As India’s real estate sector continues to feel the impact of the ongoing pandemic, green shoots of housing demand are already visible. Global companies hit a pause to expand workspaces, it may take some time for the commercial office sector to fully recover. However, low-interest rates, pressure on property prices and need for homes may see the sector inching towards a gradual recovery.
To know more about the key issues faced by the real estate sector amidst a pandemic, we will talk to experts Abhishek Lodha, MD and CEO, Lodha Group; Vivek Singhal, CEO, M3M; Juggy Marwaha, CEO, Prestige Office Ventures; Rajeev Talwar, CEO, DLF Ltd and Chairman, Naredco and Karan Virwani, CEO, WeWork India.
Future of co-working space
“We want to partner a lot more with landlords as landlords have also started to realize how relevant the need for flexibility is for their tenant. They need a small incubation space for growth before moving into a consolidated space. That’s the kind of demand where these companies coming up in the next two or three years need an immediate space right now and don’t want to sign a long term lease," said Karan Virwani, CEO, WeWork India.
India's growth story is still intact
"Commercial realty is right now the shining star of India, primarily because the growth story of India is still very intact. India is still the cheapest outsourcing destination in the world. India has the highest skill labour with regard to the arbitrage of the cost and a huge population of about 2.5 million people who keep pumping capital in the country together," said Juggy Marwaha, CEO, Prestige Office Ventures
Credibility is Key in Real Estate
“Things started changing after RERA was implemented. Prior to RERA there was no obligation on the developers to deliver on time, to deliver a quality product so there were many challenges customers were facing. Credibility is key. People who have credibility have flourished and people who didn’t have credibility have vanished and that’s the hard reality of the real estate today," said Mr Vivek Singhal, CEO, M3M
Global and Indian housing market
“There has been an upsurge in sentiments towards housing across the globe. The US is having its strongest ever housing sales, you’re getting very strong housing numbers out of China, the UK housing prices are at an all-time high. Similarly, in Indian cities definitely in Mumbai and I also understand in Banglore, you’re seeing a lot of demand for good quality housing especially for one that is ready," said Abhishek Lodha, MD and CEO, Lodha Group.
We are too young a nation to use the word perish
We are too young a nation to say Perish or use the word perish. We’ve had every advantage. We’ve had some path-breaking reforms in the past six years and even before so there is no reason to say that an economy that is moving towards a $5-$10-$15 trillion will in any manner not flourish, said Rajeev Talwar, CEO, DLF Ltd and Chairman, Naredco
Cloud adoption has gone up significantly: Sumeet Pathak
"The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of cloud technology," says Sumeet Pathak, Digital Workforce Evangelist, IMEA, Automation Anywhere. "The adoption of cloud services, which is resilient, will help companies to undertake more and more digital transformational initiatives," he added.
Expect strong flows into emerging markets: Andrew Holland
"The countries that have managed to put the virus on check are showing V-shaped recovery. I expect strong flows into emerging markets. The long term theme is that money will come into Asia. India has more than 300 million millennials. And you know where the growth is coming from," says Andrew Holland, CEO, Avendus Capital Alternate Strategies
Operating efficiencies have improved: Kalpen Parekh
"Companies have cut down on costs and there are seeing margin improvement despite slower revenue growth due to lockdown. Good business will sustain as operating efficiencies have improved," says Kalpen Parekh
President, DSP Investment Managers.
People have learnt to live with covid and this is reflected in market: Nischal Maheswari, CEO, Institutional Equities, Centrum Broking
"We have to watch out for the demand situation post the festive season'
We have come a long way off from the situation in April. But still there is a lot of uncertainty. People have learnt to live with covid and this is reflected in markets," said Nischal Maheswari, CEO, Institutional Equities, Centrum Broking
Way ahead for markets
"The biggest learning from the way stock market has bounced back is never be over-optimistic or never panic", adds Karwa.
