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Raunika Malhotra, President Corporate Brand and Communication, Lodha Group
Raunika Malhotra talks to us about some emerging trends in the real estate market
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Our survey shows that 59% of home-seekers planning to buy a home within next year are millennials: Raunika Malhotra, Lodha Group

Raunika Malhotra talks to us about some emerging trends in the real estate market
  • While demand had come to a standstill during the first few months of the lockdown, things are slowly starting to look up for the real estate market.
  • Raunika Malhotra, President Corporate Brand and Communication, Lodha Group tells us that the pandemic has made everyone realize the importance of owning a home and the security that it provides to one self and family.
  • Moreover, the changed behavior towards tenants vis-a-vis home owners by residents in various housing societies has accelerated the sense of owning home amongst millennials, Malhotra shares.

Like almost every other sector, real estate has been massively impacted by the Covid-19 induced lockdown this year. There had been a complete halt of construction which had brought sales to a complete standstill.

However, with the lockdown gradually being lifted across the country, things might soon start to look up. Also, the last few months have led to a lot of changes in consumer behavior.

While many had initially thought people will become more frugal when it comes to big purchases during these times, people in the real estate segment are seeing demand coming back. Moreover, with people spending more time at home now, there has been an increase in the desire to own a house. Also, the changed behavior towards tenants vis-a-vis home owners by residents in various housing societies accelerated the sense of owning home amongst millennials.

We recently caught up with Raunika Malhotra, President Corporate Brand and Communication, Lodha Group who told us that the younger population is eager to own houses and that according to a survey by the real estate player, close to 59% of home-seekers planning to buy a home in the next year are millennials. She further deep-dives into emerging trends from the real estate segment and tells us what the industry in the near future will look like.

Excerpts:
Q) How have the last few months been for Lodha? As things are gradually opening up, what kind of enquiries are you receiving?
The pandemic has made everyone realize the importance of owning a home and the security that it provides to one self and family. The RBI announcements on the moratorium and the lowest-ever interest rate for home loans have been a much-aided benefit. There has been an increasing ask for ready-to-move-in properties across affordable and mid-price segments. People now look forward to live in quality developments with integrated facilities providing more open spaces. We have observed an increased desirability for decks and well-managed safety and security services in most segments of home buyers.

Q) Have you been able to sell any units in the past few weeks? In terms of sales, how do you expect the rest of the year to pan out? Do you think people will invest on houses or be more thrifty and push it to when things become better?
As the largest real estate player in India over 7 years, Lodha has continuously been in touch with its customers and aimed at meeting customer requirements. A recent industry report on ‘Consumer Sentiment Survey’ states that 54% of survey participants consider this an ideal time to make a property purchase. We further realized that we should cater to the consumers' concerns and, hence designed the ‘ApnaGhar, ApnaDesh’ campaign strategizing on a consumer-centric approach. Further fulfilling the dream of potential home seekers, the initiative was designed wherein home seekers only need to do the upfront payment of Rs 1.98 lakh and get a lowest-ever interest of 5.99% and contribute to nation building. Under the purview of the campaign, Lodha sold 1800 units from March 19, 2020, till June end.

Q) How different will things be for you as a player now, considering buying of a house has a very physical element to it, when people want to visit the houses? How are you going to do things differently now?
Home-buyers have always preferred homes by reputed developers who can provide quality development, assure timely delivery, and understand consumer requirements even during the changing times. Over a period of 7 years, Lodha has clocked Rs 50,000 crore sales across an area of 57.0 million Sq. ft. Along with providing a good quality home, our brand is focused on giving home-buyers an all-round ecosystem with essential amenities in order to build a better life, making us one of the world’s finest developers. The consumers’ need for residing in better quality living developments remain strong despite the pandemic. However, with the changing times and the new normal, they are now more open to engaging digitally and are adapting to new digital tools/mediums. As a leading real estate developer, it is important to provide our customers the same hassle-free experience irrespective of the alterations. We have observed a growing desire towards home-ownership, and with Lodha understanding and catering to the changing needs, the company has developed an extra edge towards meeting consumer demands.

