Builders target non-residents as the market remains weak

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 June, 1997, 12:00am

The real-estate market in India's commercial capital, Bombay, has been firmly stuck in the doldrums for two years.

Despite optimistic predictions by multinational property consultants, who have set up shop in Bombay over the past three years, there are few signs of a revival.

Several huge residential projects, still under construction, are languishing unfinished due to lack of response from the buying public.

Statistics provided by the Bombay Housing and Development Board show that 325 houses per day are needed to provide shelter to the homeless living among Bombay's population of 13.5 million.

Yet without money, even in housing colonies promoted by reputed developers, including the Hiranandani, Kalpataru and Raheja groups, hundreds of flats continue to lie vacant.

'There is really no liquidity in the market and that is the real reason why so many flats are lying unpurchased,' said G.L. Raheja, chief of K. Raheja Builders, which is one of the premier developers in Bombay and Bangalore.

Surendra Hiranandani, director of Hiranandani Constructions, said: 'With the stock market languishing over the last two years, many people who put their life savings in shares are badly stuck. They cannot get out at the current prices, and therefore have no money to invest in the property market.' No doubt this is a new way of looking at the troubled situation of the property market.

In earlier years, whenever the stock market was dull, India's property market would be booming, as people diverted their savings into real estate.

Today, after real estate prices have crashed by between 20 and 30 per cent compared with their 1995 levels, builders have begun targeting wealthy non-resident Indians (NRI), especially those living in the Arabian Gulf and Hong Kong, hoping that their capital will revive the sagging market.

'For NRI, this would probably be the best time to shop around for property in Bombay since prices have come down significantly, and seem very near their nadir,' said Satish Mehta, general manager of operations at the Housing Development Finance Corp, the country's premier housing loan agency.

In a bid to woo NRI to invest in property, builders and developers are no longer relying on just advertising in dailies and periodicals. More aggressive marketing is being employed.

Roadshows and exhibitions are being organised in places such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Singapore and Hong Kong.

They target NRI who wish to return home eventually after lucrative stints of work abroad.

Mediascope, together with the World Trade Centre and a Dubai-based daily, the Khaleej Times, organised the first Indian property and investment exhibition in Dubai earlier this year.

Zubin Mehta, head of marketing and sales at Mediascope, said: 'Participating in well-organised exhibitions works out cheaper for Indian builders and developers, and gives them their target audience.

'We are considering organising similar shows in the Far East.'