Rajesh Shetty is a Senior Consultant, Acumen Business Consulting
The marquee Samudra Mahal property set a record in mid 2013 when a property there was sold at a whopping rate of Rs 1.23 lakh per square foot. Nevertheless, upmarket properties in South Mumbai localities such as Malabar Hill and Altamount Road seem to have reached saturation and we have newer clusters in town, where property prices seem to be waiting to rocket the skies.
In 1943, an American psychologist Abraham H. Maslow, proposed a pyramid shaped hierarchy of needs in which he placed shelter at the bottom of the pyramid as a “physiological need”. Those were the days when shelter only meant a roof on your head- a place to dwell in. Today, the concept of shelter has evolved into a more dynamic term called ‘real estate’, with shelters costing millions, promising luxury or a dream home. If Maslow was alive today, would he still place shelter at the bottom of the pyramid? He may get baffled by the magnitude of the gulf between the opulent and the needy. But he would agree that shelter as a need, at least for a certain sections of society has been elevated to the second level of the pyramid.
This shift in categorization of shelter from basic need to a self esteem need is clearly an outcome of the realtors’ understanding of mindsets of today’s consumers. Owning a house is everyone’s dream. But for a few, the dream is a symbol of power, status and wealth rather than that of safety and security. These homes speak for the persona of the ones who earn big and spend big! Armed with increased purchasing power, the prospective shelter buyer now seeks exclusivity. Realtors have precisely identified this need for creating a ‘Brand ME’ by virtue of exclusivity.
The question is: Are these needs real or perceived? Naturally existing or manufactured? Whether the demand for this niche existed or whether it was engineered by the suppliers is a ‘chicken first or egg first’ question!
How are the suppliers or realtors catering to the needs of this newly created niche segment? Also, in a competitive and largely unorganised industry, what differentiates the top real estate developers from the clutter?
Owning a luxury home not only caters to the need for exclusivity or status, but also addresses the needs like comfort and lifestyle. Realtors are definitely addressing these needs by offering uniqueness in terms of design or creating self contained habitats or living spaces. Moreover, the Indian customer is being exposed to elevating levels of customer experience in all product categories and is spoilt for choice, especially in the real estate sector. Thereby, more than reinventing the wheel by tugging at the 4Ps, luxury realtors are now focussing on enriching the customer experience. To help the aspiring dream home buyer create a ‘Brand ME’, the real estate sector is now focusing on the phrase, ‘good experience is good business’!
Largely concentrating on professionalising the entire buying experience, realtors are on a relentless quest to deliver exceptional customer experience. Keeping the customer at the centre of the value proposition, top realtors such as The Wadhwa Group and Godrej Properties Ltd. are reassessing and streamlining processes - right from the point of enquiry to the HOTO (hand over- take over), as well as the entire living experience.
They are investing in coaching their channel partners in managing high net worth individuals, hiring professionals from different yet relevant industries like hospitality, airlines etc. The unorganised real estate sector is now seriously looking at adopting the concepts of value delivery and living the brand promise.
Targeting this need in today’s real estate industry, management consultants are working as enablers, driving an entire cultural change across organisations. Right from conducting customer experience surveys, perception mapping to redesigning entire organizational strategies, consultants are crafting mechanisms to create a sea change in the way real estate is sold.
Maslow may smile or frown but the fact still remains that, the shift is evident in the entire value chain of real estate segment.