Gurgaon- based Signature Global Group has carved its niche as an affordable housing player in a short span of time. With its focus on high quality, lifestyle green homes and an impeccable track record of timely delivery with its motto of ‘Har Parivar Ek Ghar’ (a home for every family), the Group has successfully established itself as a leader in affordable housing, not just in the NCR but in the entire country. And the man behind the successful journey of Signature Global is its dynamic Founder & Chairman, Pradeep Aggarwal. In this exclusive interview with Torbit Realty, Pradeep Aggarwal who is also the Chairman of Assocham National Council on Real Estate, Housing & Urban Development, speaks about the post-covid residential scenario, future of affordable housing and his company’s business plans. Excerpts: VINOD BEHL
* Q Post- covid, what changes have come in the affordable housing market?
Affordable Housing is one segment where demand will not witness any downward trend. Housing for all is a big mission and there are millions of people looking for their own affordable home. So, what we need to focus is; providing adequate supply to match the demand. Post Covid, this demand has risen even more as during lockdowns; people living in rented accommodation faced many challenges. Staying in one’s own home is now considered safer and more secure. With the work from home (WFH) culture being accepted nation-wide, people are not shying away from buying their own spaces in city’s outskirts.
* Q The trend of affordable luxury independent floors has caught the fancy of home buyers. Signature Global has also forayed into this segment in a big way. What according to you is driving the popularity of independent floors, especially those in gated communities?
Independent Floors have always been preferred over flats in high rise buildings for the privacy they offer. Since pandemic has taught everybody to adapt to changes. Work from home has become one of the major factors driving the lifestyle, change. We at Signature Global, are addressing this change by providing low-rise premium lifestyle floors in our gated complexes. Post-covid, we have upgraded the homes by introducing
additional space for work from home along with each of the Independent Floors. Also, people are realizing the need to live close to nature to maintain good health. The company therefore has been offering well maintained terrace gardens to the 4th floor owners in the projects with adequate green spaces around them. Signature Global’s recent projects are EDGE certified and will be providing Green Home Certificates to home owners.
Secondly, our independent floors as compared to stand alone builder floors in Gurugram are more secure as they are in a gated complex and have more than 30 luxury amenities including, clubhouse, swimming pool and butterfly gardens.
* Q Post- covid, the share of the sale of mid-priced homes has surpassed affordable housing share in the overall home sales. How do you see this trend panning out in the New Year?
The demand for affordable housing will always be high as ‘Housing for All’ in a nation like India is a biggest task. On the contrary, mid-priced homes are becoming a popular choice of people who could not afford the luxury flats. Mid-priced housing segment did not have many options till now but with increasing availability of such options with attractive offerings, the coming year would definitely see more traction.
* Q Affordable housing has made big inroads in tier 2-3 cities. How do you see the emergence of smaller cities in the coming times?
The housing segment will see manifold increase in demand for affordable and organized residential projects which offer a controlled environment. Infrastructural development and increasing connectivity between metro cities and tier 2& 3 cities will help smaller cities emerge in a positive way. Other factors like reverse migration post covid, will also push residential demand in smaller cities.
* Q Some time back, you had forayed into retail real estate with the launch of a shopping mall in Vaishali. What is the current status of that mall and any new plans on the retail front?.
Signature Global Mall in Vaishali, Ghaziabad has emerged as the first Food Mall of Delhi-NCR. This mall is an interesting combination of dine-in restaurants and food court and office spaces on the higher floors. Signature Global Mall offers various cuisines that were out of reach for people in this part of the NCR region. Delivered in 2021, the mall has several popular brand restaurants like Haldirams, Barista, Khan Chacha, Ghoomer and many others.
Talking of the new plans on the retail front, Signature Global is set to come up with a new mall and few SCO’s in Gurugram. Looking at the new infrastructural development in Gurugram many areas lack markets within reachable distance. , Our new ventures will fill up this vacuum.
* Q Amidst rising input costs and squeezing margins of affordable housing developers, how long do you think the prices will remain affordable?
The prices for affordable homes have remained static at Rs. 4000 psf ever since the introduction of the Affordable Housing Policy in 2014 despite the consistent rise in the cost of building materials. It is high time the developers get relief by way of checking shrinking margins. Home prices would rise anytime now. Therefore, it is the best time for home seekers to buy their affordable home.
* What are Signature Global’s business plans for the upcoming financial year. Any plans to expand into new geographies?
Signature Global has recorded highest residential sales this year and we are all set to double these figures in 2022. Apart from concentrating on our ongoing projects for their timely delivery, we will move into shop cum office plots and retail developments. Meanwhile, affordable housing projects and independent floors will continue to be our prime focus. For now, we will be active in Gurugram, Sohna, Karnal and Ghaziabad markets as there is no dearth of demand for good housing projects here.
Blurb: The demand for affordable housing will always be high. However, mid-priced homes are becoming a popular choice of people who could not afford luxury homes.
