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COVID-19 Will Ensure That The Masses Use Public Spaces In A Different And New Way: Bharti Realty CEO

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Bharti Realty, the real estate arm of Bharti Enterprises, has developed and is currently managing five million square feet of commercial real estate space across, including Delhi, Gurgaon, Kolkata, Ludhiana, Bangalore and Chennai. Some of its projects include, Bharti Crescent in the Capital and Aerocity in Gurgaon. The company’s whole time director & CEO, Sushil Kumar Sayal, talks to TOI about the impact of Covid-19 on the industry and what he reckons is the way forward. Excerpts:

How would you rate the impact of Covid on your sector?

I believe in the office segment corporates shall be more careful in picking up the right kind of workplaces which are future ready considering the challenges they would have faced in these covid times. Complexes or buildings which are Grade A – future ready developments shall always stand in merit. At present, I do see certain segments within the office segment, such as, co-working spaces facing some struggle due to social distancing issues. Probably, these segments would also need to realign business models in the post-covid era, I see offices in IT sector getting impacted temporarily due to work from home environment, hence IT / ITES developments might witness short term vacancies but bigger tech platforms are also leasing out big spaces to prep up for their emerging business models.

Retail as a segment is surely impacted more than the office segment due to slowing footfalls and loss of business in the lockdown phase where cash flows have nearly dried up, other than essentials, some categories are trying hard to limp back to pre-Covid levels, while I see some time in this, 3rd quarter maybe. But I believe once we have the vaccine out , building positive sentiment of improving recovery rates will sustain and people will have the confidence to start venturing out like earlier.

What is the current rate of recovery?

I would say retail is still between 15-20% of pre-Covid times, while the office segment is nearly between 85-90% of pre-Covid revenues.

What is your prediction about the future?

The vaccine shall be a major positive in boosting the lost confidence in people. People are wanting to move out now but are still resisting citing fear related to pandemic, while the government is trying hard to better the recovery rates; people have started coming out slowly than the last few months citing better bed conditions in hospitals and home quarantine measures. January onwards, we shall be nearing decent recovery.

Do you foresee any permanent impact?

I see certain behavioural aspects changing with respect to decision-making. The carefree attitude of people shall witness more conscious transformation. Spending on necessary requirements shall be the key and people will be better equipped for unpleasant times.

How has the pandemic impacted your expansion plans?

We are more thoughtful about re-sketching the plans in short term and long term and hence, the suitable product mix and development may see some changes for good; I think that’s positive, as the country would witness new ways of doing things and enjoying public spaces.

What have you told your employees? What has been the impact on them?

Certainly in tough times, we are focusing on the war on waste, be it on controlling expenses, improving productivity, stretching our limits and finding a new equilibrium and of course working aggressively on achieving the set targets.

As an industry veteran, what has been your learning from this?

I believe businesses are built on partnerships & trust , surely being empathetic towards each other shall be the key for a stronger bounce back.

What should companies in your sector do to navigate through the pandemic and the business uncertainty?

As we all navigate the Covid-19 pandemic – and the uncertainty and changes it has brought in, ‘NOW’ is our opportunity to do things differently and to create new benchmarks of best practices which could make the “new normal” a better one for us the entire community. Towards this, our first and foremost focus is to maintain the business continuity. The next is to adopt all necessary measures to make sure people feel safe when they step into our developments, be it our partners, employees or customers. The third most important thing is innovation.

(Source: Times of India)

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