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.
BY the time this issue reaches its readers, suspense over the Karnataka Assembly Elections will be over. I hope and pray we get a stable government which can give us good governance. The patient and hospitable citizens of Karnataka deserve a government that cares about the development of the State and the welfare of its people. Going by past experience, is this a case of wishful thinking and expecting too much?
The political situation in the Centre is a cause for even greater concern. In another year, if not earlier, the nation will go to the polls to elect a new government. So we are sure to witness all kinds of permutations and combinations amongst the political parties, with the common purpose of unseating the current government. Narendra Modi gives us hope, but it remains to be seen whether internal NDA politics will trouble him more than his competitors. His performance at the India Today Conclave was brilliant.
After allowing the steadily growing economy to slide, our government seems to have woken up from a deep slumber. They are making the right noises and pronouncements. Investors and businessmen would want the feel good factor to come back. Whether it is too little, too late, is the question. International money is fungible. International investors don't have patience or any special love for India. Although India, with its vast population, has tremendous potential, erratic policies of the government can lead to the flight of capital. Political uncertainty for the next one year will certainly not help our cause.
The silver lining for Indian business may come from positive developments elsewhere. With the US economy showing signs of recovery and the worst being over in Europe and Japan, the world economy is more likely to bounce back than slide. The decrease in prices of gold and oil is a definite indicator of better times ahead. How much of a rub off effect it will have on India remains to be seen.
I tend to feel that big brother China has taken undue advantage of our country's political instability. We are left with the impression of being surrounded on all sides by them. On the east, they have control over
two strategic islands in the Bay of Bengal near the Andaman Islands, thanks to Burma. On the west, they plan to build a highway cutting across Pakistan to access the Arabian Sea. On the south, they have entered Sri Lanka. It is extremely important that our government protects the sovereignty of the nation.
2013 should be a better year for Brigade Group; having launched a few projects already and with the imminent launch of several more projects in the Whitefield area. After much effort, we entered the Hyderabad market with the launch of premium apartments—Brigade at No. 7—in the prime Banjara Hills area.
As part of our CSR and neighbourhood improvement initiative, we redeveloped the 3-acre BBMP Park, adjacent to the 17th Cross Malleswaram over-bridge. The newly greened and developed park has been well appreciated by its many users. The 5-acre open space on the other side of the bridge is being developed into a nice playground for multipurpose activities. This will be especially enjoyed by children. Incidentally, while on the subject of children, our Brigade Foundation is amongst the first to have embraced RTE students in all its three schools.
What commitment, determination and innovation can do to urban living is aptly demonstrated by the city Medellin in Colombia, South America. Let us hope against hope that Bangalore will experience a similar reinvention, to make it “a greater city than any other city and a city of the future”, in the words of our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.