I’ve reached Davos and am eagerly anticipating the start of the World Economic Forum tomorrow. The WEF 2014 theme – ‘The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business’ – is intriguing. As strategic partner to the WEF Jones Lang LaSalle will focus on fostering a new appreciation for the role that real estate plays in reshaping the world’s geography.
It’s cold here, and the wind that blows over the picturesque mountains is icy. It also brings a message of change, one that I imagine we all hope to see as a result of this meeting.
The images that come to mind when thinking of real estate’s role in reshaping the world are not necessarily pleasant. One tends to think of concrete jungles, skyscrapers jostling for space on city skylines, vanishing green cover and open spaces. And of course we can’t just wish these realities away.
But it is also true that a more aware and concerned consciousness now guides the world. This consciousness has taken a hard look at the past, and is determined to make a change. This new way of thinking can and will slowly but surely make the world’s cities better places to live and work in. We are already seeing this change in the developed world, and India is by no means a silent bystander.
A decade ago in India, nobody talked of green residential buildings, sustainable office spaces and the need to put infrastructure before development. In our larger cities, urban planning was a weak good intention with no force of policy-level implementation to drive it. Now change is happening – we all see it, but aren’t overly impressed yet because it is such a slow process. Nevertheless, I am more hopeful than ever today.
Luckily for India, new thinking around sustainably took greater hold at a time when the country’s real estate sector was slowing down for other reasons. There is no better and more effective brake for the real estate sector than an economic slowdown.
This year we are on the path of economic revival but a new awareness now prevails within real estate. Regulations that have been forgotten in ‘bureaucratic drawers’ are being dusted off with a clear view to implementation. A new age of regulated real estate development is on the horizon.
By this I mean mandatory reservations for LIG housing in large townships and stronger rules for the maintenance of open spaces and green zones. Of a rapidly growing demand for sustainable workplaces and homes, demand that is already yielding more supply of the right products all over the country. And of a determined drive by our Government towards bringing this largely unregulated market into the folds of documented transparency.
In terms of regulation, sustainability and overall inclusiveness, India’s real estate market is a long way from being comparable to countries like the UK, Germany and Switzerland. But the wind of change is blowing… I feel it every time I look out of the window at an environmentally sustainable office complex coming up in Bangalore. It rattles the newspaper pages every time I read about another illegally constructed housing project being demolished in Mumbai, or FSI norms being stretched.
It blows across the balconies of Indians who have spurned the polluted inner cities and now live in the cleaner, greener environs of new, better-planned suburbs. It blows across newly-laid railway tracks and speedways that allow them to reach work despite this brave choice. It buffets the windows of office buildings than consume less resources and deliver more in terms of efficiency. In India, the wind of change is perhaps still just a breeze, but it is picking up velocity.
I look in the future and see a new India unfolding, and this India fits very well into the concept of a reshaped world. We are here today because India has an important place in the larger global picture. We are here to be witnesses to and participants in the evolution of economies like ours. And more than ever, I’m proud to be an Indian.