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How Mahindra Lifespaces is innovating on its products and communication to make way for new consumer expectations
Viral Oza, Chief Marketing Officer, Mahindra LifespacesMahindra Lifespaces
Viral Oza, Chief Marketing Officer, Mahindra Lifespaces talks to us about the brand's experience with the lockdown
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How Mahindra Lifespaces is innovating on its products and communication to make way for new consumer expectations

Viral Oza, Chief Marketing Officer, Mahindra Lifespaces talks to us about the brand's experience with the lockdown
  • The pandemic has revolutionized the way real estate functions, markets and communicates.
  • Viral Oza, Chief Marketing Officer, Mahindra Lifespaces walks us through the smaller and larger changes in the organization and how they are adapting to the rapidly evolving ecosystem and changing consumer expectations.

It’s been a little more than a year since the word ‘lockdown’ entered our lives and seems like it is here to stay for some more time. In this last year, businesses have undergone massive transformation, they have had to reinvent themselves, rethink the way they function, sell and communicate. Many industries like real estate, which had already been facing a slowdown due to factors like demonetization, the GST implementation and RERA, 2020 had been expected to be a year of recovery.

However, with the pandemic, a lot of things came to a screeching stop. While things started opening up from June, with the labor away from cities, it was still some time before the real estate sector could find stability.

However, the positive outcome of this entire experience was of the sector realizing the importance of digital as a medium, not just for communicating with its consumers but also how properties are being sold in the country.

We recently caught up with Viral Oza, CMO, Mahindra Lifespaces who spoke to us about some of the profound changes that were brought about in the real estate segment in the last one year, how that is transforming the how and what of their products and services. He also spoke to us about how marketing for the sector is evolving and how traditional mediums need to innovate to make sure it continues to add value to the industry in the future, which is now seeing massive digital adoption.

The changes in consumer behavior and its impact on real estate

House-buying is a very physical experience but with people stuck at their homes, real estate players adopted digital and there were quite a few virtual launches. While many had thought people would become more careful about their spending, the pent up demand after the first few months of the lockdown meant good enquiries and sales once things started opening up.

For people, their priorities changed. Health and wellness of their own and of their loved ones became top-of-mind for most people. “With this consciousness, people also became more conscious of the spaces they wanted to buy. Today consumers are not just thinking about the size of the house, it is just as much about how the spaces are being utilized. People are thinking of whether developers are providing enough open, outdoor space, considering in this new world, being in a closed area is not as safe,” explained Oza.

With lots of people having to work from home, how the homes are more conducive to this new lifestyle has also become an important part of people’s considerations and the player has been listening to its consumers and innovating accordingly. For example, in its Happinest project in Tathawade (Pune), they have added outdoor, secluded working pods to make the overall experience of working from home more comfortable.

People are also becoming more conscious about the locality they choose and also giving more importance to sustainability.

“The lockdown created appreciation in all of us for nature, when you could hear the chirping of birds during the start of the lockdown. This consciousness is great for us as a brand because we've been very conscious of the environment and are probably one of the few brands that has a 100% green portfolio. We are extremely conscious, not just of the end game but even in how we construct. Our construction processes are environment-friendly and we try and source raw materials within a certain catchment area to reduce our carbon footprint. This becomes extremely important for us because it is one of the pillars that we have been building our business on,” he added.

The post-lockdown revival

While Mumbai is again witnessing weekend lockdowns and increasing restrictions currently, the industry did witness the start of revival after things started opening up last year.

“We've seen a fairly good comeback, if I might call it that, to our projects. In fact, we've seen it across the few launches we've made and also across some of our existing properties. Some of it has been pent-up demand but the next few months will really tell us if this is a long-term sustained change coming back to the category or not. We have also realized that challenging or questioning the status quo is more an issue with brands than with consumers,” he said.

Explaining how consumers are open to these changes, he said that their launch of Happinest, Palghar was done completely virtually and in a contactless manner. “It was a risk and we were not sure how it would pan out. But we actually got over 300 bookings in four weeks,” he shared.

Marketing mediums and Mahindra Lifespaces

For real estate, till before the pandemic hit, traditional mediums like Print, OOH and Radio accounted for their highest media spends. All of that has changed in the last one year.

“Last year, it was all apart finding the right way of communicating with our consumers. There has been an obvious shift to digital. We had to get used to the fact that for those months, social media and digital platforms were our only modes of communication. Fortunately, we were already present on digital so it wasn’t a very big move for us. Also, real estate as a category hasn't had the advantage of TV. Print is to real estate what TV is to FMCG, that's our large scale imagery-building medium. While that has its advantages, it also has its limitations when it comes to manifesting your brand. And what's been a big blessing of the last one year is that we have realized the power of digital and therefore the ability to use the audio visual mode of communication on digital,” said Oza.

Giving us a sense of what its marketing pie looks like, Oza said, "If we were spending Rs 100 on print earlier, we now might be spending between Rs 20-40, depending on the project and segment. So we've started coming back, but not too much. Similar with outdoor. Digital which was between Rs 20-40, has now gone up significantly."

So will real estate ever invest as much on traditional mediums as they used to pre-pandemic?

“To be honest, the jury's out on that. We've started using outdoors selectively and have some print, but that has been a very small part of our overall spends. We are still largely focused on digital and I think in the future too, our focus will be skewed a little more towards digital. This will also force the traditional mediums to re-evaluate the role they play in our lives and innovate. And that's good for everyone because it helps sharpen and clarify the thinking and also helps increase efficiencies,” concluded Oza.