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Digitalisation Boosting The Next Wave Of Growth And Transformation Across Real Estate

Technology has emerged as the key enabler during these times.

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The fluidity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has required us to constantly rethink and recalibrate the way we have operated so far. Real estate (RE) too is witnessing the changing relationship with its end-users and stakeholders. This has required RE stakeholders across sectors to structurally reimagine their strategies so as to ensure a sustained recovery. Doing so has generated the need to shift from traditional approaches and embracing new, more transformational methods — primarily accelerated by widespread tech adoption.

Technology has emerged as the key enabler during these times. In April 2020, according to the Department of Telecom (DoT), India’s internet consumption increased by 13% since the nationwide lockdown in March. Similarly, an EY report (released in June 2020) stated that India's data usage per smartphone has grown by more than 20% over the last two years, averaging at about 11 GB / month; however, it increased further by about 20 – 25% within a period of two months since the lockdown. In the RE space, the use of tech as a key trend has accelerated post the outbreak. Tech such as PropTech, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, and blockchain, which were previously considered unattainable, are now being widely and innovatively used. There is no doubt that tech in construction management would be widely used in the future as companies realize long-term efficiencies and cost savings of such techniques.

Touchless tech in the form of door sensors, apps for operating lifts, and infrared thermal scanners are being assessed closely to minimize touchpoints at the workplace. FM services to are gaining a tech edge with several occupiers considering techniques such as UV sterilization to cut down manual cleaning work. Employee collaboration and engagement over digital platforms is now becoming a norm, as is monitoring their productivity through digital tools. At the same time, ensuring data security is becoming more critical, causing occupiers to ensure that adequate IT infrastructure is in place along with their data security protocols. 

Various occupiers have used VR to conduct site visits and interior viewings, while artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled people-flow controls have been deployed by FM teams to monitor the body temperature of building visitors and mitigate the spread of the virus. Post COVID-19, we believe that the implementation of these technologies is likely to have a long-term and far-reaching impact on the office sector in India. To ensure team collaboration and high employee productivity, workplaces could have a provision for tech-enabled rooms of all sizes with intuitive tools to connect everyone virtually. Telephone-only conferencing may no longer suffice. Providing meeting participants with virtual tech to see and hear each other whether in or out of the office could be the way forward. FM would also see increased deployment of tech including the use of biometric technologies to monitor workforce densities.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic reached Indian shores, occupiers from the e-commerce and 3PL sectors had started automating their facilities, while the use of fleet management software for live tracking of goods and automated pallet storage was becoming more widespread. Currently, we are witnessing growing automation of the warehouse and industrial units as well as tech percolation across all facets of the supply chain, such as warehouse management systems and robotics for sorting facilities. Going forward, the widespread deployment of AI, IoT and Big Data is expected to create ‘smarter’ warehouses that would significantly improve supply chain efficiencies. Tech would also play a key role in efficient inventory management and increasing flexibility across the supply chain.

 Post COVID-19, retailers are progressively investing in touchless tech to digitize merchandising and transacting mechanisms in India. Both developers and retailers are increasingly embracing tech such as predictive analytics to collect data on consumer profiles and behaviors and in-store automation. In the long term, all of this could eventually pave the way for a personalized shopping experience – wherein retailers and developers would be able to build consumer profiles by leveraging information such as browsing history, purchase records, etc., and perform hyper-personalized marketing and advertising activities.

 Against the backdrop of COVID-19, developers are using tech-based solutions that enable buyers to inspect properties online and finalize deals digitally which involves a mix of AR/VR tools. Virtual tours, online platforms, chatbots, and drone shoots have gained more prominence as buyers are adopting digital means at a fast pace. Construction project management is also witnessing an increased deployment of tech in the form of widespread use of prefabricated construction techniques as well as Building Information Modelling at the design stage. We are also witnessing a growing launch of property apps that deploy statistical analysis over the cloud to provide homebuyers with trends, property value forecasts, and other insights to enable better decision-making. Further, e-commerce portals that allow residential developers to directly offer ‘ready-to-move-in’ homes for digital sales are now growing in number. Going forward, we believe that there could be a surge in the preference for smart homes as homebuyers become more aware of the rapid tech advancements.

 Post COVID-19, the widespread deployment of tech is likely to become a hallmark of the new normal. It would require developers and occupiers alike to start investing in a workforce that is trained to handle the advancement in technology. Investing in digital solutions through M&A deals, identifying potential tech partners, and upgrading the IT infrastructure would also be vital. In this highly competitive digital age, property listings platforms could also give an added advantage to RE firms to strengthen their online presence. For instance, CBRE’s Commercial Listings Platform is a one-stop solution for clients – from providing floor plans, brochures, photos, and location maps to conducting cost analysis and arranging site visits of commercial spaces including flexible workspaces and I&L sites. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Anshuman Magazine

The author is the Chairman & CEO - India, South East Asia, Middle East & Africa, CBRE

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