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.
Much has happened since the publication of the last issue of Brigade Insight - Indian economy has become stronger with the positive impact of GST taking shape, slowly but surely; Stock indices have zoomed with Sensex touching 38,000; BJP was not able to form the government in Karnataka in spite of being the party to win the largest number of seats; Passing away of the doyen of Tamil Nadu politics Sri Karunanidhi; Brigade launching a flurry of projects et al.
Unfortunately, the international scene is quite uncertain with Oil prices going up and the unpredictable approach of the US President resulting in a trade war between the United States & China, the world's two largest economies. This has brought in a lot of uncertainty to the external macro environment though, the United States economy, which contributes more than 25% to the world's GDP, is doing well. The resultant impact on our currency is negative as the Indian Rupee has weakened by 7% and will affect the country's balance of payments.
Though the Indian manufacturing sector is showing good order books, companies are declaring better financial results and though the Monsoon is by & large good, there is a certain amount of anxiety amongst trade and industry due to interest rates beginning to go up, apart from the uncertainty of impending parliamentary elections in early 2019.
After three years of a recessionary trend in real estate, the sector seems to be on the recovery path. With not many new project launches during the last two years, unsold numbers have come down and prices have stabilised. With the implementation of RERA, much-needed customer confidence and positive sentiment are returning back. The Central government is doing its bit by increasing the thrust on infrastructure improvement. The spoilsport can be rising home loan interest rates.
In this background, Brigade has launched a number of new projects and is gearing up to launch several more in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad & Mysuru. With ‘Parkside' as the brand for ‘Independent Living for Seniors', we are offering well thought out residences in all four directions of Bangalore. We are back to offering Ownership Offices for investment, lease or for own use. In fact, the first three projects of Brigade in the late 80s & the early 90s were all commercial projects. We have also started the concept of ‘Managed Residences' in our villa projects in Devanahalli - Brigade Atmosphere & Brigade Orchards. With ‘Ease of Occupation' for the customer in mind, we have introduced ‘Brigade Plus' initiative offering a host of conveniences. With the launch of ‘One Brigade App', our customers can avail a number of benefits.
With the commencement of the festival season, business & investor sentiments will improve. I seek the continued goodwill and patronage of our customers.