Toward the New Normal
In a conversation, Amit Chakrabortty, Chief Marketing Officer, Suvastu properties Ltd. divulges on the effects of COVID-19 on Bangladeshi real estate industry and the future of professional marketing.
How has the pandemic affected the demand in Suvastu Properties Ltd’s current portfolios? Have there been any cancellations?
The whole world is reeling from the deadliest pandemic of recent times. Death tolls have skyrocketed in many countries and the global economy has had its foundations shaken. Concurrently, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the sector hard and employment of thousands of people related to the sector are at stake. Currently, we are experiencing low sales volume, however, our internal digital marketing analysis shows a silver lining. The soft leads indicate that the real estate sector is still the most lucrative sector for investors to commit their investments. For decades the real estate sector has been the most reliable investment destination with one of the highest return on investment. Unlike other investment instruments at this moment medium and large-volume investors have found this sector profitable considering the capital appreciation, rental return and inflation adjustment. Also, the Bangladesh Government has been encouraging investment in the sector by providing different tax benefits as the sector is one of the largest employers in the country. Recently, the government has significantly reduced registration fees of new flats which we believe will enhance sales. Consequently, Suvastu Properties Ltd is getting very good responses from the target segments. We have had no cancellations yet due to the pandemic.
The social distancing requirements are not going away anytime soon. How will it change the dynamics of the demand in the industry?
To stop the spread COVID-19 we will need to radically change almost everything we do: how we work, exercise, socialize, shop, manage our health, educate our kids, take care of family members. Social distancing is here to stay for much more than a few weeks. It will upend our way of life, in some ways forever. Society as a whole will have to improvise to adjust to the “new normal”. The real estate industry is also evolving to accommodate the new regulations and thrive in the new reality. I think this “social distancing” will not negatively affect the demand in the real estate industry as we are following health guidelines in all levels of our operations and customer interactions, rather it will help us to live a more disciplined life and encourage us to maintain hygiene regulations that most of us take for granted. Property and real estate is the most robust industry in the world, in the post-COVID-19 world, the industry will get more attention from the investors because of its reliability.
Due to COVID-19, tangible marketing activities (fair/trade shows) related to the sector have been suspended. Physical communication is pivotal in Bangladeshi real estate sector, what contingency measures have you taken to substitute its (physical communication) need?
As more industries shift to remote working during the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses are having to make fundamental changes to their everyday processes. While there’s nothing like experiencing a space in person, virtual tours have come a long way and offer a close equivalent. In the era of physical distancing, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of this technology. We are offering Virtual Reality (VR) based project tours, online meetings and massive digital marketing for leads acquisition. Clients are also getting accustomed with these preliminary procedures however the closing-level deals need physical interaction for this type of high-value investment where design, construction, payment and some regulatory affairs are also involved. We are performing all those maintaining the proper health guidelines.
You are a veteran marketing professional in this country. In this environment, what would you suggest to the students who are aspiring to become marketing professionals in future?
The COVID-19 has altered the very fabric of our socio-economic structure. Already it has accelerated many social and economic changes that otherwise may have taken years to materialize. When we eventually come out on the other side of the outbreak and the economy recovers, businesses will be faced with new, and likely permanent, changes. The pandemic has already accelerated the trends that were taking place in the world, the fourth industrial revolution is upon us. Automation and AI will be the core of the change in the job sector. Future employees or even the current ones have to evolve to accommodate the new requirements of the modern world. Marketing professionals have to be continual Research & Development (R&D) based unlike the conventional ATL or BTL based. Study the industry in your country and few other countries in the world who has brought innovation in real estate products, sales & marketing techniques, innovate different investment schemes, keep adequate market data and analyze properly for decision making, understand the customer need for architectural design and target value-based construction so that you may give your management enough data that can help them for design and pricing of a project. Study and develop a proper Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that will help create a sustainable lead bank/client data centre for the company. Know your target group, make an ideal customer profile and reach them with modern digital marketing strategy. Continue after-sales interaction with the clients in some strategic ways for repeated sales generation. Innovative, concise and attractive communication materials should be in place. Work hard, because Bangladesh Real Estate Industry is growing in demand.
As a professional, how has the experience been for you? Are you considering this as a teaching moment that will better prepare you for future challenges?
I am considering this situation as a great scope for learning and development. This is, in fact, inspiring and insisting us to think out of the box. The person who can bring more effective strategic direction and execution of marketing activities to survive and progress in this situation will certainly be an admired person in this industry. I am dedicating most of my time in learning and innovation at this moment.