Landmarks to Meet Customer Aspirations
"Our company's core purpose is to add happiness by fulfilling dreams and aspirations of home buyers through conveniently designed landmarks," says Mr. Anuj Bhandari, Director, B U Bhandari Landmarks & Spokesperson, CREDAI-Pune Metro in a conversation with Varsha Trehan.

What is the USP of B.U.Bhandari Landmarks projects? What are the customer categories whose needs you are likely to meet?
Our company's core purpose is to add happiness by fulfilling dreams and aspirations of home buyers through conveniently designed landmarks. Also, we wish to maintain simplicity in relations and human values by honoring our commitments. We are the solution seekers.

Landmarks to Meet Customer Aspirations

What are your reactions to the Budget 2012 meeting the expectations of the Real Estate sector?
The budget seems to be okay. There are two main highlights of this Budget for real estate.

Last year's 1% interest rate subsidy provided for loans towards affordable housing i.e on Rs. 15 lakh loan for Rs. 25 lakh worth house, will continue, which is a welcome sign.

The government has allowed external commercial borrowings (ECB) for low cost affordable housing projects. This will lower interest cost for developers. The service tax is also exempted on rental house which is good. Fuel subsidy is not altered hence its prices will remain stable which will ensure that the raw material cost is not increased.

The tax exemption limit up to Rs. 2 lakh and further slabs will definitely help home buyers which will ultimately help real estate sector.

Even though, saying all these, the excise duty & service tax has been increased from 10% to 12%, which is not at all in favor of construction industry. The construction cost will grow leading to costlier homes.

What are the additional expectations in terms of policy changes to encourage the Real Estate sector?
Landmarks to Meet Customer Aspirations
Today 'Affordable Homes' remains a day dream. Customers are overburdened under heavy taxes. There is continuous hike in CRR by Reserve Bank to curb inflation. It leads to hike in interest rate of home loans and ultimately burden comes on buyers. On the other side, construction laborers are piling up the problem. So it becomes difficult for builders to offer "Affordable Dream Home' to their customers.

I feel that the government's initiative and willingness is required to make it possible. They should emphasize on balancing demand and supply and simultaneously tax cutting to control the deficit. Concessions can be offered to home buyers in stamp duty, service tax, registration charges etc. Tax exemption limit on home loan should be raised up to Rs. 4 lakh from Rs. 1.5 lakh. Our city planning should manifest growth vertically not horizontally. The FSI Cap needs to be enhanced.

Associations like CREDAI are working towards increased transparency in property dealings. Is there a path, outside of litigation, a customer can follow to get his problems resolved?
CREDAI is an established organization and leaders of the organization are working towards the full transparency of the entire business — right from buying land to the sanction of plans, marketing the product, delivery and after sales and service. This is also going to come through the government regulatory Bill. The organized sector of developers, particularly members of CREDAI are following most of these things for the past several years. At the CREDAI Pune Metro chapter, we believe in transparency and this has been incorporated in our association's code of conduct. We have a grievance redressal committee, which takes care of any developer v/s buyer issues and put its efforts to resolve out of the court and a much faster way with an amicable solution.

Green construction practices are catching up across the country. What do you think, are factors supporting this trend? What some of the hurdles in implementation of these practices? How far is environment friendliness a part of your projects?
The issue of global warming is catching up all over the world now. In Pune, developers were following some of these norms much before they came into official and formal practice. Developers have started using solar power, rain water harvesting, and few green materials in their building construction projects. Now we get the different ratings for using green materials and also few green methods in construction. Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) offers concessions in the development charges, if you are using green material. Some of these features are made mandatory by PMC. The awareness of using green material and process is slightly low yet, but slowly it will catch up and developers will be more aware and educated towards green building concept. The construction cost is another factor which has gone up by about 15% and very high. There is no direct benefit or incentive to an extent which will induce the developers to follow this trend, as the customer does not pay extra for these kinds of green projects. However, as a CSR commitment developers have started adopting these norms.

We are using solar panels for various applications and doing rainwater harvesting in all of our projects. Depending upon the space constraints at every project, we set up a vermiculture plant or OHD m/c which converts all the garbage to fine fertilizers. We are also using green materials that save on energy utilization and wastage of materials. We have installed water recycling plants which recycle water twice. Most of this water is used for gardening. This has reduced the water consumption by a third to half of the usual quantity.

There is an increasing shortage of skilled and unskilled labor. How are builders addressing this issue for project completion in terms of retaining labor, incorporating new technologies etc?
Building construction is not a machine made product up till now. It is a handmade product which requires skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled labor. Every part of India has a peculiar specialty of division of work in construction. As India is growing in its infrastructure and development everywhere there is labor shortage.

In Pune, the outside Maharashtra or immigrant labor influx has become less. So construction industry depends on shortened labor supply or local labor. This labor is not trained. KUSHAL, an arm of CREDAI Pune Metro headed by Mr J.P. Shroff has taken this challenging and creditable job of training unskilled to semiskilled to skilled labor. Currently, they are involved in various trades like carpentry, painting, mason work etc. which has increased their efficiency and their wages too. Developers are also adopting mechanization by using excavation equipment's, lifts, and mixer etc. for speedy work. Less labor abuts more expenses.

You are well established in Pune and surrounding locations. Are you looking at spreading your presence outside Maharashtra? Do your expansion plans include moving towards Tier II and III locations?
Expansion, Innovation, Modernization, and automation are inevitable. You can survive in future if you have skills, the fittest will survive. One has to grow, but we think slow and steady growth will give better prosperity. We are definitely thinking of few cities outside Maharashtra and also Tier II and Tier III cities.
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