HomeInterviewsSarwar Chowdhury, SAVP, Head of Business Development & Customer Care, Bay Developments Ltd.

Sarwar Chowdhury, SAVP, Head of Business Development & Customer Care, Bay Developments Ltd.

Reshaping Real-Estate

Bay Developments introdcues innovation and new developments in industry

I was always fascinated with advertising and its impact on the consumers, which lead me to choose Marketing as my Major in University. So naturally when I entered the job market, Marketing became my field of expertise and it has served me quite well so far by giving me a very fulfilling career.

I learnt a lot during my initial Internship and subsequent stay at Singer Bangladesh where I had studied and prepared a report on the business prospect of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) better known as Energy Saving Bulbs in Bangladesh. Later on the product became very successful in the local market and made me realize the power of R&D and marketing. The passion was fueled further during my career at Bay, as I worked my way up from a trainee officer to my current position. There have been no shortcuts to my journey and I had the opportunity to learn during every crucial step of the way. It is all about filling the gaps in the market and communicating the values to the consumers through the right channels.

There are many factors that influence the ebb and flow of the real estate market. Since the product takes many months to come to the market and years to deliver, it is affected by the macro-economic fundamentals and policies taken by the lawmakers.

In Bangladesh, things are no different but the problem here is that there are no baseline numbers or readily available market data to determine or equate a slump or surge in the real-estate sector. Even the strongest markets have pullbacks, dips and pauses as the consumer emotions go back and forth. In my opinion, the slower pullback days gives opportunities to the developer to reset and regroup their people & processes and the market can rest and stabilize as well.

We were the second fastest growing economy in South Asia in 2016, moving up a few notches. The capital grew by leaps and bounds and the whole city seemed like one big construction site.
We are set to graduate from LDC (least developed countries) to LMI (lower middle income). Recently, the Boston Consulting Group did a study where it showed that in 2015 there were only 10 key cities with more than 300,000 middle and affluent class (MAC) consumers each. Projections suggest that, in ten years, there will be 33 towns and cities with some having more than 2 million MAC consumers. The right product and placement can convert these populations into customers, and there seems to be immense potential outside Dhaka as well.

High registration cost is one of the barriers to sales in the real estate sector of Bangladesh.

As far as slashing of the registration fee by the government, the formal gazette hasn’t been published yet. However, when it does go through, it will be a welcoming change for both the government as well as the real estate sector.

The government has been missing out on a lot of revenue because of the customer delays and reluctance in registering their homes in a reasonable timeframe. These stockpiles of unregistered homes will come forward now because of this discount opportunity. Developers will benefit through a reasonable influx of price sensitive customers.

Our layout comes from functionality, the major characteristic of a Bay product. While buyers mention our distinct, clean aesthetics, I suggest that durability is the other main trait. In addition to the built quality, our buildings come with a maintenance contract from our highly trained Facilities Management team that keeps the building in top shape over many years after handover. This gives the investors a higher return over time through rental, capital gain as well as a much lower depreciation of asset than the industry average.

As we cater to a high-end niche we have to always stay ahead of the pack in terms of product innovations and green principles. Double glazed windows, synchronized generators, individual metering etc. were all incorporated to complement our practices in creating greener structures, while using energy & water more judiciously, and creative design of space.
We introduced fire stairs, community area, open green spaces and standby generators, among others, years before they were mandatory. Our early rooftop gardens, pools and clubhouses became role models for others. In fact, of the five dozen features and services we generally see today in high-end homes, were all introduced or inspired by Bay.

Goodwill or reputation, takes years to build and yes it is still one of the best tool for marketing of real estate in Bangladesh. I believe, it will not change anytime soon especially because there is a stigma attached to the real estate sector as a result of malpractices carried out by certain companies.

We need to continuously deliver a high value product, but also ensure that the value of the investment will endure over time. That notion that there are no short-cuts, be it in raw materials and the equipment that go into a building or compliance is very important. A holistic approach to the business is the key, supported by building a team of professionals with a commitment to the long term.

PWC’s recent study shows that by 2030, Bangladesh will be the 28th largest economy. We estimate that at least $700b will be invested in the next 50 years just in housing alone. Dhaka is growing at 100,000 households a year, of which 25,000 homes are delivered by the formal sector. Of these, only 15,000 are delivered by Real Estate developers hence, the opportunities that lie ahead look very promising.

Professionally, I have experienced an incredible transformation in the field of marketing where I saw companies slowly shift to the digital age, where it is much easier to measure the effectiveness of campaigns. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) all over the world are now spending a larger proportion of their budgets on technology than on internal staff. Marketing technology or MARTECH will continue to take up higher percentages of marketing budgets as more and more channels opens up in our country. Email marketing, online content management and digital analytics technology are the main things marketers are focused on at the moment. Some reports suggest that artificial intelligence could eventually be used to design marketing campaigns in future, rather than people. So there is plenty to learn and experiment with in the coming years and I’m surely excited about the future.

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