[ecis2016.org] While home buyers want regular updates and greater involvement during the construction phase of a project, not many builders seem willing to oblige. We examine the reasons for this and what developers can do, to bridge the gap
“Whenever I wished to visit my under-construction apartment, I was denied entry into the site by the security guards, in the name of safety issues. I am unaware of the construction status and the builder does not respond to my e-mails. The sales executives say that I will be allowed access to my flat only when it is ready for fit-outs. Why can’t builders involve the home buyers in the process?” questions a dejected home buyer, Rajneesh Pant in Mumbai. Pant’s experience reflects a common scenario, where, after investing their lifetime’s savings, home buyers are merely expected to sit and wait. However, amidst a slowing market and with greater awareness, today’s end-user buyers are demanding more involvement during the construction lifecycle of the project. The question is, to what extent can involving the buyer bridge the trust deficit in the sector?
Certain developers have allowed their home buyers to customise their requirements in the units themselves, on the developer’s website. The idea is to get the feedback of the end-users’ needs and aspirations. However, such cases are few and far between.
Most developers maintain that there are already many ways in which the buyers are made a part of the construction process. According to them, the construction-linked plan (CLP) is the best way to make buyers aware of the progress. In this plan, after paying the booking amount, the buyer pays the remaining amount as per the slab completion. Other developers, maintain that by updating customers about the progress of the project with images of the building and live videos on regular intervals, especially with NRI customers, involvement is already there.
Why developers remain wary of involving home buyers
Devang Trivedi, managing director of the Progressive Group, maintains that Indian developers cannot take a leaf out of what is happening worldwide. According to him, the Indian eco-system, including the process of obtaining approvals and other confidential issues, do not allow the developers to be upfront. The idea is not to allow the element of arm-twisting or blackmailing in future, he says.
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“This is also the reason why Indian developers prefer to have more of investors than end-users, as their first set of buyers. An investor will not bother you with as many questions, as the end-users. Moreover, he is only concerned with the return on investment and not with the nitty-gritty detailing of an apartment,” says Trivedi.
JC Sharma, MD & VC of Sobha Ltd, says that developers are striving to deepen their customer relationships. This goes a long way towards nation building and meeting the demand for homes. “By engaging constantly with our customers, we try to understand the changes in their requirements and act accordingly. For example, we also provide a ‘Privilege Kit’ to all our existing customers. This is a referral program, which allows customers to accrue points that can be redeemed at branded stores like Amazon.com, Tanishq, Flipkart, etc.,” says Sharma.
While such moves are welcome, a majority of Indian home buyers continue to feel left out. A handful of developers, who have taken the lead to involve the buyers, do understand the benefits of relationship management with the buyers. In the age of consumer activism, often to the extent of blackmailing, developers remain wary of involving the buyers. Nevertheless, in the long term, it will only help, more than hurt, the cause of the sector.
(The writer is CEO, Track2Realty)
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