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.
I must say, our Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi has managed to put India in the centre stage of global politics. Through his deft handling and statesmanship, he has enhanced both his own image and that of the country. His address to the NRI community at Madison Square Gardens in New York, and also in Australia, is nothing short of a rock star performance. The BJP’s performance in the Maharashtra assembly elections is another remarkable feat. It is no wonder that Time magazine has rated him amongst the world’s top personalities in 2014. We all need to wish him well. The hopes of a billion plus people for a better life and better country rests on Narendra Modi and his team..
ON the economic front, while the mood of business and industry is positive, this positive effect is unfortunately not felt at the ground level. Our GDP growth rate, for instance, is yet to improve. It is believed that the many structural changes that are being effected will, in time, give results. Since it is only seven months since the new government took over, one should give the situation the benefit of doubt. But if the economy does not start showing signs of growth by the time the central budget is presented in February 2015, citizens are bound to express disappointment. The BJP government is lucky that our country is the beneficiary of a 40% drop in the international price of oil. It remains to be seen how the huge savings in our import bill will be utilised for the development of the country. It is to be hoped that it will not go towards importing unproductive gold!
EVEN when the economic activity in a huge country like India is not strong, cement manufacturers have managed to cartelise and increase the price of cement by over 50% during the last few months. This is bound to adversely affect construction cost and will lead to increased real estate prices over a period of time. They will make hay while the sun shines (in other words, before the government's Competition Commission can act or react).
THE timely completion of the 256-apartment Aspen block, in the Brigade Orchards integrated smart township in Devanahalli, by our in-house precast construction team, is a creditable achievement. Brigade Group may be the only developer in the country, so far, to have an in-house precast plant. We are pleased to say that construction work at various Brigade Group projects is progressing well (though there have been a few hiccups in some cases). The coming year should see the completion of quite a few of our residential, office, retail and hotel projects.
SOME more breaking news from Brigade Group: We will be making our maiden entry into Gujarat State with residential and commercial projects in the well-conceived and planned GIFT City—probably the first Smart City to come up in the country, as per the vision of our Prime Minister. As part of our customer-friendly initiatives, we have launched a customer portal and an online booking Platform, complete with payment gateway.
IT is highly creditable that Brigade Hospitality's HIGH Ultra Lounge, on the rooftop of WTC Bangalore, has won the Times Food Award as the Best Lounge Bar in Bangalore in its very first year of operations.
IN a moving ceremony, family members of the legendary musician, Bharat Ratna Pandit Bismillah Khan, donated his priceless shehnai to the Centre for Indian Music Experience, which is supported by Brigade Group, among others.
OUR CSR activity to rejuvenate Sitarampalya Lake in Whitefield is showing excellent results. But it is a major challenge to stop the inflow of sewage. Cooperation from the civic authorities and neighbourhood buildings is sadly lacking.
THE time to exchange greetings, enjoy holidays and celebrate family togetherness is just around the corner. I end with warm wishes for a joyous Christmas and New Year to all; may 2015 bring cheer and peace to our lives.