Bengaluru: Singapore-based Ascendas-Singbridge Group aims to double its commercial office portfolio in India in the next 4-5 years, besides launching its co-working brand ‘thebridge’, said a top company executive, adding that the investor-developer plans to ramp up and diversify its presence in the country.

In the last 20 years, Ascendas-Singbridge has built 16 million sq. ft of office assets across information technology (IT) parks in six cities in India. Now, it intends to step up the pace and add another 14-15 million sq ft. Currently, it has 2.5 billion Singapore dollars of assets under management (AUM) here. From being a pure commercial office developer, the firm had diversified into logistics and industrial real estate in 2017, when it partnered with Indian industrial real estate firm Firstspace. The venture is also funded by Temasek Holdings.

In a bid to further expand the scope of its business, Ascendas-Singbridge plans to set up co-working spaces under ‘thebridge’ brand, which it had launched in Singapore in 2017. The brand has set up centres in Shanghai and Hangzhou, in China, as well.

“We were the first foreign developer to enter India and spent the first 20 years in building a strong foundation. Now, we are ready to take the leap to the next level in terms of size and profitability of our business, or the offerings we will make, be it setting up data centres or co-working spaces," Vinamra Srivastava, CEO for Ascendas’ India operations, and private funds, said in an interview.

The portfolio expansion will include acquisition of fresh land and greenfield projects, maximising development potential in existing land, as well as acquiring ready assets off the market.

“We are also increasingly entering into forward purchase agreements, where the land owners build the project according to our specifications," Srivastava said.

Ascendas-Singbridge has three main funding vehicles for projects in India: Its balance sheet, private funds and Ascendas India Trust, which is a listed real estate investment trust (REIT) in Singapore. The REIT holds the income-generating stabilised assets.

Co-working or shared working spaces have picked up momentum in the last two years and large office developers, such as Embassy Group and RMZ Corp., have spun off individual businesses.

RMZ set up Cowrks and WeWork in India is backed by Embassy.

“People are still figuring out what’s the right price point, structure to make the co-working business viable. The demand and size of the market is so big, that there is enough for all leading players in India," said Srivastava.

Though the residential business has largely remained unsettled in the last few years, logistics and co-working have emerged as the new favourite developers, attracting even foreign investors to the country.

“Diversification of portfolios, whether logistics or co-working, makes sense if one knows the market well already and has operating teams. Office developers, both global and domestic, are looking for the next round of yield generating assets they want. Co-working is asset light and brings in decent returns and early movers will clearly have an advantage," said Shashank Jain, partner, transaction services, PwC India.

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