India has the seventh largest landmass in the world with 498 cities and numerous small towns housing a population of over 1.3 billion. Interestingly, a majority of the business and working population resides in eight major cities which over decades have become highly populated and the cost of living has risen significantly.
However, the COVID-19 induced pandemic brought about fundamental changes in the way people live. From hybrid or remote work enabling people to spend more time at home and head back to smaller cities or away from big cities to suburbs to focusing on sustainable living, people are trying to build a more relaxed life.
Here, suburbs, an area outside of a principal city of a metropolitan area, which may include commercial and mixed-use, but is primarily a residential area or like satellite towns, have gained prominence since the onset of the pandemic. From Navi Mumbai and Thane around Mumbai to Gurugram and Noida around New Delhi and Rajarhat around Kolkata, these suburbs have witnessed a huge inflow of people looking to build a home since the pandemic. According to a survey by property consultant Knight Frank in 2021, around 87% of total respondents who desire to move homes in the next 12 months, favour the suburban neighbourhood of their current city of residence.
Industry data shows that more than 50% of new projects in Maharashtra are being launched in the peripheral areas of Mumbai like Kalyan, Badlapur and Bhiwandi, further complementing this shift. This continued migration from metros to suburbs is being caused by the availability of quality housing, more affordable pricing, larger spaces, value for money and a decent living standard. This apart, the need to build a house in areas with low population density, low pollution and good air quality have been attracting crowds in hordes.
While this trend has largely been propelled by the hybrid, remote work which is enabling people to make that shift to suburbs, the opening up of satellite offices within the major cities for domestic and global companies has fortified this migration.
However, this has been a work in development over the past decade with state governments looking to evenly distribute development and infrastructure growth beyond major cities which led to the expansion of metros and rail road projects. Construction of a new metro line from Mumbai to Thane, offering of sops to developers to build Uppal in Hyderabad on the lines of Hitech City to reduce the concentration of growth has played a pivotal role in helping people make the switch to a suburb. These satellite towns are also being touted as the future growth drivers of real estate in India.
Taking it a step further, Bengaluru has launched a dedicated Suburban Rail Project which will be completed by 2026 at an estimated cost of Rs 15,767 cr covering a little over 148 kms. This is being called India’s most coherent rail project and will connect Bengaluru to its satellite townships by a rapid-transit system.
However, suburbs come with their own set of disadvantages such as lack of first and last-mile connectivity, underdeveloped basic infrastructure such as water connectivity, community spaces, low availability of quality educational institutions. While these factors enable low rentals and property prices in the area, it also dampens one’s short-term investment prospects as yields are subdued.
Having said that, suburban living is a relatively new concept in India and the fundamental building blocks are still a work in progress. However, the benefits would far outweigh cons in the long term. This would be realised by an ecosystem enablement via the government, developers, businesses and the civil society.
(By Angad Singh Bedi, Managing Director, BCD Group)