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.
OUR country is experiencing a crisis of confidence. The sudden and sharp depreciation in the value of the rupee has caught the political establishment and the corporate world off guard. Why has this happened? To put it simply, it is because of complacency, deficiency in governance and a series of scams of very high proportion. When India was Shining with 9% GDP growth, the governing fraternity thought India was moving towards super power status and took the liberty of making a series of bad decisions and introducing socialistic schemes, which India could ill afford. With BRIC countries’ steady growth in the past few years, it was felt that the United States’ influence over the world had reduced. But the USA has once again proved that ‘if it sneezes, the world still catches a cold’ (this time by way of 'Quantitative Easing’). For India to get out of this mess, it is essential to focus on strengthening its economic fundamentals rather than trying to depend on FII hot money.
However sound the intentions behind socialistic schemes like NREGA, RTE and the Food Security Bill may be, they are bound to adversely impact our country’s current account deficit—primarily because of our record of very poor delivery and execution, resulting in huge leakages. As a developing country, we are not in a position to fritter away lakhs of crores of rupees. If the same amount is spent, year after year, on employment generation projects rather than doles, it would help in self-sustenance of the poor. The old proverb of 'teaching a man to fish, rather than feeding him fish' is what needs to be done. The deadly combination of socialistic schemes of the central and state governments will have a huge negative effect on the availability and productivity of labour willing to work, in spite of our having a population of 1.23 billion.
If the government continues to act on the basis of political expediency and the 2014 parliamentary elections, the only thing left for citizens is to pray for the economy to stabilise on its own and to also pray for a stable central government to be elected in 2014. Luckily, the people of Karnataka have got a stable government after many years of instability.
In an otherwise precarious situation, a silver lining may be that Indian exports will become substantially more competitive and may result in exports exceeding imports, leading to current account surplus.
Even at this stage, it is heartening to know that international investors still think the long term India story is good, due to its population and resultant demand, and the possibility of graduating from a developing country to a developed country.
One needs to have hope. To quote Barack Obama, “Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty …. A belief that there are better days ahead.” Based on this hope, we in Brigade Group will continue to plan to start more projects in the cities in which we operate. The two recent launches—Brigade Golden Triangle on Old Madras Road and Brigade LakeFront in Whitefield—were well received. More launches are planned in Bangalore and Mysore in the next few weeks, and in Chennai in the new year.
It is a nice feeling to find ourselves, for the third year in a row, to be amongst the Best Employers in the country. Economic Times and Great Place to Work Institute has rated Brigade Group as number 2 in the real estate sector and number 52 amongst all industries surveyed. Our ranking has consistently improved year after year. I sincerely thank the entire staff of Brigade Group for this coveted honour.
After redeveloping the 3-acre Sangolli Rayanna Park in Malleswaram, another of our major CSR initiatives was completed recently. This was the development of the city authority's 5-acre land in Malleswaram West into a well-planned playground for track & field and other sports. The playground is aptly named after the founder of Bangalore, Kempegowda.
The year 2013 marks the 150th birth anniversary of the noble soul Swami Vivekananda. It is important to recollect his words of wisdom in this strife torn world. In my opinion, only good economic development can steer us away from political unrest of the kind Egypt, Pakistan and Syria are experiencing. This issue of Brigade Insight is dedicated to Swami Vivekananda.
Lastly, as major festivals—Ganesh Chaturti, Dussera and Diwali—approach, it is time to celebrate and pray for a happier tomorrow.