Schneider

Desk

Stop killing the golden goose

July 2010

On 11th June as members of the panel gathered at Hotel Intercontinental in Mumbai to select India’s top architects and builders, one thing was certain that branding was no more a concept but a tool and a strategy. The good news therefore is that each brand will attempt to rise to the level of quality that it projects. The level of satisfaction will be drawn by the customer depending on how much the product offering or service is in tune with its brand projection. India’s brand projection in the global market was dictated by the hordes of unskilled and semi skilled workers that either worked in scorching Middle Eastern sites or drove cabs in Manhattan or kept Heathrow spotlessly clean till India offered its skilled manpower to turn the clock on the imminent Y2K disaster. Once undersea data cables made way into the Indian territory, economics of cheaper labour gave Indian engineers a chance to pitch for software business. Soon BRAND India changed its clothes and emerged as a “hard working intelligent and computer savvy” country. This soon led to success in engineering and design segments with several companies sourcing global engineering design requirements from their Indian offices. Global engineering major Bechtel is one prime example.

While CW is not a magazine which recommends stocks, Godrej Properties is one company which is likely to set a new benchmark amongst realty companies: of transparency, credibility, governance – all of which are in short supply in the real estate business. No wonder then its public offering which struggled on its listing took a while to gain ground and is now marching upwards. Godrej is again a fine example of a company which can now leverage on the brand that it built. Its focus was on building trust in the brand and now it can leverage on the trust of its customers, bankers, employees and investors.

In a ruling that will impact the cost of housing in Mumbai’s suburbs in a big way, the Bombay High Court has struck down a state government notification increasing the floor space index (FSI) in the suburbs from 1 to 1.33 stating that the state does not have any such power. On one hand the state government machinery is doling out additional FSI for builders to meet the needs of housing; then throwing all caution to winds, it is allowing huge structures to come up on ill-provided infrastructure which uses this FSI. The mega structures do not facilitate even enough setbacks in the roads for additional traffic to be accommodated. When the ill-planned area gets choked, the government asks for funds from JNNURM. The FSI is being abused completely with architects being asked to offer an FSI up to 4 by using ‘all tricks in the book’. One common creation is ‘flowerbeds’ which are being created even up to 10-12 feet wide and above.

Maharashtra’s housing policy way back in end 2008 ruled that carpet area needs to be stated upfront to consumers and yet, why has it been so difficult to implement it. Greed. But then can builders afford to frighten buyers away? As Arun Nanda, Chairman Mahindra Lifespace Developers, puts it, “Stop killing the golden goose, real estate is one market which has an unlimited demand provided the product is well planned and price is reasonable.”

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