In a conversation, M Habibul Basit, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Shanta Holdings Ltd., discusses his journey, the importance of the real estate sector in Bangladesh’s economy and how Shanta is evolving to redefine the benchmark for high-end real estate in the country
Can you tell us about your 6-year long journey with Shanta Holdings?
My journey with Shanta since late 2015 started with a lot of learning and understanding of the industry. Prior to joining Shanta, I had very little understanding of the real estate sector but I knew this industry has enormous potential to grow.
Being new to the industry, I had the unique opportunity to bring in a fresh perspective to the table. People and culture are critical in transforming a company into a great one – this is one area where we focused at the very beginning and still passionately drive many initiatives around that. We identified and acted upon scopes of improvement in the people and culture aspect of the company. It included introducing new ideas and best practices that facilitated the growth and development of the team – both individually and collectively. I am happy to share that the team had the right mindset and took up the challenge. Simultaneously, we focused on creating a vision for the company and then collectively worked towards creating a strategy and action plan aligned with the vision. This set a clear goal in mind and provided direction to all.
During those initial years, we prioritized the transformation of the company and worked around our people, structure and process to ensure an achievement-oriented culture. Performance came as a direct result of that. We also focused on formulating a realistic company business plan for each year which helped to provide a set of clear objectives, a line of sight and role clarity to all concerned in the team.
Through these initiatives we have ensured a shared and aligned vision for the company where every member had something to contribute. All these activities helped us to enhance our capability and efficiency which resulted in providing consistent business growth year on year in this period.
We have a strong Facility Management Services (FMS) wing, which manages all our projects for a minimum of 5 years post-handover. A professional team of building managers ensure that security, cleaning and maintenance of our projects are upheld to the highest standard.
Shanta Holdings is known for driving a performance culture. How did this passion help Shanta Holdings to overcome the challenges of the pandemic?
We believe a performance-driven culture is at the core of any successful business. We are fortunate to have a team who are open to new ideas and challenges and work passionately towards success. Our performance is driven by the culture we live by – a culture that stands on 6 core values – Excellence, Innovation, Commitment, Quality, Customer Satisfaction and Valuing People. These values are embedded in Shanta’s DNA and drive the team towards setting standards.
After the initial shock of COVID-19, we regrouped and adapted to the new normal scenario. Our primary concern was the health and safety of all our people. This called for formulating a new work module which enabled the team to work uninterrupted from the safety of their homes but at the same time getting the job done. To complement this, we brought the required changes in the standard operating procedure (SOP), altered the methodologies and introduced a customized performance monitoring tool. In addition, strict COVID-19 protocols were enforced for the safety of people and the workplace. These initiatives proved to be very effective and we are happy to share, in spite of working remotely during this crisis situation, we did not lose much in terms of our deliverables and all the major objectives were achieved.
Would you please elaborate on the government policy support that enabled the rapid sale of ready-made flats?
Real estate has been one of the major contributors to our economy. In the recent years our economy has been growing at a very healthy rate whereby the purchasing power of consumers is also increasing. Moreover, some recent government decisions have helped this growth. For example, lower interest rates, higher home loan ceilings and reduced registration fees aided the demand growth. The tax rebate policy for the government officials has also helped the sales to grow as the buyers are more comfortable to go for their desired properties.
Can you elaborate on the evolution of customer demand? What is encouraging buying rather than renting? Also tell us about the economic trends spearheading investment in the real estate sector.
With the evolution of digital media the world is a global village now and we all are aware of what’s happening around the world. Now consumers demand a living space that matches with their desired lifestyle, the social status and living comfort. A home is not just a living area now, but a statement of prestige. Consumers aspire for amenities like a swimming pool, gym, playing ground for kids and a party space besides a well-designed apartment that they see around the world.
In recent years it has become easier for the customers to access the financial assistance required for property purchase. The financial institutions are offering loans at competitive rates and terms. In addition, the strong economic performance over the past few years in general has enabled people to have higher disposable income. Thus allowing people a better opportunity for opting to buy rather than renting a property.
Consumers today are also looking at real estate as an investment opportunity. An apartment in a good location, from a reputed and quality builder, is considered a very safe investment compared to other financial instruments as it ensures a higher and more sustainable return on investment. This also helped to boost the trend of buying.
Share some details regarding Shanta Holdings ongoing projects – what can customers expect from the real estate innovator?
We have a range of residential and commercial projects in the pipeline. FORUM – the first 24 storied twin towers are nearing completion and will set a new benchmark for commercial development in the country once it opens doors next year. PINNACLE – the city’s first 40 storied skyscraper is under construction and currently in the substructure stage. These projects will house shared amenities such as retail outlets, cafes, a rooftop restaurant, gym, business center and more for the convenience of tenants, hence further cementing Tejgaon as the ultimate commercial hub of the city. We hope these iconic developments will also stand as architectural landmarks for Dhaka. In residential, we have a portfolio of projects around the city, particularly, a few park-side projects in North Gulshan in our Platinum, i.e. ultra-luxury category – OLYMPUS on road 62, AURA on road 83, and ZEPHYR on road 100/103. Each of these projects, located in super-prime locations, will offer residents unobstructed panoramic park views; a rare opportunity in our ever-bustling city. Moreover, each project will house state-of-the art lifestyle amenities such as heated swimming pools with beautifully landscaped decks, fully equipped gyms, stylishly appointed and fully furnished party rooms, bbq zones and more, complemented with sophisticated interior designs, thus, creating an ambience of true luxury and comfort for our residents, which their lifestyles demand.
