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.
APRIL 21, 2012 was a red letter day for Brigade Group—the day that Orion Mall was completed. What sets this day apart as an especially significant milestone in our history is that it marks not just the completion of the mall, but, more importantly, the completion of an iconic project: Brigade Gateway. Both the enclave as a whole, and the individual components within it—Orion Mall, World Trade Center, Sheraton Hotel, Galaxy Club, The Brigade School, Columbia Asia Hospital—have set new standards in development. Brigade Gateway has set benchmarks for others to follow. The Orion Mall launch event itself was considered by many to be the best product launch ever in Bangalore. This milestone, coupled with shifting of our Corporate Office to WTC @ Brigade Gateway, should be considered a new chapter in the life of the organisation..
Sheraton Bangalore Hotel @ Brigade Gateway received a coveted recognition at the annual HICSA Conference of HVS: as Best New 5 Star Upscale Hotel in South Asia in 2011. What is significant and very satisfying is that our Mercure Homestead Serviced Residences (now Grand Mercure) won a similar award in the Apartment Hotel category in 2009, making both of our hotel properties the 'best in class'.
As they do every year, the Central and State budgets, in the first quarter, bring new taxes and reliefs. While the Karnataka budget was thankfully mild, giving relief by way of reduced Stamp Duties, the same cannot be said about the Central budget. Excise Duties and Service Tax was increased substantially, adding to inflation when the government is talking of reducing it! While 50 basis points interest reduction by RBI is a positive step, it is insufficient to boost the industry and trade sentiment. It is to be hoped that a further reduction in interest rates will be announced soon.
Finance ministry’s flip-flop policies in taxation, particularly with retrospective effect, has sent a scare to foreign investors affecting fresh FDI into the country. Retrograde legislations like GAAR will only make matters worse. The country has to stop the 1-step-forward-and-2-steps-backward approach to development issues.
The mood among industrialists and businessmen continues to be subdued, with not many positive signals or developments seen in the national and international scene. With all the efforts being made by the European leaders, one is not sure whether the debt crisis bothering Europe (and, in turn, the world) is over.
The power crises in the mid-90s prompted both central and state governments to launch many power sector projects, which helped improve the situation over the past ten years. Then complacency set in and most states are back to a power-starved situation. Power sector policy paralysis has only worsened the outlook for relief in the near term, which is bound to have an adverse effect on GDP growth. The not-so-encouraging monsoon prediction will be a matter of concern to all.
A study by the National Housing Bank, published in Times of India on 21 April, says that real estate prices in Namma Bengaluru have been one of the slowest to rise during the last five years, in comparison to other cities. For the most part, Bangalore rates have remained at what they were in 2007. This should make buyers act fast in making their investment decisions, which, in turn, will bring some cheer to the developers.