Bangalore: International property consultants are introducing new business streams and realigning their focus areas to tap segments they predict will become demand hot spots in India.
CBRE Inc., a top commercial office space service provider headquartered in California, has strengthened its capital markets division and won mandates in India, said Anshuman Magazine, chairman and managing director, CBRE South Asia Pvt. Ltd.
The capital markets team will largely arrange finance for developers and persuade wealthy individuals to invest in real estate, he said.
CBRE also nearly doubled its retail team in the country, with the government widening the scope of foreign direct investment (FDI) in India’s retail sector.
It will also take a closer look at residential and industrial segments as growing areas of business.
Despite subdued sales, the residential segment in India has been a lifesaver for real estate companies, with unfaltering demand for homes—but at affordable prices.
The country’s real estate sector has since last year faced extreme challenges in terms of a slowdown in the office occupier and retail segments, restrained funding, and slow sales, pushing up other demand areas that property consulting firms need to focus on.
Jones Lang LaSalle’s chairman and country head Anuj Puri, in a recent interview, said the Chicago-based property consultancy now has a full-fledged residential segment based out of Mumbai, which does business in large real estate markets such as Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai.
“We have a detailed plan for residential (sector) and will also enter NCR (National Capital Region) and other geographies. However, we are tying up with developers and selling residential stock to corporate employees unlike others, who mostly sell it to investors,” Puri said.
Property analysts said large international consultants thrive on the office space business that bring them most of their revenue. However, demand in this segment slowed 15-20% over last year, recent reports show, and lease rental rates have touched the bottom, though they are showing early signs of a recovery.
Sanjay Dutt, executive managing director, Cushman and Wakefield, South Asia, said international consultants, as intermediaries, have to be ahead of the curve by adding value and making material changes to their clients’ businesses.
The New York-based firm is reviewing the possibility of including asset management in its India portfolio to handle the funds of investors, including institutions and wealthy individuals globally, Dutt said.
The Indian real estate advisory business of Paris-based BNP Paribas Real Estate and Infrastructure Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd, which has so far relied on the office space business largely from global occupiers, is also eyeing land transactions in India.
Managing director Raja Kaushal said a number of corporate developers such as the Tatas, Essar and Mahindra groups are looking to buy land in a bid to expand their real estate portfolios.
“Most of these corporates don’t want to interact with local brokers,” said Kaushal. “With not much business coming in from global occupiers, who constitute the main chunk in the office space sector, many IPCs (international property consultants) are looking at local businesses such as residential and project marketing, which there is demand for.”
Even though the land-buying sentiment of the pre-slowdown years of 2008 is not back, developers are selectively looking to buy project-specific land. Private equity funds, too, are coming forward to co-invest in such transactions.
Rajeev Bairathi, director, DTZ International Property Advisors, said the Los Angeles-headquartered consultancy, too, is building a land team. “We are looking at land transactions for developers with strong balance sheets. While there is no land buying frenzy, there is ample demand for land parcels of 20-50 acres that would cost Rs.50-75 crore,” said Bairathi.
DTZ and BNP, though, will not engage in land aggregation, which is riskier in terms of time and involves the complication of conversion from agricultural to a specific use.