Mr Sushil Mantri is the Chairman and Managing Director of Mantri Developers Private Limited, one of India’s fastest growing property development companies headquartered at Bangalore. Under his stewardship, the company’s 15 year history is a testimony to the success of a rank outsider to property development in a new city and its evolution into one of India’s most professionally managed Real Estate business houses. Today, Mantri Developers has an enviable portfolio of assets comprising world class residential projects, IT Parks, Shopping Centres, Office Buildings and Educational Institutions.
An alumnus of the prestigious Harvard Business School, Mr Sushil Mantri is a business leader with a clear vision for the industry, and serves in the capacity of the Vice-President of CREDAI ( Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India). He has also served as a past-President of the state chapter of CREDAI Karnataka.
Mr Mantri took time from his busy schedule to share his thoughts on the Indian Real Estate sector and vision for Mantri Developers.
Q: How would you sum up the state of the real estate industry in India?
SM: The Indian real estate scenario has seen a positive trend in terms of a better GDP growth, pegged at 5.5% this year compared to previous 4.7%. Relaxations in the complex FDI norms have given much needed boost to foreign investment inflows and liquidity. The sector is focused on expanding the affordable housing segment with government proposing the concept of 100 smart cities to change paradigm of housing infrastructure and amenities.
As a result of these initiatives from government, developers are concentrating on offering projects in the mid and affordable housing segments and bringing new architectural trends in premium projects. Slackness has been reported in the off-take of luxury projects despite availability of higher margin. Residential market will probably fare well this season due to the allocation of Rs 4,000 crore (USD 650 million) funds proposed for expanding affordable housing segment. Since high inventory pile up in the previous year needs to be reduced, the property prices will remain in a narrow band despite higher sales.
The proposed tax concessions for REIT in the union budget will have profound impact on commercial, retail space and warehousing segments. The REIT will attract more foreign investments for malls and commercial office spaces by acting as the investment bridge between investors and developers. Make-in-India campaign and relaxation of FDI norms in construction sector are likely to propel activity in commercial space, turning it into the next big thing in real estate.
Q: What according to you will help India achieve the goal of providing universal housing?
SM: Significant planning needs to be done to achieve the goal of providing “Housing for all by 2022”. Revoking environment regulations and reducing the cost of borrowing for the housing sector are major steps to achieve the target. The government should ease the burden of taxes on the housing sector. Allowing upto Rs 500,000 interest on housing loan for the purpose of tax deduction would provide incentive to the home owners. Government should initiate this at least in the next budget.
The public-private-partnership is one of the key tools that will mobilise the potential of the housing for all scheme. Introducing interest subsidy and increasing flow of resources to the housing sector, is required to control the proportion of slums in cities across the country. The main focus must be in-situ development of slums by encouraging vertical construction. By doing so, maximum residential units can be constructed in a single plot.
The government requires to complete 2 crore (20 million) houses in urban areas and 4 crore (40 million) houses in rural areas in order to realize the housing for scheme by 2022. This initiative needs investments of well up to Rs. 50 lakh crore (USD 800,000 million) over the next few years to realise the aspiration of housing of all.
Q: What is your view on this buzz about Smart Cities? Is it possible to achieve the target of 100 smart cities in India? Are you working on any at Mantri Developers?
SM: The concept of 100 Smart Cities may change the paradigm of housing infrastructure and amenities. The dwelling units of the proposed Smart Cities may have different set of features that combine stay, convenience and workstations. These Smart Cities should be planned in such a way that there is minimum movement from home and workplace so that congestions are avoided as is prevalent in normal cities.
The construction of Smart Cities is the first step in urban development. This resolve will provide better facilities, enhanced connectivity and improved environment conditions. These Smart Cities will bring a collaboration of inventions in IT with the real estate industry. Also it will promote energy efficient green buildings in the country. The Smart Cities in order to attract investments from foreign companies will likely create special investment regions or special economic zones with modified regulations and tax structures, to offer convenient investment options.
Mantri Developers’ is focused on offering affordable luxury projects, and on building residential townships instead of standalone buildings. It also has plans to get some apps developed for its smart townships. While the hype for Smart Cities is recent, Mantri had partnered with Cisco in 2012 itself to provide home automation solutions and build smart townships.
Q: Indian developers are not among the early adopters of sustainable practices. What is your view on this? Has Mantri Developers taken any significant initiatives in this direction?
SM: Sustainable realty is gaining popularity in the Real Estate fraternity. The number of certified green buildings in India has witnessed a manifold growth in the last few years. This is a testimony to the growing acceptance of green initiatives and adopting green practices is no more an option, as they are fast emerging as reliable tools for sustainable and harmonious growth in the long term. Also with growing awareness about sustainability and the rapidly escalating effects of climate change, the market demand for this segment is set to grow. In this context, the real estate sector will act as an important catalyst for transformation, energy and sustainable initiatives in the country. The sector impacts not only economic and social life, but also the environment.
We at Mantri are always committed to the vision of creating a sustainable world into reality. We always promote and practice sustainability in most of our business activities and they have been successful as well.
Mantri has been awarded the most coveted CII-ITC Sustainability Award for three consecutive years for undying passion and commitment towards sustainability. Since 2012, Mantri has been the first real estate developer from Southern India to be conferred with the prestigious award. Today, sustainable development and economic growth of a nation are inter-linked and each has a profound impact on the other.
Q: How has technology changed the real estate industry? What are some the advanced technologies that Mantri Developers is using?
SM: It is a matter of pride for Mantri Developers as we implement out trademark implementation of modern technological and breakthrough innovation in all the projects. Our foresighted forays attempt to include the best of modern inventions thriving on sustainability.
Bengaluru is slowly catching up with the trend of home automation. Buyers in the city are not just interested in beautiful interiors but houses equipped with modern technology. Smart homes are adding value to the apartment culture in Bengaluru. The fast paced life in Bengaluru is favourable for the growth of smart homes. Developers are adopting this trend by associating with the reputed technology companies and global automation companies to derive the best in class inventive technologies and direct it to housing. These smart homes are equipped with air conditioning, lighting, audio-video, window blinds and the like that can be operated with a simple touch panel.
Mantri Projects are equipped with the latest in modern technological inventions in automated lights, multimedia console, automatic gas leak detector, smart security system, independent ambience management and the like.
The Security Management ensures complete safety and protection through technologies such as, intruder detection fitted into doors and windows, alarm activation on television/ touch screen, generation of SMS alert if there is intrusion after the alarm sets off.
Automatic Lighting is one of the offerings of Mantri that combines technology and use of alternative energy. A large proportion of common lighting is powered by solar energy panels. Energy saving through motion sensors activating light is another feature that is both quirky as well as economical. Also the brightness of light can be modulated via a touch panel or remote control unit.
Detectors and controllers for gas leakage and geysers facilitate more convenient living for hectic lifestyles. In case of emergencies such as gas leakage a quick alert via mail and SMS is dispensed immediately. The valve controller cuts off the gas supply and aids in averting further leakage.
Audio management is a new trend in smart homes that is provided by Mantri. This feature helps in controlling the audio steaming in various spaces in the apartments. Residents have the benefit of managing the audio played on different systems such as media player, iPod, Blue Ray and altering volume level of amplifiers and speakers with just a click on the touch panel.
In addition to all these, smart homes also have a great resale value, because technology doesn’t wither and it can always be upgraded to the latest versions.