- Anupam Rastogi, Principal Partner, Square Yards
Being the backbone of the world economy, the real estate sector is on its spree of beautifying the world with its innovative techniques to create unimaginative heights all across. An established international body of real estate developers, Square Yards planted its roots in 2013, with only three employees as its core team. Consistently, contributing in harnessing the potential of vast Indian expatriate populace residing in various parts of the world and enabling them to invest back in the booming Indian realty industry, Square Yards has branched out to as many as 29 cities across nine nations with a large workforce. In lock-step with other parts of the world, it has successfully created a prolific presence in the GCC and MENA regions, comprising of establishments in cities of Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Sharjah. Anupam Rastogi, Principal Partner, Square Yards, shares excerpts from the eventful journey of the organisation to what it is today.
What is the total real estate transactions facilitated by the company till date? How much of this has been in the GCC region?
In the last two years, we have facilitated a total of 7,500 transactions with a total GTV of $800 million, of which 30 per cent contributes as the share of GCC countries. Yet, a long way to go! The investments by Indians settled in local residential markets of Dubai amounted to $2 billion, whereas the quantum of investments in Indian real estate stood at $300 million from UAE alone. Our biggest opportunity lies here. I can envision more and more investments flowing into the Indian market especially from the NRIs, resulting in twice the investments made, due to variation in its economy in the next two years.
How do you view the GCC real estate market?
Realty markets in GCC has been stable at the moment, however, the fact cannot be discounted that decline in oil prices is rendering a moderate impact on the overall investment sentiments, thereby affecting the real estate industry as well. The real estate industry here has grown exponentially in the recent times and now the market is demonstrating a corrective approach. The Emirate is also sitting at a massive supply volume of nearly 500,000, with nearly 15,000 units added in 2015 and another 23,000 units expected to be added in 2016, according to estimates made by the Square Yards Global Intelligence Cell (GIC). This is keeping the dynamics of demand under check. However, the underlying sentiments of the market are robust, as the economy is growing fast on the backdrop of tourism, trade and retail, etc. Aligned with the preparation for Expo 2020, the infrastructure development is also going full steam. Post the correction phase, the market is expected to pick up soon. The Emirates is also expected to aggressively ramp up its job market in the coming years, which will again translate into higher demand for more residential units. Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE, has been demonstrating a stable and firm real estate market. Prices have been stable in the recent past and similar sentiments are expected to continue in the coming time. Doha, Oman and Qatar are the upcoming realty markets in the GCC region. The growth is driven by the unprecedented economic growth made by the country, coupled with acute shortage in terms of supply, which is resulting into higher price appreciation.
What are your strategies and vision for expansion in the GCC region?
Our expansion in the GCC is influenced by three fundamental factors. First, to serve the local market better through well-structured deals that can offer value to both buyers and developers. Second, GCC nations have large volume of Indian expatriate with massive potential to invest in Indian and other global markets. Hence, through our presence we can identify and manage the potential in an effective way. In fact, hitherto, over one third of our revenue comes from the Indian diaspora and we are acclaimed to have monopoly in the given market segment. Third, our presence in the GCC will help us build stronger ties with the local developer fraternity.
From your experience, in terms of real estate investment deals, what do buyers want?
There are fundamentally a couple of things which buyers want in the GCC region and probably any other part of the world. First, they want right guidance in terms of where exactly to invest their money. Real estate is a high involvement investment, and although we have plenty of information spread across through online and offline mediums, often they are unable to offer user-centric insights. Every buyer has their own set of priorities and it should be taken care of well.
Second, home purchase is just not about closing transactions, but there are various dimensions that can range from simple legal documentation to interior designing of the house. Although these are things that a buyer would not mention explicitly, but they do expect a certain degree of handholding that can ensure them peace of mind.
What are the challenges faced by you and how do you overcome the same?
I strongly believe in aggressively taking challenges head-on. Our scope of work faces two kinds of challenges - external and internal. External challenges include the market and the competition. Real estate advisory has undergone a sea change over the last decade. With the advent of the internet and real estate forums, buyers today are overeducated than ever. So, even before a property consultant approaches a buyer, they have spent hours researching about the kind of products available. Hence, for a company to be successful, its sales approach must change, and this is where I feel we are ahead of our competitors. Our greatest strength is our human resource that we have been able to successfully back up with the right set of tools, technologies, training and support. Internally, while it is important for an organisation to keep their human resource motivated and aggressive, it is also important to not let cut throat competition thrive within an organisation. The real estate industry has one of the highest attrition rates and I pride myself for the fact that Square Yards has been a market leader in retaining the top talent along all the hierarchies.
How well-regulated and transparent is the real estate industry in the GCC region?
Off late, with more international investments coming up in the region, the GCC markets in tandem with the other markets across the globe are also introducing strong and effective regulatory policies that can ensure transparent and safe realty investment in the region. For instance, Dubai, where unbridled speculation has led to a realty crash few years back, is not keeping any stone unturned in controlling the speculative forces. The property registration price has been increased to 4 per cent from 2 per cent so that quick buying and selling could be controlled. Similarly, the loan-to-value ratio has been restructured to control overheating of the market. Further steps are expected to be taken in the near future to ensure a safer market. Other cities are also following this suit.
Introduce us to your expansion plans internationally? Any plans specific to the GCC region?
In the GCC region, recently we have added new addresses in Muscat and Sharjah. Thus, presently we have five offices in the region, which include Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. We are looking at adding more offices in our GCC portfolio. Also, we are looking aggressively at other parts of the world, such as the US, Canada and South Africa, and will soon have permanent addresses there. International expansion is a key component of our company´s overall strategy.