We can proudly say our commercial projects house a footprint of offices of renowned local and multinational corporations, which is a testament to not just our design and construction quality, but also to our safety and facility management standards.
Young homeowners seek convenience, invention, and sustainability – how is Shanta Holdings incorporating these factors into their home designs? Could you elaborate on the facility management module available to consumers and what they can expect?
Sustainability is indeed a crucial element of modern living. We realize the need for biophilic architecture, environmental-friendly and sustainable development and have been working towards that journey. Our projects have professionally designed landscaping; from lush green lawns to beautiful planters at terraces, soothing water features to rooftop gardens and barbeque zones to children’s play areas. We strive to feature nature and its elements in our projects in this manner as well as maximize natural light and ventilation, which are always prioritized at the design stage. Our designs are user-oriented. We take an outside-in approach to ensure that users’ comfort, safety and functional living remain the priority. As COVID-19 has re-taught us the importance of the outdoors, we are now even more so focused on ensuring our projects encompass the notion of biophilic design and create even better outdoor functions which allow our users to enjoy nature to the utmost. The use of natural and local materials to reduce our carbon footprint, low-e double-glazed windows to reduce heat gain, and low-consumption fittings to minimize water usage are always our preference.
We have a strong Facility Management Services (FMS) wing, which manages all our projects for a minimum of 5 years post-handover. A professional team of building managers ensure that security, cleaning and maintenance of our projects are upheld to the highest standard. There are specific guidelines for cleaning and maintaining certain materials like natural stones, landscaping, and more importantly, the expensive electromechanical equipment of projects such as elevators, substations and generators which are commonly ignored but are imperative to the safety and longevity of the buildings. We ensure those key aspects are well maintained and monitored to ensure our properties retain their value for our clients. Clients can also choose to submit maintenance requests, book amenities and pay their bills through our online FMS portal, which is an added convenience. Our teams are well trained in fire-fighting and emergency response in case the need arises. We can proudly say our commercial projects house a footprint of offices of renowned local and multinational corporations, which is a testament to not just our design and construction quality, but also to our safety and facility management standards. Another example is that since the onset of the pandemic, the initiatives by our FMS team to strictly ensure the required health and sanitation protocols has ensured zero outbreaks in any of our projects, by the grace of the Almighty.
Give us a snippet of the upcoming projects in the pipeline – what’s in store?
We have many residential and commercial projects in the pipeline. We are going to launch the first true gated community in adjacent areas of Mirpur DOHS consisting of 400+ apartment units with all the modern amenities like jogging trail, fully equipped gym, swimming pool, central courtyard, curated space for indoor and outdoor games, prayer space and many more. Apart from these, many more residential properties are in the pipeline in the most lucrative locations of Dhaka like Baridhara, Guslahn, Banani, Dhanmondi etc. In terms of commercial, the city is going to witness a few large-scale, international-standard commercial buildings in the near future. We are actively working to build some true world class commercial towers that are going to attract the best business houses and eventually redefine the city skyline. Altogether, more than 8 million sq. ft. of development is in the pipeline and counting.
How is Shantas’ CSR initiative – Centre for Woman and Child Health (CWCH) supporting the community?
As a part of CSR, Shanta founded the not-for-profit healthcare institution – Centre for Woman and Child Health (CWCH) in 2004 at Ashulia. CWCH has been serving the community of readymade garment workers, particularly the underprivileged poor women and children of the area. It was started with the intention of giving back to the very segment of people that were a part of Shanta’s success during its earlier days in the RMG sector. The center offers free-of-cost treatment including diagnostic, medicine, outpatient and inpatient care for the underprivileged.
Presently, CWCH operates with 100 inpatient beds. In addition, it also has 18 beds for emergency services. CWCH treats over 600 outpatients every day. The expansion of the hospital building is near completion. The 7-storied main hospital building with the total floor area of about 250,000 sq ft will start operation with 250 inpatient beds from early 2022. The center offers services in the areas of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatric, Medicine, Cardiology, Diabetes & Endocrinology, Orthopedic, ENT, Eye, Dental, Physiotherapy, Dermatology and Child Development. The center has well equipped services like Operation Theatres, Diagnostic Laboratory, Radiology and Imaging, and a Pharmacy. It also offers various vaccination programs for children for free. Presently 375 professionals and staff are engaged in the center. We also have a plan to go for a Nursing college in the coming years to expand our support to the community.