Digital has helped improve efficiency: MD, Emkay Global Financial Services
‘Digital has helped improve efficiency. The whole dynamics of running a business has changed. The learnings will also help post-covid,' Krishna Kumar Karwa, MD, Emkay Global Financial Services
Indian companies can benefit from China plus one strategy: Aditi Kare Panandikar
“Many US companies are adopting a 'China Plus One' strategy as they shift away from an over-reliance on a single country. This opens a new opportunity for Indian companies to be part of the supply-chain of US companies," said Aditi Kare Panandikar, MD, Indoco Remedies.
Indian manufacturing can hugely benefit from new digital technologies: Rajkumar Ravuri
“India has been one of the biggest talent pools. Manufacturing sector in India can immensely benefit from new technologies like AI, IOT robotics and digitalization," said Rajkumar Ravuri, director, Industry Strategy - Manufacturing, Salesforce.
Digital can be a game changer: Deepak Shetty
“New technologies like robotics and digitalisation can be a game-changer for Indian manufacturing," said Deepak Shetty, Deputy CEO, JCB India. The digital infra structure companies create will not only help them during the times of pandemic but also in the future, he added.
It has been remarkable turnaround: JCB India
“We have come back very strongly since the lockdown. The way our suppliers have come back is phenomenal. It has been a remarkable turnaround," said Deepak Shetty, deputy CEO, JCB India, adding that the company has seen a revival in sales of construction equipment over the past three months.
We are seeing a U shaped recovery: Bombay Dyeing
“Demand and production has been picking up. But it is not back to normal. We are seeing a U shaped recovery," Suresh Khurana, CEO - Polyester, The Bombay Dyeing & Mfg. Co.
Changes in the regulatory environment for fintech
“Regulatory framework is the engine that drives FinTech. On the demand side, the two key elements from a regulatory perspective are KYC and data protection. KYC has been a battle that Fintech has been dealing with after the Supreme Court Aadhaar decision which withdrew e-KYC and that hugely changed the dynamic of on-boarding new customers," said Shilpa Mankar Ahluwalia, partner (FinTech), Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas
How has covid-19 impacted business plans of Fintech companies
“For this industry, more than a challenge it is about having people take cues figuring out those small white spaces or gaps and bridging them to ensure people are starting to make those transactions," said Srinivas Nidugondi, Sr. VP & COO, Mobile Financial Solutions at Comviva
Future of monetisation
“Consumers are modifying their in-store behaviour now that they are coming out of lockdown across the region including in India. That’s where we see trends like contactless growing significantly as a preferred method of payment," said Tobias Puehse, Vice President, Head of Innovation & Customer Solutions, Asia Pacific, Mastercard
Initial impact of Covid
“Demonetisation and Covid, both have been accelerants in terms of new users adopting digital payments for the first time. With the first lockdown, we saw a very large spike in organic consumer adoption," said Sameer Nigam, founder and CEO, PhonePe
New Education Policy in focus
"NEP is about changing the way the students would learn and developing skills for future in all aspects of education. For this, there are three important pillars to focus on. One is to provide scalable platform, second would be for getting internet access and affordable pricing for teachers and students. The third pillar would be content. For that, vocational skills as well as social media platforms like Youtube as a platform for leaning, coding, project-based learning etc is also important," said Bani Paintal Dhawan, Head of Education, India & South Asia, Google Cloud India.
Covid has accelerated the milestones for us: GlobalShala CEO
"Covid has accelerated the milestones for us. We aim to become global and serve global students by upskilling workshops for educators for skill-building at a global level by the end of this year. However, because of the pandemic, our business has significantly gone up and we are able to reach out to students for more than 108 countries till date. We are launching workshops for educators worldwide as well," said Anushika Jain, Founder and CEO, GlobalShala.
Reassessing business models in education sector
"The kind of changes in skills for the working professional that we were expecting in a five-six years' period has happened in just five-six months' time due to the pandemic. Some of this is driven by free courses available online and some by the need for digital and data skills by most of the companies during this time," said Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India & APAC, Coursera.
