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 last few months have been event-filled and eventful at Brigade Group. In June, we successfully bid for a prime property of Hindustan Unilever and have taken private equity, for the first time, from the very reputed and huge sovereign fund of Government of Singapore (GIC). July saw the successful launch of Value+ Homes at Brigade Orchards, Devanahalli. To name a few more of the many significant events that took place in this period: we opened a representative office in Silicon Valley, through a tie up with Legion Real Estate; Orion Mall went into top gear with events; and another round of successful property exhibitions—Brigade Showcases—were held across India and abroad.
CREDAI, the industry body, recognising Brigade Gateway as the Best Integrated Township and WTC as The Best Commercial Office Space in the country is the icing on the cake. I thank the leading industry magazine,Construction World, for their editorial decision to bring out a special supplement on Brigade Gateway. When the editors visited Brigade Gateway, they were so impressed with the project that they took an instantaneous decision to feature it in a supplement!
IT feels good to get the recognition of Great Place to Work Institute for the second year in a row. Our standing has improved. On the subject of Brigadiers, I am amazed at the wealth of cultural talent in Brigade Group, which was wonderfully evidenced in the Annual Culture Fest.
PEOPLE in the know say that most western economies—the USA and Europe—are recovering. The gloom and doom of last couple of years should soon be over. But unfortunately, our country and state are continuing to witness political chaos and rudderless governance. With a billion-plus population and huge internal market, there was no need for India to be in this position after many years of 8%+ growth. It is a self-inflicted injury; the result of carelessness, complacency and lack of vision and thought for the future. I heard in a talk given by Singapore's Urban Development Minister last year at the CREDAI Annual Convention that after their Independence in 1965, the vision of the Singapore government was to make Singapore like our Calcutta! (Yes, one may feel it difficult to believe this!) Singapore’s current situation shows what one can achieve with proper vision and a desire to do good for the country.
As if adding insult to injury, many parts of Karnataka are facing drought. The weather pattern across the globe seems to have drastically changed, making meteorological predictions that much more difficult. Care for the environment should be the top agenda for any city, state or country.
THE demand for housing continues to be healthy, but is becoming more segmented. Still, there is a crisis of confidence in the way the economy will shape up in the months ahead. Top level changes in the finance ministry at the centre are expected to bring some cheer, after all the policy damage created in the last one year.
THE festival season has begun. It gives reason for people to forget the tough realities of life and celebrate with their near and dear ones. We wish you the very best for the festival season.