Half of calendar year 2023 is over. Unfortunately, there isn’t much ‘feel good’ news in the world, except in India, Middle East & few countries in Southeast Asia.
The mindless war between Russia & Ukraine continues. Other than helping clear the stockpile of weapons in few western economies & securing billions of dollars of fresh orders for manufacture of weapons, it has only resulted in destroying large areas in Ukraine & displacing millions of its citizens. The war resulted in much of Europe to go into recession. From a unipolar world with United States ruling the roost since the disintegration of USSR during 1991-92, the world is getting back to a bipolar world with the 2nd largest economy of the world, the communist China supporting Russia.
While politically the world has become bipolar again, economically countries have become more interdependent than ever before due to globalisation & WTO policies. This is posing a huge challenge to different economies, particularly to the United States and to the countries in Europe.
The Indian Government has played its cards smartly. Our country is beginning to see the benefit of China+1 strategy of the developed economies, not only for sourcing their product requirements, but also because they see India as a good investment destination. This has greatly helped the Indian economy to become resilient and not be affected so far by the war in Ukraine. The best indicator is the stupendous increase in Sensex & Nifty indices and Indian foreign exchange reserves crossing US$ 600 billion again. Many senior bankers feel that for the 1st time after many many years, all sectors of business are doing well. One can only hope this good show sustains for a longer time thereby helping Indian GDP reach US$ 5 trillion, sooner than later. The spoil sport can be poor monsoon, interest rate increase and unexpected events like political turmoil.
The ruling party at the centre got the shock of its life by badly losing State Elections in Karnataka. The smart electorate of Karnataka has punished the unexpected poor performance of the previous Government, apart from succumbing to the lure of multiple freebies offered by the winning party. While this has invigorated the opposition parties against the ruling party at the centre, it has also made the 2024 parliamentary elections more unpredictable. Anything can happen. What India requires is political stability and retaining its position in the world order & the goodwill generated during the past few years. What all this means to the business is the question? Uncertainty to a great extent. One never knows when the current positive sentiments will start turning negative, though there is absolutely no indication at present.
The Residential Real Estate sector is continuing to grow in a healthy way. Financial year 2023 is the best so far for the sector. The WFH/ A (work from home/ anywhere) culture continuing in a big way in USA & Europe has created millions of square feet of vacant office space in those countries, which has resulted in cautious approach by Indian & MNC companies in the tech sector to sign up new office space. Most experts feel this could be a cyclical and temporary phenomena. The good news is many MNC companies are increasing the size of their GCCs (Global Capability Centres) in India as a way to cut costs by offshoring work thereby helping to retain/ improve their profitability. This is the saving grace for the Indian Office Real Estate sector. The data localisation policy of the Indian Government has also resulted in increased demand for Data Centres. So also, the growing organised retail business has increased the demand for Fulfilment Centres/ Warehouses.
In such a macro environment, Brigade is trying to play its cards well but carefully. We have made headway in increasing our presence in Chennai significantly. We are trying to do the same in the highly competitive real estate market of Hyderabad.
While a number of new launches are slated in this financial year, obtaining civic authorities approvals is becoming more challenging than ever before, for a variety of reasons. By adhering to the multiple rules, administrative procedures and after overcoming red tape, if one succeeds in real estate business in India, they deserve to receive accolades and a pat on their back.
Rightly, the new Congress Government in Karnataka is talking of ‘Brand Bengaluru’ – to improve the image of the city which has taken a beating due to severe traffic congestion, insufficient infrastructure planning & implementation. Bengaluru deserves much better treatment by the State Govt.
Bengaluru, which contributes more than 50% of the tax revenue of the State; should receive similar share in the expenditure budget of the State to improve its infrastructure. Bengaluru is not just a city of Karnataka, it is now a Global City, known for innovation and home to 100s of MNCs.
Hyderabad with its superior infrastructure is already breathing down Bengaluru‘s neck and sure to overtake Bengaluru as an attractive investment destination, if the Karnataka Government continues to be complacent.
The advent of ChatGPT & AI (Artificial Intelligence) into our lives, slowly but surely, will have a profound effect, not fathomed by us so far. It will become a necessary evil in the years ahead. While there would be demand for people with new skills, it may also lead to thousands of job losses. So, it is very important for people and businesses to gear up the skills to keep pace with the ever changing technological advancements.
The festival season is approaching. My warm season's greeting to all our readers.
—Jaishankar CMD, Brigade.
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.