The Year 2022 started on a high note for the real estate industry as major excitement has been witnessed on both sides of developers and buyers. The pandemic recovery is enhancing buyers’ affordability day by day as their finances are recovering. The industry will continue to benefit from a regime of current low-interest rates, coupled with the infrastructural initiatives taken by the government, says Vivek Singhal, CEO, Smartworld Developers.
In an exclusive interview with Sanjeev Sinha, Mr Singhal talks about the latest trends in the realty market and shares his business outlook. Excerpts:
Premium housing has witnessed a surge in demand in recent months. What according to you are the major factors driving this growth? Do you think the demand will persist in the future too?
The earning capacity of people is increasing, and with the world getting more globalized, people are also becoming more aware and giving importance to indulgences in life. Post the pandemic, the high income group of aspiring millennials now believes in owning their real estate rather than renting it. With increasing purchasing power and high disposable incomes, millennials became firm believers in owning and investing in real estate. The generation that supposedly didn’t want to buy things now accounts for over half of all home-purchase loan applications; economists only expect them to bolster demand for years. They prefer to enjoy the comforts of social living space with common facilities like bustling clubhouses, pool decks, gymnasiums, fitness studios, libraries, community halls, and sports complexes. This has led to increased demand for premium housing and will be a strong growth driver in the years to come.
Moreover, the existing demand for the premium segment substantially emanates from the HNI and NRI segment, which is immune to factors such as interest rate hikes etc. The pandemic also witnessed maximum demand from this faction, many of whom have purchased properties solely from the investment perspective. Also, with the dollar-INR difference growing, the interest from HNIs and NRIs will further see an advancement in investment in premium living.
Why are buyers preferring low-rise apartments these days? What has been the demand till now and which segment of buyers is preferring it?
In India, demand for independent floors is primarily fueled by a few key factors. The first one is rising land prices. Independent floors are becoming increasingly popular among buyers since they provide plenty of room for personal privacy and allow residents to live close to their loved ones while still living in the same building. Many opt to own two or more floors on the same plot for themselves and their close family members.
Another factor contributing to the favour of independent floors these assets is that they have lesser turnaround times in terms of construction. Today’s discerning consumers looking for a community of like-minded people are attracted to independent floors that offer more space and are less dense.
Additionally, since the pandemic, homebuyers’ preferences and choices have completely transformed. People are looking for work-from-home spaces, wide-open spaces, entertainment zones, lush greenery, gym, separate reading rooms, CCTV, large balconies, and outdoor sports facilities, among other amenities.
Additionally, independent floors are located in gated communities with first-class amenities, allowing workers to achieve the perfect work/life balance. Generations of families can live together comfortably in this type of housing style without sacrificing privacy, providing a hassle-free and old-world charm to living as a joint family.
Two of your inaugural projects — Smartworld Gems & Smartworld Orchard — have clocked sales worth Rs 4000 cr. What was the reason for this success and what are your expectations for Q2 2022?
Envisioned to be the future of real estate in India, Smartworld introduced to Gurugram a unique concept of living in 2021. Smartworld Orchard and Smartworld Gems were conceptualized to cater to the immediate demand of low rise, low-density homes that deliver a maximum value proposition in terms of price, location, amenities and lifestyle that today’s millennials seek.
Post Covid, buyers were looking for spaces that can accommodate offices and study rooms for kids for a perfect balance. With this unique concept of Luxury of a condo and Independence of a floor with a special My space, both the projects have been runaway hits.
Our projects have been curated by keeping in mind the needs and requirements of the aspirational millennial homebuyers. These projects comprise low-rise homes in a self-sustained gated condominium where buyers can enjoy the privacy of an independent floor combined with the safety, security, and modern amenities of a high-rise condominium.
Smartworld registered remarkable growth in the first year of its inception; Smartworld Developers, a debutant real estate company, has reported record sales worth INR 4000 cr in the FY 2021-22. The sales in Q4 FY22 were around INR 1200 cr.
What are your plans for the Gurugram market for the year 2022? What do you think will be the biggest trend this year?