Digital and data skills
"Businesses are massively investing in digital and data skills. Most companies do not have those skills. That's where a lot of the education is being focussed on," said Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India & APAC, Coursera.
Has the pandemic accelerated growth?
"It has been a brilliant time for ed-tech and education in general. The whole online boom during the pandemic where we need student-centred learning model is fabulous and great for the education sector. We need to make sure that we are investing in equity and access across the board," said Bani Paintal Dhawan, Head of Education, India & South Asia.
Challenges in Ed-Tech due to Covid-19
There are three big changes post-Covid outbreak in the education sector, points out Sarvesh Kanodia, Principal, Investments, Omidyar Network India. "One is investing and business modelling in order to get to know the team better in evaluation process in an online context. The other is the business model itself which is largely online and Ed-tech is a good example of that. The third being portfolio management, which has impacted several sectors and businesses due to the pandemic," Kanodia said.
AI’s role in drug discovery:
"AI plays a big role in drug discovery. Foundational to using AI is adopting automation. If you have a person entering data from one place to the other and then that data is being run through machine learning algorithm to predict XYZ. You have lost the purpose of using technology. In the pharmaceutical industry automation and AI can not only be used in drug discovery but also in clinical trials, monitoring supply chain and more. All this can be automated and then humans can really concentrate on ensuring that the time to market for the drug can be accelerated," said Swapna Bapat, Senior Director, Sales Engineering, Automation Anywhere
Impact on digital health ecosystem
“What happened pre-covid was that for a lot of people or for a bunch of the ecosystem digital health was on the periphery, it was a good to have, it was a service for convenience and cost benefit but not necessarily mainstream and that structurally changed with Covid," said Prashant Tandon, 1mg Founder and CEO.
What got us through tough times?
It's been stressful but it has been very exciting and at the end it is the spirit of humanity and the spirit of people working with their heart that’s truly come on top for me in this entire pandemic," said Umang Vohra, Cipla MD & global CEO.
Overcoming operational disruption
"What this taught us really was, two words come to mind, one was uncertainty and how to deal with that and the second was constant evolution," Anil Vinayak, Group Chief Operating Officer, Fortis Healthcare
A new playbook for humanity
“One of the important aspects of this entire scenario is that we are beginning to realize that healthcare is not just the responsibility of the hospital, or the doctor, or the government but it is the society as a whole," said Dr Sangeeta Reddy, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd joint MD.
“I always believed that when the water goes down, the ones that are swimming naked will be found naked. But the water is not going to go down. Most companies that are operating in the long term also want to deliver in the short term. These companies also want a correction. We think the glut of capital is so huge that companies that do not deliver in 5 or 7 years are still able to raise a huge amount of capital. That is what bothers me and people like me," said Yashish Dahiya, CEO & Co-Founder, PolicyBazaar.com.
What consumers want
"In the B2C segment as well, it is actually a good time to build an intimate relationship with the customer. There will be some depression or compression in the spending but what that actually translates to is that I as a customer will become much more specific about the right platform or company that I want to spend my money on," said Navneet Chahal, Partner at Bain & Company.
The new normal for startups
“Two big shifts that we are observing when we are talking to our customer base is while the past we had a weekly or bi-monthly connect with the customers, of late the frequency of connect has gone up, sometimes even once a day. It is almost as if we are walking the shoes of our customers," said Shanthi Padmanabhan VP, Customer Success, Salesforce India
Opportunities in a crisis
"It is a really difficult process but a lot of businesses have corrected their cost structures and have come out leaner, meaner and better, which I think is a great way to come out of this crisis. You are going to have much more sustainable companies come through the other side," said GV Ravishankar, MD, Sequoia Capital India.
