Demand for office space is fairly strong in India unlike the global market: Brigade Group MD

July 4, 2023

The Brigade Group turned a net profit of ₹63 crore for the quarter ended March 2023 compared with a loss of ₹11.63 crore a year earlier. In residential sales, it recorded a 35% increase to 6.3 million sq. ft in Q4 FY23. In an interview with businessline, its Managing Director Pavitra Shankar said that their outlook for office space is promising in India unlike the global market. Edited excerpts:

You had said that the Brigade Group would remain in its local zones, such as Chennai, Chikmagalur, Hyderabad, Kochi, Bengaluru, Mangalore, and Mysore. Isn’t it yet time for your business to go national? 

People think if a company is present in all South Indian markets, it is not pan India. Each market has its own complexities and dynamics in customer preferences. So, I think it’s more about establishing that we can do business in multiple different cities, and not so much in which zone of the country.

We have specifically picked these markets because we feel the dynamics in these markets make sense to us. They’re all driven by the IT sector, and white-collar jobs are extremely high. That seems to be the target demographic for us. Also, they’re not extremely high-end markets that help when an organisation like us is looking to scale.  

We also firmly believe that each market has its own set of relationships and inherent risks. So, we’ve taken the call that these are the markets that we want to play in. We also have the potential to expand our growth within these markets. It remains to be seen if we’d like to expand to the north, eg to Mumbai, NCR, or Pune. But currently, that’s not on our radar.  

What are your expectations from the office space market? What kind of market share are you looking at in this segment? 

We have about eight and a half million square feet of operational space. We still have about 1.25 million square feet of space to be leased out. A lot of those vacancies are in the SEZ space, which is a little more challenging than non-SEZ. But nevertheless, our team is able to make consistent progress and reduce that number QoQ.

Obviously, we would have liked it to be a little faster. But since there doesn’t seem to be any communication from the government on extending SEZ privileges, that has led to an overall slowness in that particular sector.  

Our outlook for offices is that it has a lot of promise for India. There is not a lot of Grade A office space across the country but there is a lot of demand for that. If you look even globally, I think India is the only bright spot where people are physically coming back to the office, whether it is in a hybrid format or all days of the week. Office occupancy is actually increasing, whereas it is still in the doldrums across the Western world. 

Demand for building office space is fairly strong, even with institutional investors. So, I think from that perspective, we are still looking for new land, we’re willing to partner with institutional investors for office construction and holding and leasing out the portfolio as well.  

Also read: Home sales growth to remain positive in FY24: Boman Irani

We recently saw office spaces in Hyderabad seeing higher demand than in Bengaluru. What does this mean for the industry? 

Hyderabad has been on our radar for a while. We have actually entered the market on the residential front. The market has an oversupply of office space. In fact, the rents in Hyderabad are extremely competitive, which is also probably the reason why there’s a lower cost of occupancy for tenants.  

The government of Hyderabad has been very proactive in terms of putting infrastructure in place. So, it is certainly coming up as a strong contender to Bangalore. So, overall, I think the growth story is good for Hyderabad.  

Earlier, you had told businessline that Brigade Enterprise is in talks with PE funds to grow the hotels and office portfolios. How has the response been? 

We are open to working with PE funds and investors. I can’t say that we’re not in discussions with anyone; it is at various levels. Post-Covid, we’ve waited for our hotel portfolio to do well. And this is the first year that we’ve been able to show extremely good results, since FY21. In FY23, we’ve shown very good hotel results and I think this is the right time to look at expanding the portfolio and certainly, we would like to have a partner with us. 

We have paid off our residential debt and funded most of our leasing projects internally. However, for capital-intensive commercial properties like offices, retail, and hospitality, we may seek partners who provide expertise, tenant relationships, sustainability measures, and capital.  

Also read: PE investment in Indian real estate drops 20% in H1 2023: report

Recently, Elon Musk issued a warning that the commercial real estate market is “melting down fast”. American entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki, author of ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ also warned that the real estate market is on the verge of a crash. Should the Indian real estate market be worried about this meltdown? 

I really don’t think the Indian market has a lot to be worried about. What they’re saying is specific to the Western markets where people are not coming to the office. So naturally, the value of real estate may be in question in some of those areas. But I think it’s all part of a cycle.  

There could be some changes for the Indian market, but overall, to say that there won’t be a commercial real estate market in future seems very unlikely. I think maybe it was about space that was overbuilt, or maybe was used in a different manner than before. People can work remotely, but maybe they need less space than they did before or the type of space that they used before is not so great. People want to upgrade their spaces or improve the tenant experience. So, there’s a lot of work to be done on that front.  

Also, all the foreign markets have huge existing commercial real estate portfolios, which I think is extremely different from India, we are just building out a lot of our commercial office space. So, I think in India to say that is going to be in a meltdown is not relevant, in my opinion.   

Leave a Comment