Only The Tough Get Going In Tough Times

Established in 1994, SNN Builders Private Limited has completed over 40 projects covering more than a million square feet. The SNN Builders’ property development portfolio is diverse in scope and style, which has attracted end consumers and investors alike. SNN’s sound financial backing, availability of large resources and high level of management expertise have been their key competitive advantages. With a corporate philosophy to focus on balancing the evolving needs of a modern city while maintaining and conserving the environment has enabled SNN Builders to maintain a Green & sustainable approach. The Managing Director of SNN Builders, Mr Nitin Agarwal and the CEO, Mr S Srinivasan took time to respond to queries on their business, philosophy and the state of the industry.

Q: What is keeping SNN Builders busy these days?

Srinivasan: Having worked on Apple when I was with the advertising agency, TBWA, I am a big fan of Steve Jobs.  One of his famous quote is “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do”.  With the real estate market being on a slow track these days in India, we at SNN are taking this as a blessing in disguise to ensure that we withstand this pressure.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going may be sounds a bit clichéd, but it still remains very true.  It is no secret that at the moment there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the property market and it is not something most builders will talk about because it can negatively impact the business.  But the truth of the matter is that everything in life has its ups and downs, especially the property cycle.  At SNN, we have taken up the challenge of the reverse market situation and have become more aggressive in our approach on communication in the media and the decision is proving very good as the months of January and February has been pretty encouraging in terms of disposal of existing inventory.  Also this has given us an opportunity to look into all our existing systems and process and have come up with programmes what will take the company to the next level.

Q: What has been the driving philosophy behind the growth of SNN Builders?

Nitin Agarwal: “Customer first” is a policy we live up to at every level in SNN and merely adding this to your vision statement is not enough.  Thinking like your customer is the first challenge, and delivering a positive customer experience is even harder.  Achieving this requires bottom-up approach and rethinking the way business is done.  And this, in turn requires a holistic approach that encompasses from every division starting from the front line sales to post sales CRM, Legal, Finance as well as insights to strategy and customer experience.  The other major philosophy which has made us grow so fast is “when in doubt disclose”, meaning if you have any issues that needs to be conveyed to customer first, we just do it, be it delay in deliverables, shortfall in quality etc., and try to immediately take a course corrective measures so that the issues are resolved rather than chewing on them and dragging it for ever.  The most important and the best part is any customer can easily have access to me or the CEO.  They are always welcome to have a cup of “SNN Lemon Tea” which is famous in Bangalore by now.

Q: How do you see the recent measures of providing housing for all by 2022 materialising?

Nitin Agarwal: According to a recent reliable report, India has a housing shortage of about 60 million units.  At present, annual investments going into the housing sector stand at about US$ 100+ billion.  By 2022, though India needs to develop about eleven crore housing units for which investors of more than US$ 250+ billion be required annually.  The figures seem to be mind blowing but in reality the government should make this happen with a seamless policy with clear clauses on subsidies and other defined norms, single-window clearance not for just affordable housing projects, but on all real estate projects be it any residential,  commercial or infrastructure developments that are planned by builders on pan-India level as this sector is one of the largest drivers of the country’s economic growth in terms of large-scale employment opportunities as well as contribution massively to the country’s GDP.

In short, it is a very good initiative by the Government to make this dream project come true but an aggressive “step-change” in this direction must come from the top brass of Indian Government.  It is possible and will give that required impetus to the sector, so let’s wait and see..

Q: Indian developers are not among the early adopters of sustainable practices. What is your view on this?

Srinivasan: At SNN we always say that Sustainability = less stress on the nature and environment i.e. how do we curtail damages on the environment?  Sustainable development is all about limiting the destruction of natural resources and consumption of its gifts and ensuring that we keep the planet green and alive.  There is no need to remove this mismatch between the actual development and the so called “big visions” and concepts like “Smart Cities” that are generally borrowed from the western world.  In general, India is by no means lagging behind and particularly cities like Bangalore make a real good attempt on sustainable development front.  The fact that the number of certified green buildings is surging over the past few years is a direct indication to the growing popularity of the “sustainability” concept.  Having said that, we have a lot of catching up with more developed countries to do and we, from the property developers fraternity want the Government and their respective agencies to be more active and come up with plans that are workable and if possible, provide some benefits or subsidies for such developments so that developers also take initiatives from their side to ensure that by 2022 we also stand closer to other countries on the “sustainability” front.

Q: Is there any specific focus area for the real estate in general and SNN Builders in particular during 2015?

Srinivasan: FY 2014 has been quite a fruitful year for the sector in terms of business sentiment and announcements by the government, though the real effect of many of the policies will show effect only in some time. Starting from Union Budget where affordable housing was considered on par with infrastructure to relaxation of rigidities in the land acquisition and RE regulatory bill, the Government has been offering the sector consistent doses of energy.

We are positive that FY 2015 onwards will be good for the real estate sector.  Now that the threat of inflation has subsided quite dramatically and the borrowing rates are sure to go down from the current levels, it’s all looking good for the property sector and this will for sure encourage potential buyers, be it end-users or investors to avail home loans to finally take the plunge.  Also, with the property prices currently staying stable and good deals being offered by developers in order to clear their inventory, the fence-sitting buyers be further encouraged to press the ‘buy’ button.

Another major development will be in the affordable homes.  With the budget echoing support to this segment through their vision to provide home for everyone, 2015 will see a major push on Affordable Segment pick up considerably.  So, to conclude, FY2015 onwards the real estate players need to be on the same path with the growing real estate market, more knowledgeable customers and need to adapt to a series of mega trends impacting society and the global economy in large and Indian economy in particular.  These mega trends include accelerating urbanization, developing projects in the growing rural areas, demographic shifts and the impact of disruptive technological advancements and changes.