BIG INTERVIEW

Making Headway with Optimism

A leader in real estate across all sectors of construction. Merlin Group aims at elegance, aesthetics and comfort to its customers and customer satisfaction is their utmost priority.

To speak about the future ventures and plans post COVID we have with us…
The man-of-the-Hour Gauarav Sanghvi, Director, Merlin Group

What is your take on the Indian Real Estate Sector?
As the entire world is seeing the aftermath and unavailability of raw materials etc. a lot many projects have got stalled and lot of new projects have not been launched while the tenants who were supposed to occupy the commercial spaces have not, everything is paused and I think slowly when we are trying to unlock and open up the economy we will hope that these workers come back, transportation is available and materials get available and only then our construction would start.

What is your take on Steel v/s other convention materials?
Steel is the future of buildings. All over the word steel is used so much that in all the leading countries the finest buildings are made of steel. It is just that it makes the construction fast, improving construction quality and if there is good amount of scale it reduces cost, you save a lot on time, save a lot on manpower vis-a-vis other materials because the other materials are not easily available, whereas you need a lot of manpower well as lot of manpower to fix those materials vis- a-vis steel is easily available in various shapes and once everything is pre-designed the construction is faster

According to you what are the key challenges faced by the Developers?
The key challenges faced are non-availability of skilled manpower, non-availability of materials required to complete the projects, increase in cost of materials which increases the overall cost as well as inflated land costs which adds to the overall project cost.

While with the current market scenario there is so much of competition where we are not able to increase the selling price and costs keep on rising which reduces profit margin at large

How is technology changing the Construction Industry?
I think technology and construction are going hand in hand in today’s age. With technology we can provide artificial intelligence in the form of virtual reality experiences to the customers who can have a look at the model apartments seeing at their homes. We are able to show them the project by giving them virtual tours by sitting at home and we are able to explain them which floor and flat is available or not at the click of a button, do video calls where we are able to give them similar experience if they had to come to the site.

It is helping us streamline our vendor management, our supply chain management all the orders and procurements everything happens on ERP. So, it makes it full proof, there is no chance of infringes and overall, there is lot of saving on time and cost and wastage due to technology.

As the country has been strike by COVID-19. How long do you think will it take for the halted projects to get completed and how will this hep the industry to go ahead with a new outlook? How do you think we can overcome labour shortage?
The way the country is trying to unlock and start the economy again, I see the projects commencing from January 2020. We are expecting migrant workers to come back in a while as they may be hesitant because of monsoon season they want to be there for harvesting looking after agriculture and then there are festivals like Diwali etc so only after that we can expect them to come back slowly.

The other reason we can expect them to come back is they do not have enough avenues and jobs in their village and how it is there in urbanised centres – metros and big cities. The moment they come back they will be deployed by the contractor and work will start on the sites. The interstate transport will also open in next 2-3 months hopefully, that will also help us get material supply and deploy them in the projects so is see work starting aggressively and smoothly from January. The government should allow interstate transport wherein the buses can bring these labourers to different metros, subject to proper screening and testing. The government and developers should collaborate and do it.

What are the prime factors that prevent the developers from opting for steel buildings, provided the long-term benefits that steel offers?
I think the prime factors even today is lesser exposure to steel technology and its benefits and uses. There is a whole notion that steel building will be expensive there is a lot of technology involved non-availability of skilled manpower to install these steel structures. So, I think there is whole bit of educating the developers and reaching out to the developers all over the country would make them aware that this is not the fact there is of advantages and benefits in steel.

There is also so much of delay in getting approvals in our projects that makes it very unviable and there is a grey area as to when our project will be launched, when we have to procure the material and here you have to do lot of advance planning when you have to opt for a steel building. All the designs must be frozen all the timelines have to be set, that becomes a little difficult for the developers today. Lastly, the fact that I think there are lot of customers, who, think conventional materials like brick and mortar will make the building more stable as it is tried and tested, they may not be accepting it. So, Developers may have apprehension to go with regular RCC and Brickwork structures.

According to you which are the prime sectors of construction that will turn the tables for India, as far as the growth is concerned? Why?
Firstly, I see warehousing being a big business opportunity for the landowner, developer, and tenant because of the robust growth of the e-commerce and other companies who are into manufacturing because they are looking for a big space for storage.

Secondly, I also see a lot of growth for student housing soon because we have lot of colleges across the country, but the quality of accommodation is not up to the mark for all the students. There is a lot of opportunity for someone to do quality housing in and around colleges and universities and rent it out to the students for a long term. Thirdly, I see a good amount of demand picking up for affordable housing but larger homes. Going forward people may opt for working from home and they may want a study room so that they can work from home. So, I see a demand for larger homes going up but again in the affordable segment because COVID has made economy cripple a lot of job losses, lot of salary cuts, so I think the game would be to offer larger apartments with a good ticket size because people would like to buy homes and work from homes. So, I see a demand for homes for sure but at the right ticket size. I also see a lot of demand for Data Centres, as all the technology companies need lot of server space and technology space to store their servers which will be in the outskirts of the metros which they can rent it.

What outstanding newness does Merlin Group plan to bring in the coming years?
In the coming years we plan to bring a lot of new projects like a mall inside the airport warehousing and we are looking at some interesting models like a sports city in Calcutta where we are going to focus housing along with sports academy which can promote sports like swimming, cricket and football.

What is your mantra for success?
I think it is consistency, hard work and passion towards your business