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All Loan Process Touchpoints Will Be Digitised: Manish Shah, Godrej Housing Finance
"The slew of measures taken by the Government and real estate developers have nudged the fence-sitting buyers. As a result of increased affordability and accessibility amongst consumers, there has been a growing demand for housing loans in our key operational markets."
Photo Credit : Bloomberg
In this interaction, Manish Shah, MD and CEO, Godrej Housing Finance speaks about the changing face of the real estate industry, financing options, digitization, and the role they are playing in this dynamic landscape.
How has the pandemic changed the housing finance landscape?
Traditionally, the housing finance landscape was paper-heavy, and relationship managers met customers, assessed their needs, and completed their loan paperwork. However, the ongoing pandemic changed all this. Despite increased demand for home loans throughout CY2020-21, the customers now no longer wanted to risk having face-to-face meetings with visitors. The lack of physical contact made home loan processes increasingly difficult, accelerating the need to adopt digitization. Many businesses across the spectrum had to redesign their processes to offer their products to customers digitally.
We, too, at Godrej Housing Finance, assessed the need of the hour and pivoted to invest in service innovation. For instance, our Zero Touch Loans is a quick, contemporary, and best-in-class experience. Through this digitised service, a customer can get their loan in a presence-less manner. This eliminates the physical document process and face-to-face meetings and enables customers to avail of loans as and when they require.
Do you see a change in demand for residential property post the second wave of Covid?
Going by all the parameters and data, it is clear the pandemic has brought to fore the importance of real estate, especially residential properties. Despite the interruptions in April and May 2021, the sales for residential realty improved from June 2021, indicating a revival of the sector. This demand trend was driven by multiple factors such as multi-year low-interest rates, the need for more residential space due to the shift to a hybrid working model, and the sentiment of purchasing over renting.
MANISH SHAH, MD AND CEO, GODREJ HOUSING FINANCE
What digital transformations or tech developments do you foresee for the sector?
During pre-covid times, customers could not get their loans approved without meeting their home loan partners in person – who would go through their documents, verify the details thoroughly. The onset of the pandemic, however, made this increasingly difficult for both home loan providers and customers. Furthermore, this period also witnessed an increase in digital adoption among consumers across the spectrum. The inability to offer the digitised services in home loans proved to be a deterrent. Thus, in line with these changes, we expect businesses in the mortgage industry to adopt technology throughout the product's lifecycle. All touchpoints in the loan process will be digitised, from customer onboarding to last-mile service delivery, to provide customers with an enhanced digitally delivered borrowing and service experience.
How has the customer response to the all-digital solution been so far?
Our digital offerings have garnered positive affirmations from our customers. Just as evidence of the encouraging response, since our launch, more than 90 percent of our customers have availed of home loans through our service innovations.
What are the new products in the pipeline by Godrej Housing Finance customers?
As an established home loan financier in India, we now look forward to broadening our business horizons and adding new products to our portfolio. This year, we plan to pilot our ‘Design Your EMI’ home loan product across our operational landscape. This will enable customers to customize their equated monthly instalments (EMIs), offering them utmost affordability and flexibility. And, while our focus will be mortgage business, i.e., home loans and loans against property, we also plan to expand our product portfolio to offer business and personal loans, leveraging the Group’s consumer and agri-business ecosystem to build these verticals.
Which are the cities from where you are witnessing good loan demand?
We have observed that the sales across prime residential markets have started to show green shoots of recovery. As per the market reports, the first quarter of 2021 saw an increase of 12 percent when compared to the last quarter. Amid the top-performing cities, Mumbai and Pune continue to dominate sales, followed by Bangalore and NCR. The slew of measures taken by the Government and real estate developers have nudged the fence-sitting buyers. As a result of increased affordability and accessibility amongst consumers, there has been a growing demand for housing loans in our key operational markets.
What is your outlook on interest rates for the year 2021-22?
At the moment, we expect these multi-decadal low-interest rates to continue for the next few quarters. This may inch up gradually by the next fiscal year. It is difficult to predict the longevity of this trend, given the pandemic-induced market sentiment and performance.
What is your growth target and strategy?
We have observed that the mortgage industry has entered the era of digital transformation. Providing an end-to-end digital borrowing experience is a baseline expectation, especially in the retail financial service space. Given this expectation – Godrej Housing Finance has institutionalised loan origination and sanctions through video-based platforms, enabled paperless sanctions and introduced zero-touch, presence-less loan disbursals. This has been received positively by our customers so far.
However, we have been operating in a closed ecosystem so far. We now look forward to taking our digital offerings to other developers and consumers with a razor-sharp focus on customer experience. In addition, we are also focussing on enabling homeownership through customer-centric product innovations. One such offering is our ‘Design your EMI’ plan, where customers can customise their repayment plans to suit their needs and circumstances. With our product offerings, we aim to catalyse improvements in the overall customer experience, so that customers can focus more on buying a home.