The Year 2022 started on a high note for the real estate industry as major excitement has been witnessed on both sides of developers and buyers. The pandemic recovery is enhancing buyers’ affordability day by day as their finances are recovering. In addition, the industry will continue to benefit from a regime of current low-interest rates, coupled with the infrastructural initiative taken by the government. We expect the capital value of apartments across key metros to appreciate anything between 5% and 12%, owing to the increase in the input cost of key materials like cement, steel and other critical raw materials.
Smartworld is looking at launching 3 new projects in Gurugram this year, with about 77 acres of the project area and 10 mn sq ft of saleable area with construction outlay of more than 3800 cr plus and revenue projection of appx Rs 10000 crore.
How are Smartworld Developers incorporating technology into their projects?
Smartworld envisages transforming the real estate scenario and setting industry benchmarks through innovative design, advanced technology, expedited project delivery and superior customer service.
Technical Disruption brings about a fundamental change to the value proposition of a business through the adoption of contemporary digital technologies, business models or methods. The real estate industry needs to continuously adopt emerging tech disruptions to harness asset utilization efficiencies, greater cost savings, improved sustainability, automation and overall higher profitability throughout the real estate lifecycle.
At Smartworld, disruptions are cherished on all fronts; some of our notable initiatives are:
Construction Progress monitoring – Drone-enabled construction and quality progress monitoring system, first of its kind in the real estate industry.
SAP S/4 Hana ERP – We are using Finance, Procurement, Materials Management, and Project Systems as part of our Enterprise Resource Planning System. We use SAP as an integrated system to manage all project resources, budgets, Materials, and procurement through our ERP system.
Customer Relations – We have a dedicated CRM application to manage customer requests, queries and responses. We use our CRM system for Analytics purposes also.
With the current hike in home loan interest rates, how do you predict the demand to unfold among home buyers?
The rising interest rates and increasing property prices definitely put pressure on a home’s affordability, especially in the low-income segment. However, government interest subvention schemes provide an offset to this.
The good thing is that the Indian economy has shown signs of resilience despite the gloom in a global economy. The steady income growth will continue to support homebuyers and ensure a strong housing sales momentum in the near term.
Both Business and Real Estate cycles are now entering an upward trend, and we advise homebuyers to take advantage of this upward trend.
Define Smartworld’s presence online and how are sales influenced via the same?
Real estate is considered a brick-and-mortar business in India. However, the industry is rapidly accepting technology and the internet to create a more efficient and enhanced ecosystem. At Smartworld, technology and efficiency are two key drivers of our brand. Following are some initiatives taken by the brand:
* Being an organization driven by consumer insight, we have used the power of the internet to collect insight from the target audience. Digital surveys were conducted using Mailchimp, google surveys and social media polls to collect consumer insight and do a need gap analysis.
* From using high-quality videos to optimizing search engines to using social media as a brand, we have ensured optimum usage of all digital channels. Our Linked In Channel is one of the fastest-growing real estate channels, led by some robust employer branding initiatives.
* In real estate experience, location and price are key deciding factors. VR has been around for some time; however, the quality and flow of content has significantly improved over time. Our VRs have integrated query mechanisms that help offer an immersive experience to our consumers and drive lead generation. Additionally, we have deployed Chatbots to ensure 24×7 assistance to our target audience and retain the buyer’s attention, thereby increasing the probability of making a sale.
* Our dedicated CRM mobile application ensures that our consumers receive a timely update on their residential unit, documentation and construction status.
What, according to you, is the reason behind the growing NRI investment in Indian real estate? Do you see Gurugram as their preferred location?
NRI investment in Indian real estate has seen a promising trend. It amounted to $13.1 billion last year and is expected to grow by 12% this year, according to a report by 360 Realtors.
Due to the rapid growth of NCR residential projects and its fast-paced life, NRI investors are increasingly flocking to the region. In addition, Delhi NCR is a one-stop destination for business, so owning a home in the region has many benefits for NRIs.
Gurugram has always been a preferred investment destination for NRIs. Factors like proximity to Indira Gandhi International Airport, robust infrastructure, good connectivity and futuristic ecosystem have allowed several Fortune 500 global companies to be present in the city.
Furthermore, Gurugram offers some of the best international schools, hospitals, financial institutions, and retail spaces, making it a preferred destination for NRIs and ex-pats.