The road to recovery
"On the payments front travel and food will have a slow comeback but thankfully our business is diversified in 5-6 large areas. We expect our revenue to recover to pre-covid levels by at least October. We have seen an increase in in-store payments as well, as people in stores don’t want to give their cards to be used on POS machines," Upasana Taku, Co-founder & COO, MobiKwik.
Survival strategy of startups
"This business has gone thorough all roller coasters possible. Almost all of our 500 cities were shut and later 200 were allowed to open. We had to play the game one day at a time. We basically delivered anything that was allowed and we had to onboard Kirana guys virtually," said Vivek Sunder, COO, Swiggy.
Insurance sector surge in claims
“Life Insurance is a bit luckier than health insurance because it is about life. While the instances are very high, you must understand that a large part of our customers are younger in age so we are better handling that. We haven’t as an industry seen a surge in claims," said Prashant Tripathy, MD and CEO, Max Life Insurance Co. Ltd.
Changes in what the customer wants
"In the beginning of the year, any discussion regarding health insurance people were concerned with the cost of what they were paying out of pocket, the complexity of the insurance product, claim related issues. Now, the priorities have completely changed. Consumers are concerned about job loss, recession and they are concerned about coverage, therefore," said Prasun Sikdar Managing Director and CEO ManipalCigna Health Insurance.
Role of Digital in this journey
"Digital was anyway a way to look into the future and the past. Consumers would want different products and services and different ways of consuming services. Health insurance in India, traditionally was that a person gets hospitalized and then gets paid. A customer who doesn't need to rush to a hospital, he/she is avoiding that but that doesn't mean that the person doesn't need treatment. In such cases we have introduced home care. We tied up with partners to provide it on a cashless basis," said Bhargav Dasgupta, MD and CEO, ICICI LOMBARD General Insurance Co. Ltd.
Immediate challenges after lockdown
"It was immediate with some of our stakeholders starting from our employees. Ring-fencing them was the first thing that we did immediately followed by our immediate customers. How we don't get into a panic situation with them. March was a crucial month that's when we started ramping up our digital offerings", said Vibha Padalkar MD and CEO, HDFC Life Insurance Co. Ltd.
Risk-mitigation as a key strategy
"India along with all other countries will index towards building resilience rather than efficiency in a post-Covid world. This would mean build up of local supply chains, local innovation, local eco-system and that would also include innovators combining automation with real-world challenges and coming out with interesting solutions for almost every sector in the country," said Mallya.
One of the challenges that India is dealing with in terms of implementation of AI is the access and availability of data, especially in sectors like agriculture, healthcare and education etc, said Gupta
On AI-based start-ups
"Proper implementation of AI in India on scale will take us a while to reach in the country, albeit there are over 400 AI-based start-ups, said Sangita Gupta, VP and Chief strategy officer, Nasscom.
AI and its future
"You want to use AI to solve complex problems. AI can further be enhanced in future to predict better predict a disease, diagnose cancer or even prevent pandemics from happening much ahead than the situation that we are in today," said Krishnan
Business and digital transformation
Automation usage is shifting towards providing unique solution to a sector than providing high volume and repetitive work solutions, for example, the healthcare, said Singhani, Managing partner, IBM India.
Artificial Intelligence: How far away in future?
Concept that automation will become all pervasive and take on all the jobs is not really true because future belongs to a complimentary world where automation can do repetitive work but imagination will come from human beings, said Mallya. Healthcare and education can be enhanced with automation and AI.
Demand of automation faced
Automation helps in adding newer ways to create communities and how the consumers are getting engaged, said Dulles Krishnan, Area Vice President- Salesforce.
Will more sectors turn to automation?
Technology will play a pivotal role in this crisis. The level of automation in SMEs is not high but automation with cloud and cloud-kind solutions will help, said Mallya
Automation and decision-making
Financial services such as banking etc have adopted quite a significant automation in their business processes already but now, they are looking at embedding automation in decision-making, said Kamal Singhani, Managing partner, IBM India.
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