in a year, provided proper strategic actions are taken by the Central and State Governments to improve infrastructure and tourist friendliness. India has many, many more tourist sites than China.
I am delighted to mention that Brigade has received 3 important awards in the last 4 months:
‘Economic Times’, in association with ‘Great Places to Work Institute’, rated Brigade Group as the 2nd best company to work for in the Real Estate Sector, and also as 88 among all companies in the country.
‘CNBCAwaaz–CRISIL–CREDAI’ selected our Integrated Township Project, Brigade Metropolis on Whitefield Road, as the Best Residential Project 2010 in South India.
‘Construction World’ rated us amongst the Top 10 Builders in the country for the 5th consecutive time, in a perception survey in which developers, financial institutions, architects and vendors, across the country participated.
The festival season has started. I hope it brings cheer to the Indian economy and joy to its citizens.