Residential real estate undergoing metamorphosis with technology influx: Brigade Group executive director

  • | Tuesday | 27th September, 2022

New Delhi, Sep 27 (PTI) Mention real estate and the images that come to mind are mortar, bricks, steel, architectural plans and earth movers. Now add to this drones, machine learning and artificial intelligence. With a software solution that adds tech to the traditional business, property development company Brigade Group is an early adopter of technology in real estate, says its Executive Director Pavitra Shankar. Deploying drones to monitor construction and AI for accurate assessments of land, the Bengaluru-based company is behind many buildings dotting the skylines of mainly southern Indian cities, including Hyderabad and Chennai. It has also implemented `Katalyze", a digital transformation journey touching major value chains of business, including customer experience and project handovers, Shankar, who is also Brigade’s Head-Residential Business, told PTI. With residential realty undergoing a metamorphosis driven by influx of technology, changing buyer profile and preferences, Brigade"s technology touchpoints range from its SaaS (Software as a Service) solution to suave digital marketing tactics that appeal to millennials and Gen-Zs. Cloud service provider Amazon Web Services (AWS) has become an integral part of Brigade’s digitisation journey, and has speeded up time to market and deployment of IT applications and services as business picks up in a post pandemic world, Shankar said. Excerpts from the interview: Q: Can you briefly outline the journey of Brigade Group so far across residential and other segments? A: Over the last 35 years, Brigade Group has developed over 75 million square feet of Grade A properties across residential, lease rental and hospitality, maintaining a consistent EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) margin of about 26-28 per cent over the last seven years. We have constructed many iconic landmark buildings to transform the skyline of cities across South India, namely in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kochi, as well as in GIFT City, Gandhinagar. We are currently witnessing a steady growth curve both in terms of sales and revenue across portfolios. We presently have a healthy pipeline of around 18 million square feet, including about 17 million square feet in real estate and about one million square feet in the commercial space with key projects in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. Q: Has the real estate demand started showing signs of revival? What are the early indicators? A: The residential segment has experienced very good demand in the post pandemic period. What originally started as demand for ready-to-move-in products soon expanded to under construction and new launches, showing that the mindset of buyers had changed. In spite of the recent increased cost of construction and inadvertent rise in prices, we have been witnessing continued robust sales growth, driven specifically by the IT/ITES and services sector. Overall, we see this momentum not just in Bengaluru but also in Chennai and Hyderabad. We expect this trend to continue in the coming quarters as well. Our other verticals like retail and hospitality are also seeing consumption levels above pre-Covid numbers which is a very positive sign. Office leasing is yet to pick up due to the difficulty of rolling back the remote working trend, and the weakening in the global economic outlook. Q: Can you give details of digital infrastructure and technology supporting Brigade Group"s operations? A: Brigade Group is one of the early adopters of technology in real estate space and the first among south Indian developers to implement SAP (enterprise software) to power its business processes. Brigade transformed the SAP Hosting by running SAP S/4 HANA infrastructure (an enterprise resource planning or ERP business suite) on AWS that is a highly reliable and `Always-on" computing platform. AWS has become an integral part of Brigade’s digitisation and transformation journey that hinged on a `Cloud First" approach with many new applications built and hosted on AWS Cloud. We have also invested heavily in bandwidth and network connectivity across all our project sites and corporate offices which has improved productivity. Q: How are you harnessing technology and digital advances to drive your operations and tap market opportunities? A: Brigade has implemented SAP S/4 and C/4 (C/4 HANA is SAP’s customer experience system) to address the major business and operational processes. We have also deployed a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that uses drones for monitoring of construction, which employs machine learning and artificial intelligence to superimpose CAD (computer aided design) drawings to perform measurements of progress accurately. We are also using this technology in our land identification process. Going forward, we will continue to leverage and understand data through analytics with increased focus on automation of processes to make the most of the market opportunities. Q: What are the key trends in consumer buying behaviour and how are these changes shaping your digital strategy? A: The residential segment is undergoing a metamorphosis with an influx of technology, changing buyer profile and preferences. Millennials and Gen-Zs use the internet heavily to research and narrow down their options well before visiting a site. The distribution network of channel partners/brokers has also consolidated dramatically, requiring us to constantly refine our digital marketing approach for the best return on spends. On the sales side, we have digitised the entire booking and documentation journey, including online payment integration and digital signing of key documents. Customers also expect very high levels of service for which we have a full-fledged call centre and ticketing software. We are making further investments into the customer portal to enable real time access to managing their transaction. Q: What are the key strategic/digital initiatives planned over the next two years? A: Our organisation has implemented `Katalyze" - a digital transformation journey touching major value chains of our business like customer experience, procurement, new project launches, and project handovers. The phase-one selected initiatives are aligned to the business strategy of the Group to automate processes and adopt business analytics to democratise decision-making using data at all levels of the organisation and not just senior management. Q: How has cloud technology and AWS enabled you to do better? What are the key business benefits you"ve derived from this association? A: Brigade has been an early adopter of cloud technology and the introduction of AWS has made it even more reliable. AWS has contributed to quicker time-to-market and deployment of our IT applications and services. Most importantly, it has enabled near zero downtime of the SAP Infrastructure which is the backbone of the company. During the early days of the pandemic, it was easy for us to shift all operations to remote mode thanks to already having adopted cloud technology, without dramatically impacting the employee or customer experience. (This story has been produced by PTI in collaboration with Amazon Web Services). PTI MBI MIN MIN

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