Reinventing Retail in Post-Covid Times
Suresh Singaravelu, ED & Head Retail and Muhammad Ali, COO Retail, Prestige Group
Covid has irrevocably altered people’s habits and lifestyles. We, at Prestige are conscious of this transformation and are engaged in fine tuning our strategy accordingly. In line with this change, we are gearing up to give customers the best out of home experience ever through our ‘Brand Forum’ that is today the toast of the retail industry.
Retail is in our DNA and we attach great importance to it in our business portfolio. After 17 years, Brand Forum has come a long way, establishing 9 prime mall properties. We have expanded our footprint beyond Bangalore into other markets including Chennai, Hyderabad, Mangaluru, Mysuru, besides Rajasthan (Udaipur) Currently, we are developing 8 new malls, spanning 5msf in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kochi under the name. Forum Next.
Forum was conceived to be an experience, not merely a place to buy goods. To us retail has never been just another asset class. We fully understand the business, business thoughts-both the art of satisfying customers and the science of making their experience mutually beneficial. Post- Covid keeping in view the changed behavior and preferences of customers, we are reinventing retail in all our upcoming Forum Next malls. We are creating a new generation of malls whose transformative and personalized experience will redefine the whole concept of malls in India. Focusing on tier 1 cities for better returns, we aim to replace the assets we gave up, by creating bigger and better ones that are fully aligned with the needs of the retailer and consumer of tomorrow,
Forum Next will be fully mapped with the paradigm shift in consumer attitudes, expectations and behaviour that has occurred after the pandemic. Products will see a larger proportion of offerings that address sustainability and customization. We will give more priority to those brands which have more depth and choice in products that people can consume at home where they need to personally interface or come outside because it cannot be provided at home. We will put them in zones of specialties, both to mitigate the risk of a customer missing out and to facilitate impulse buying.
Today, there is a complete disconnect between consumers’ requirements and mall offerings. Most malls have 80% of their offerings in fashion while on an average, an Indian consumer spends 20% of his disposable income on fashion. Our new malls will not have more than 40% of space dedicated to fashion. We will bring in new products and categories that are more relevant and interesting for customers. We will bring a sense of wellbeing to people and for that we have brought in social elements in the sense of creating wellbeing.
Forum Next will integrate the new age retailer and consumer through design and personalized experiences. Mall design elements will be more fluid, representing the ever-changing consumer mindset. Technology driven customer interactions are the other key facets of the Forum Next experience. Reinventing interactions on virtual platforms and integrating online and offline channels is imperative.
Our strategies will be devised scientifically using a data-backed approach where the key metrics will revolve around customer centricity and customer lifetime value. We are here to redefine and drive the future of the evolving retail industry by staying ahead of customer expectations.
Blurb: We are creating a new generation of malls whose transformative and personalized experience will redefine the whole concept of malls.
Torbit Express by Mr. Sanjeev Kathuria
If there is an end-user demand, there is an investment opportunity.
Plots, flats, or floors – where do you think the customer can get the maximum gains in the next six months?
There is no better investment than land (plots) because the construction cost for a particular specification remains the same – the multiple comes on the basis of quality, delivery, brand, etc. In the current scenario, prices of plots in Tier 2 cities have increased substantially and they beat apartments and floors in terms of returns. In the metros, there is hardly any traction in floors and since the supply of floors is limited compared to floors, there is a huge appreciation in the prices of floors. The apartment prices have seen minimum appreciation because there is large unsold inventory of under-construction apartments available in the market.
With work-from-home gaining ground, do you think smaller cities will grow more?
Post the pandemic, work from home is an abiding reality. The pandemic has changed the way we live, the way we consume products, and the way we handle life. We have learned to manage life without stepping out of our homes, both professionally and socially. In fact, we have performed
better working from home and personally, we have been able to maintain a work-life balance more efficiently. There are no traffic jams to deal with, no parking hassles and instead there are huge savings.
During the pandemic, the skilled workforce went back home and thanks to digitization and the availability of 4G in small towns, work never stopped.
What are the important things to review prior to investing in real estate?
Investment in real estate is a science and not commerce as people normally perceive. Truly speaking REITs is the best way of investing in real estate as these are professionally managed, regulated and listed.
They provide an opportunity to invest in small or big amounts and most importantly all due diligence with respect to real estate is observed. Further, let me add my thoughts for the benefit of consumers.
Government land (plots) put up for sale by the development bodies like HUDA, PUDA, NOIDA or the Group Housing by development authorities like DDA, etc., mostly sold by a draw of lots, are all safe for investment. For developer properties, the customer must be completely informed when buying such properties. RERA has brought in a lot of transparency and one must make sure that the property one is investing in, has a RERA registration number. The customer must check that the details in the developer brochure and website match those on the RERA website. Customers must try to connect with a financial institution – PE, NBFC, to check the financial status of the developer.
Is 2021 a buyer’s or seller’s market?
I would say it is a ‘buyer-seller market for the first time in the last two decades. Let me explain in detail what I mean
Finally, after the second wave of COVID-19, the need for a personal residence has become paramount for individuals, hence we have seen a substantial increase in home transactions.