The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a fair share of challenges for realty firms and workspace providers. The industry's income abruptly decreased after WFH became the new norm in lockdown and companies started quitting their office spaces, making it a significant part of their cost-cutting measures.
Bengaluru-based realty firm Embassy Group, a major player in Indian commercial real estate, has been affected by the crisis too. The group launched India's first REIT (real estate investment trust) and partnered with US-based WeWork in 2016 to enter into co-working business.
Now as many state governments have given relaxations in work from office rules in certain zones, the industry is hopeful of the gradual reopening of business, albeit in a phased manner.
The expectations are that after lockdown, companies and businesses will focus on smaller and distributed offices across the country.
"The commercial real estate industry is looking at a trend of increased localisation, driven by a shift towards remote working. With variable model becoming imperative across certain businesses, and a need for flexible shifts for employees, we expect companies and businesses to focus on having smaller and more distributed office spaces across the country," Vineet Singh, CMO of Embassy Group, told BestMediaInfo.com.
Singh said the ongoing situation's short-term impact has been very hard on every market.
With the upcoming shift, the group looks at marketing the message of reassurance, communicating that they are well-prepared to support the change across businesses. Embassy Group will focus on initiatives that benefit its members’ needs during and after the lockdown. Balanced campaigns that focus on prioritisation of health and safety along with stringent measures taken by the group are getting communicated.
The realty firm plans to market efficiently using technological tools that elevate their digital communication. "Leveraging webinars, online events, virtual round tables, etc., to get our communication across to various stakeholders and members alike have been an ongoing process during this phase," Singh said.
Brands, including real estate, need to reassure support to the customers and proactively put out reassuring communication and updates that showcase the plans of the future.
Singh said balanced communication during this time is essential to showcase the steps being taken by brands for business continuity, along with measures of health and safety that will get implemented. "Marketing about any social initiatives undertaken by brands to help the larger community should continue as well," he said.
According to Singh, real estate players (commercial and home) will await and abide by rules laid out by the central and state governments.
Speaking about the PM's Rs 20 lakh crore relief package, Singh said, "The announcement offers a boost to real estate. Extension on timelines for project completion and registration by six months has proven to be a relief for multiple members of the industry as a majority of activities have been on hold since the onset of Covid-19. The stimulus package will be instrumental in easing the burden off developers and organisations."
Embassy Group has developed a plan for the future of the workplace, which focuses on professional distancing, cleanliness, and proactive risk mitigation measures. Re-evaluation of density plans and stricter social distancing norms are prepared before opening WeWork spaces.
"As part of the key precautionary measures to welcome our workforce back safely, all our buildings are being fumigated and sanitised before members come in. We are encouraging all members, employees and vendor personnel to practice social distancing and avoid gatherings in large groups and numbers. We have suspended all internal and external events indefinitely. Seating arrangements, spaces in common areas and conference rooms are being reviewed and modified to ensure a minimum of six-foot distance between two people. We have also implemented mandatory temperature screenings outside our buildings," said Singh.
For security in access, the group has implemented business hour restrictions strictly at all of its WeWork spaces and no visitors or delivery personnel will be allowed to access the premises.
"We are making provisions at the community bar and prominent locations to maintain an additional distance through strategic design elements and awareness posters. All common touchpoints will be sanitised at regular intervals, and it will be mandatory for everyone to wear masks inside the spaces as well," he said.
To represent the challenges faced by the industry, the country's leading co-working space operators have come together and formed the Indian Workspace Association (IWA). The aim is to put forth issues to the government and chalk out strategies to deal with immediate cash-flow challenges and future roadmap of the industry.
According to Singh, consistent engagement with members in the virtual world is the new regular.
"Using digital tools, we continue to engage our members consistently to ensure their physical and mental wellbeing," he said. The group has been taking member feedback on the expectations of members once they resume working from the office space. Embassy Group has also communicated the prioritisation of members' health and safety along with information on the stringent steps taken to ensure the same.
"To keep the spirits up, we are organising virtual health and fitness festivals, which cover the pillars of mental and physical health," he said.
As for outdoor media, there will be a temporary setback and will be leveraged by businesses as the industry comes out of this phase.