On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization had declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic followed by the Prime Minister's announcement of nationwide lockdown for 21 days in India on March 24. While the announcement was an initiative by the government to control the spread of the deadly virus, it also simultaneously resulted in the loss of jobs and businesses.
As the government made strict guidelines to shut down offices/schools/colleges, avoid public gatherings, maintain social distancing, and always wear a mask while going out, some regions in the country succeeded in controlling the Covid-19 cases. However, cities like Delhi and Maharashtra continue their fight against the virus on a large scale. One year of pandemic, and the lockdown in India continues in some form or the other.
For many industries, this one year of the pandemic was rough. Like other sectors, the real estate sector had its share of hardships and challenges. Here's a report on the ups and downs that occurred in real estate during the unprecedented lockdown.
How did real estate combat the crisis caused by the pandemic in 2020?
What got affected in the initials days of lockdown was the ongoing construction of several commercial and residential real estate projects across the country. The lockdown resulted in the halt of construction work and internal migration where the labourers moved from cities to their homes in smalls towns and villages.
As one of the country's largest GDP contributors, the real estate sector underwent notable transformations in 2020. The industry experts adopted new business models. After weeks and months of experimentation and a "not giving up" spirit, they eventually streamlined their sales and revenues. While the real estate developers were helpless in terms of completing the construction of their projects, they focused on pushing the sales of those plots and properties which were readily available.
Following the guidelines of the government to close the offices, the developers adopted the work-from-home culture and the sales agents continued to approach prospective homebuyers. It worked, and the business was on track once again. Commenting on the work-from-home model, Mr Subodh Runwal, MD, Runwal said, "All our employees were working from home and were putting more effort than the pre-lockdown period to make sure sales and collections kept rolling. In fact, we were amongst the very few developers in the country who did exceptionally well during the lockdown period as well. We have been using online and digital channels extensively to conduct business during the lockdown. From digital advertising to online meetings and virtual project tours, we have been utilizing every possible avenue to connect with customers, channel partners and vendors. We are already looking at integrated online sales tools to manage the sales flow and customer interactions. We shall further ramp up these channels for use in future as well".
The importance and potential of technology and digital platforms were felt the most during the lockdown when companies had no choice but to instruct the employees to work from home. Mr Navin Makhija, MD, The Wadhwa Group said, "During this pandemic, the consumers have very much realized the importance of owning a well planned, well designed and a well ventilated home - a valuable asset one can always fall back onto. We have always been following a buyer-friendly approach in all our sales and marketing processes. For marketing, we were majorly using digital platforms and portals as people were consuming more digital data and were spending ample time online. For sales, we had a virtual platform with guided tours for clients to bring them closer to reality. Clients too were quite comfortable having initial information and project walkthrough online. In fact, 30% of our sales were coming in through our virtual platforms".
Performance of real estate during the unprecedented lockdown
Real estate could have experienced a massive downfall if it wasn't for the collective efforts of the government, RBI and developers. The Union Finance Minister helped the real estate sector combat the crisis by revising policies and announcing crores of budget for the projects. The homebuyers benefitted as RBI reduced the rate of interest in home loans. While the state governments reduced stamp duty and some even waived it completely, the real estate developers offered discounts and special offers on properties.
It is now up to the government and real estate fraternity to keep the momentum going in the sector by keeping a continuous check in the reforms as well as consumer behaviour and their benefits.