Technology should be an integrator and not a disruptor in proptech, say experts at TechSparks 2021

Experts from the Indian housing fraternity discussed how proptech is revolutionising the real estate industry and throwing up more opportunities for all stakeholders.
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With technology seeping into every sector, property technology, or proptech as it is popularly known, is actively playing a role in redefining the world of real estate. The industry has been infusing technology in everyday operations to streamline procedures and enhance transparency.

On Day 5 of YourStory’s TechSparks 2021, a host of personalities on different forums discussed the future of proptech in India, and how technology can be used to urbanise the country.

The discussion kicked off with a talk by Durga Shanker Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, followed by a launch hosted by John Kuruvilla, Chief Mentor, Brigade Reap. The dialogue concluded with a panel discussion among Vipul Roongta, Managing Director and CEO, HDFC Capital; Arvind Subramanian, MD and CEO, Mahindra Lifespaces; Nirupa Shankar, Executive Director, Brigade Group; Samir Kumar, MD and General Partner, Inventus Capital Partners; and Tanuj Shori, CEO, Square Yards.

Digital transformation for urban India

India is going through a rapid urbanisation process. Taking note of how population growth in urban areas overtook that of the rural ones in the 2011 census, Mishra added that the 2021 census projections also state that the urban population constitutes around 35-36 per cent of the total population. He was delivering a talk on ‘Leveraging technology for urbanisation’.

While the government is remediating around 15,000 acres of dumpsites using technology, the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation has used technology to provide water and sewer connections and convert street lights into LED lights.

Six out of 54 new construction technologies have been chosen under the Global Housing Technology Challenge - India that is being constructed at six places across the country — Chennai, Rajkot, Indore, Lucknow, Ranchi, and Agartala.

“All these six cities have a different kind of construction technology, the foundation for which was laid on January 1 this year. I’m happy to see that two 14-storeyed buildings have come up in just 35 days and the kind of finishing guarantees are such that it’ll stay up for 100 years without requiring any maintenance. It is resource sufficient, resilient to climate, and it’s a rapid construction technology,” said Mishra.

He highlighted that the focus of the ministry is to bring ease to citizens’ living styles using technology. “When we work on a big scale, technology assists us in bringing about reliability, confidence and consistency in whatever we are doing for the citizens,” he said.

Addressing the challenges

Drawing a parallel to Mishra’s perspective, Brigade Reap’s John Kuruvilla said that the real estate and construction industry in India is slated to contribute 13 percent to the total GDP, and is also the second-largest employment generator in the country.

“But the industry is plagued with problems like poor productivity, inefficient processes and systems, and the use of legacy systems. While all of these create a wasteful expenditure, they are not able to address the challenges faced by the environment, where the built world is amongst the largest contributors of CO2 emissions,” said John at the launch of ‘Brigade Reap Proptech Pioneers’.

He added that several startups are creating solutions that are delivering value not only for the government but also for the industry. Brigade Reap was started with the intent to understand the challenges faced by the industry and identify young startups with disruptive technologies who could add value and disrupt the real estate game.

Future of proptech in India

Startups have been solving a small piece of the jigsaw puzzle and that there’s no large disruptor for the real estate industry, according to Brigade’s Nirupa Shankar. “Suppose there are 100,000 pieces, and every startup is doing their bit to solve one small piece of it. So, technology is making a certain process more efficient,” she said.

Arvind added that it is important to enhance the product offering. Technology not only plays a huge role in ensuring internal efficiency fulfilment but also around what the customers gain from the product. He further added that while technology has played the role of a disruptor in the value chain so far, it needs to play the role of an integrator across elements of the value chain.

Technologies that improved efficiencies and helped developers to deliver as per their customers’ aspirations would be the key to a bright future, feels Samir. Echoing similar sentiments, Square Yards’ Tanuj said that consolidation of all the fragments in the industry needs to be an important trend, not just at the principal level, but also at every step of the ecosystem, adding that capital availability may become easier in the space.

A lot of attention, said Nirupa, needs to be paid to the execution in order to scale while having a sustainable business model.

“I think that’s the name of the game, whether it’s proptech or any other tech. I hope we start seeing problems being solved for the larger pieces of the puzzle, and I think that’s where we are headed towards,” she concluded.

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