Q) In the post-Covid world, do you expect AR/VR/virtual tours to become an even more important tool in the entire consumer journey when it comes to real estate? Are you already investing in the technology?
With the changing norms, digital interface will increase but all mediums are here to co-exist. In a home-buying experience, the touch & feel aspect is important and there will be site visits, but engagement will happen digitally.

Q) You recently came out with a campaign featuring Akshay Kumar. What was the thought behind it and what kind of reception has it received?

The ideation behind the ‘ApnaGharApnaDesh’ campaign entails two components: ‘ApnaGhar’ – which highlights the importance of owning a home and ‘ApnaDesh’ – which highlights the contribution of real estate sector in re-building the nation. The ad campaign’s objective was to invigorate the sentiment of home-ownership as the pandemic has very well instilled the realization among individuals regarding home being a safe haven. Another primary driver to launch the campaign was the findings of the market research conducted during the lockdown that showed increased desirability of owning a home amongst individuals. Having a good quality home in a well-maintained development with good amenities and infrastructure has become increasingly important as people are spending more time at home due to the lockdown and the prevalent work from home (WFH) scenario. Banking on well execution of the idea, the campaign has been very successful considering that over 1000 homes were sold during the lockdown. Under the campaign banner, Lodha organically reached out to 10 million people and engaged with 1.5 million people through social media organically.

The campaign also aimed at contributing to nation building, which was critical during the pandemic – an interesting stat being 25% of every home buying spend goes to the government. Besides, the real estate industry contributes about 5% to the country’s GDP, clearly indicating that reviving the sector means the revival of the national economy. Buying a home provides jobs and thereby income to 10 workers for a year - thus, the campaign’s main objective was to convey that when one purchases a Lodha home, it ensures security and well-being for himself/herself and instills a sense of pride for being able to contribute towards rebuilding the nation.

Q) How is your marketing strategy going to be different in the post-Covid world? Will there be an increase in your marketing spends for the rest of the year?
Being a consumer-centric brand, it is extremely essential to understand the preferences of consumers and stay in tandem with shifting behavioral patterns. With an in-depth understanding of the consumer demand shift, the brand will continue to provide innovative solutions, where home-buyers will find the confidence to transact considering our delivery and quality. Further upgrading the home-buying experience, we will ensure safety and security by providing new digital tools to build a robust digital consumer journey with a higher focus on maximizing ROI.

Q) Have you witnessed any interesting consumer behaviour trends during the lockdown and post?
Lodha did a ‘Homebuyers Preferences Survey’ with active home seekers in the Mumbai MMR region that highlighted some major changing consumer trends. A remarkable trend observed is 63% of active home seekers in the Mumbai MMR region prefer buying ready-to-move-in homes. 80% of the survey respondents who preferred ready homes agreed that they get to see what they buy. Also, 59% of the home-seekers who plan to buy a home in the next year are millennials, clearly indicating the re-modeled millennial mindset. Another striking observation from a twitter poll conducted by uswas the increased desirability among individuals for more open spaces within and outside their living area. 91.9% of participants have showed preference towards decks/balconies in their houses whereas 82% have showed an affinity towards outdoor spaces like gardens and sports complexes. The poll results also highlighted the growing need for staying in self-sustaining developments and also inclusion of a staff quarter in the homes. Lodha has always aimed at staying ahead of the curve and has been a forerunner in incorporating all the requirements across its projects.

Q) What have your learnings from the lockdown experience been?
With the new work-from-home culture and the Covid-19 induced lockdown, people have started staying indoors and spending more time with family. The essence of having a safe place to stay inside during crisis situations has raised the desire for owning a home. The changed behavior towards tenants vis-a-vis home owners by residents in various housing societies accelerated the sense of owning home amongst millennials, who recently started viewing real estate as a means of asset creation. Insights from Lodha’s recent ‘Homebuyer Preference S urvey’ also indicate that 59% of the home-seekers who plan to buy a home within the next year are millennials. Understanding what the consumers are looking for and then rationally implementing the insights in the product offering has become even more critical during these unprecedented times. Buying a home is one of the most important decisions or maybe a lifetime decision for consumers, and compassionately understanding their preferences well and then making that dream home come true along with apropos value additions is what the company thrives at and is a continued mantra for all of us at Lodha.