Cautions the word for global realty consultants in India

Written by Mona Mehta | Mumbai, Oct 12 | Updated: Oct 14 2008, 04:21am hrs
With the global economic meltdown taking its toll on the Indian real estate sector, renowned international property consultants are taking a cautious approach here and many are going slow on their expansion plans.

Although there is a strong buzz that many players will see their business come under pressure on the property management side as demand slows, they have still put on a brave front and are expecting the dust to settle down soon.

Pranay Vakil, chairman, Knight Frank India told FE, We were looking at opening more branches in India, but due to economic downstream, those plans will be delayed. But currently, we are not facing any major cash flow or profitability problems, nor are we pruning our number of employees. This is because, we are never dependent on the US or the Europe for business. However, one will have to be more careful. We will continuously monitor our plans.

According to Sanjay Dutt, managing director, Cushman & Wakefield, In the short-term, there is a setback on demand as liquidity situation has worsened. There is a severe impact on businesses in the real estate sector wherein office and retail will feel higher degree of pressure. So, recovery is difficult to forecast, but will take two years optimistically. In the long term, however, the market will benefit from this accelerated correction and as soon as it settles, the quicker it will grow.

Dutt said that the industry is still growing. We have not tapped the full potential of the geographies as we are present in seven to eight cities so far. However, there are opportunities galore and we feel that certain businesses will still grow by 10% to 20% instead of 40%. They include project management, facility and property management, among others.

Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj (JLLM) denied an industry buzz that a few of its employees at its Chennai office have quit, and said the company has rather increased its number of employees by over 300 between January to September 2008, nationally (from 3,500 to 3,800 employees, over the previous corresponding period). Anuj Puri, chairman and country head, JLLM told FE, Despite the inflationary trends, we are on a hiring spree. Our Chennai office is in the process of hiring five more people. JLLM handles larger portfolio of property management and pays salaries between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh to its employees. Officials of the UK-based DTZ, a renowned international property consultant, could not be reached to verify whether it has seen a pruning of its staff here too.

However, some consultants are also seeing this as a good opportunity to set up a base with more reasonable costs and salaries, as well as provide innovative solutions rather than the traditional, which is now facing a crisis. AtisReal Redwoods, a BNP Paribas company, is one such. Raja Kaushal, its executive director and chief operating officer, opines, We have entered the Indian market in April this year and have about 24 employees. We feel that offering services to developers in terms of space planning is the new buzzword which will provide high margins and profitability.