The Opportunities for Technology Deployment in the Real Estate Sector

Rohit Gera, Managing Director, Gera DevelopmentsThe real estate sector is amongst the most fragmented industries in the country where there have been virtually no barriers to entry for anybody wanting to become a real estate developer. The recent introduction of the real estate regulatory act (RERA) by the government of India has changed some of this. The outcome of this act is that people will require developers to set aside far more capital for each project. It will also require on time delivery and proper quality as there are penalties for delays and a five-year defect liability period as well.

As the government pushes on improvement in our rankings by the World Bank on the Ease of Doing Business, the only way to break from 100 and get to 50 is to dramatically improve the ranking on the ease of dealing with construction permits which currently languishes at 181.

All these dramatic changes have redefined the rules of the game for the real estate sector. Going forward, developers will have to rely on technology on various counts. The brick and mortar real estate sector just as much as any other, is beginning to be swamped by the wave of technology. One can say that there is a gradual digital transformation taking place in the realty sector.

Infact technological advancement in the realty sector has been around longer than one might think, although it is only in the last 2 to 3 years that we are now beginning to see the real impact of disruption that technologies are causing in the real estate industry. That is not to say that real estate has never embraced technology, of course it has, just perhaps not at the rapid pace that things are now starting to happen and which allow us to see and feel technological impacts more tangibly. The professional developers are already implementing supply chain management and ERP systems from an enterprise mobility perspective, technology has been deployed to improve designs and efficiencies but applications such as web-based or mobile to enhance customer interface or experience are gaining faster grounds.

At Gera Developments, we have been investing in technology and currently, in addition to using SAP and Salesforce, we have two different apps that help us in
delivering a better customer experience as well as a better product. Gera World - our customer facing app, consists of two different phases. The first being the prepossession phase and the second is the post possession phase. During the pre possession phase, customers have access to all their project related documents, they can schedule events such as site visits, agreement signing, registration they can also request various support services. The post possession segment further incorporates the ability to raise tickets pertaining to the common area maintenance. It also allows for raising issues covered under the five-year Gera warranty. Using this app, we have been able to reach a 97% usage ratio and reduce our first-time site inspection by 70%. Gera Advantage - our construction quality control app, is a one of its kind quality tracking system which is used by our site engineers, internal quality team as well as the contractors. The entire process has eliminated the extremely antagonistic approach that is typically taken by site engineers against quality control auditors.

Deploying technologies in the real estate sector help solve problems related to quality control, streamline processes, and improve efficiencies with respect to all key stakeholders

The obvious benefit of digitisation of processes are the outcome of such apps which hugely impact both developers and customers in terms of delivering not only a better product but experience as well as reducing redundancies, saving time, cost and improving the overall customer engagement approach. While these are examples of what we have done, I am sure there are other developers with their own advancements in the use of technology. The number of such developers however is extremely small and there exists a strong case for technology innovation in the numerous processes that are involved in the business of real estate development.

The opportunity to deploy technology in the real estate sector is humungous. It will help solve number of problems related to quality control, streamline processes and improve efficiencies with respect to all key stakeholders thereby enabling faster delivery of projects and resolution of issues. Superior technologies can help gather and provide information on smart and connected buildings, design and build homes that are economic for their owners and more functional for their occupiers, better linked to their surroundings and local infrastructure; and speed up the transactional process of granting a lease or purchasing a property. To a sector that is commonly viewed as slow on the uptake of new technologies, it is imperative that the sector seizes the opportunities that technology presents. Those opportunities will present themselves in many ways and the challenge is to identify them and find ways to deploy that technology as new and alternative ways to do business and generate revenue from real estate assets. At the same time those changes may fundamentally disrupt some or all of the existing ways of working so that all stakeholders will need to adapt and change. The scale and scope of impact is and will be wide and varied.

Put simply, some issues that were never thought important (or even considered) in the past could now start to become front and centre. Changes will undoubtedly be required as the technology revolution from the perspective of digital transformation brings new opportunities for all. It is yet to be seen how Internet of Things, AI, augmented reality and blockchain will impact the real estate sector in years to come but one might as well learn about them and fast as they are some of the key predicted technology trends in the coming years.