Destination development: First mover advantage
Beyond the oft-repeated developers’ rhetoric ‘location, location and location’ as the USP of the project, lies the fact that today’s prime location was once a deserted area that most developers were not ready to bet on with the kind of huge investment that realty projects demand. It has not just been the huge investment involved but the infrastructure, or rather lack of it, which often made them play safe. Though, in some of the cases, the government authorities took the initiative to provide the necessary infrastructure and auctioned the land to the developers; in some of the other cases, it was the developer who spotted opportunity in a virgin territory and reaped the first mover advantage.
It would be easy to vouchsafe that while the state, in most of the cases, has been a reluctant urbaniser, destination development actually demands a daredevil’s vision and that is precisely the reason why only a handful of locations could see the first mover changing the dynamics of urbanisation in general and the realty market in particular.
The first such case study in India has been the emergence of Gurgaon, at a time, when urban land development was in the controlled regime of the state. Facing many challenges at the policy level, it was the vision of KP Singh, chairman, DLF, to replicate a global city in India that Gurgaon was conceptualised, ahead of its time. According to Sanjey Roy, spokesperson, DLF, “Gurgaon was initially conceptualised as DLF Qutab Enclave and the plan was visualised ahead of its time. It was not an easy job, particularly at a time when the urban land development was in the controlled state regime. The success story of Gurgaon eventually led to the development of many such destinations across the country.”
He also adds “One needs to have a vision to transform a nondescript location into a property hotspot. Once it is developed, it is much easier to do a cost-benefit analysis and say the location could have been developed this way or that way. When DLF first ventured into Gurgaon, Delhi needed to outgrow its boundaries with the growing urbanisation. Gurgaon, for one, was picked up as an extension of what, at that point of time, was the most sought-after tourist hotspot, Qutab Minar,” explains Roy.
Similarly, in Mumbai, it has been the developers’ vision that has created destinations in far off suburbs such as Powai. The fact remains that had the Hiranandanis also thought about playing with the land competence of ‘location, location and location’, Powai would not have emerged the way it has shaped up today. Some other locations, like Malad, Goregaon, Kalyan and Dombivli, are also shaping up as excellent destinations. Interestingly, these destinations were spotted by developers who recognised an opportunity in an area which had, for others, been the road less travelled.
Similarly, the Nahar Group’s initiative of developing a new township in Chandivali has resulted in making Chandivali a destination suburb. The Group had begun development in this lesser known area, at a time when not much development was happening in that suburb.
The idea was to, in the next few years, make this location one of the most-preferred destinations in Mumbai city. Today, Chandivali competes with other locations such as Powai, in residential real estate. Manju Yagnik, vice-chairperson, Nahar Group, agrees that to some extent, it is risky to venture into new destinations with no habitation and infrastructure. Hence, developers undertake some research or study before starting with a new project. Location has its own importance in real estate development but creation of residential projects can also be undertaken by the developer, from a futuristic point of view.
“A developer can also create new destinations, by providing amenities and facilities essential for smooth living. Earlier, this suburb was hardly known for residential or commercial development, as a major part of this area was deserted land. Today, the vast 125 acres of land, is full of greenery and plush residential towers and commercial complex. Besides proximity to the domestic and international airport, business districts in Mumbai and arterial roads of Mumbai, have made Chandivali a new destination of Mumbai city,” states Yagnik.
Similarly, when the Knight Frank report, last year, rated south Chennai’s Pallikaranai and Medavakkam, as two of the most promising destinations, many within the built environment of realty business, were taken aback. Even though, Pallikaranai and Medavakkam are about 12 kms from the Chennai International Airport, through the Pallavaram-Thuraipakkam Road, it was not seen as a ‘destination’ till some of the developers spotted an opportunity and shifted their focus to the region, for developing it as the destination next.
There are not many case studies in Indian real estate, where a developer has a vision and has shown the audacity to take the road less-travelled. Experience also suggests that some of them had to take a beating but for those who could spot the right location to be developed as a destination; it proved to be a goldmine. Those who want to capitalise on sheer land competence, established location is all that matters but for those who do not want to be ‘me too’ in the established locations, there are still virgin territories to be explored.