Understanding of local values helps win the market

FOREIGN developers new to India’s real estate need to learn the intricacies of the local practices and conditions, including the practice of Vaastu, an ancient Indian feng shui practice, to design the right types of homes for the growing market. 

The country’s expanding middle class has resulted in escalated demand for more decent housing units in a well-planned environment, which until recently remained the domain of the rich Indians. 

It is common for developers in India to advertise their projects as “100% Vaastu” to attract buying interest. 

According to Starlite Spintech Ltd chief executive officer and president Sanjay Patwari, being 100% Vaastu-compliant would mean greater demand for a particular project.  

“This is because a potential buyer seeks more prosperity and happiness in his new dwelling and is ready to pay a little bit more for that.  

A modern high-rise office building in Gurgaon, a booming satellite cityoutside New Delhi.

“This means that a Vaastu-compliant house will fetch about 20% to 30% more in price than a non-Vaastu-compliant house,” he told StarBiz.  

It is generally believed that because of Vaastu – which dates some 4,000 to 5,000 years back – the whole universe gets good health, happiness and all round prosperity. Human beings attain divinity with this knowledge.  

Popular in South India, Vaastu Shastra (the knowledge of Vaastu) takes into account the position of the sky, wind and energy, with respect to the position of the house.  

Vaastu Shastra deals with various aspects of designing and building living environments that are in harmony with the physical and metaphysical forces and energies of the cosmos such as the gravitational, electromagnetic and supernatural.  

Building practices based on limited interpretations of these principles are still sustained in specific areas of India.  

“Though Vaastu is conceptually similar to feng shui in that it also tries to harmonise the flow of energy (also called life-force, and Chi in Chinese) through the house, it differs in the details, such as the exact direction in which various objects, rooms and materials are to be placed,” Sanjay explained.  

He however acknowledged that in today's age, with growing urbanisation, paucity of space and more significantly the rampant sense of faithlessness in anything that modern science fails to explain, “it is practically impossible to even dream of a home or office confirming to the laws of Vaastu.” 

Another aspect of the Indian property market is the preference for detached housing units or independent houses (the preferred term in India). So it is not surprising not to come across linked or terraced houses there. 

The reason for this is because of the need to comply to Vaastu and the fact that most Indian families live with their extended relatives, including parents and siblings. 

Gated and guarded communities are a common sight in some exclusive addresses in the major Indian cities. However, the rising land cost has made apartment dwelling more popular. 

High-rise luxury apartments are sprouting up in the more developed parts of India, such as Gurgaon, which is a bustling satellite city with many modern high-rise residential and commercial buildings outside New Delhi. 

With more than 80% of new real estate developments comprising residential projects, there is much scope for new housing ideas and designs. 

Much potential also await those who specialise in offices, hotels, malls and entertainment avenues.  

Industry players should also be prepared for some of the challenging issues that are rather unique to the Indian property market. 

For tax reasons, the practice of sub-dividing properties, including land and other real estate into smaller units, have made land purchasing a rather cumbersome process. 

“Many properties have numerous partners listed on the titles and it is not unusual for the interested party to have to deal with all these owners to get their consent before a deal can be struck,” a company official lamented. 

The country’s poor infrastructure also poses a challenge for industry players to build in places close to the urban centres. While things are moving well in the development of office spaces, malls and residential facilities, the urban infrastructure in the cities has been unable to keep pace with it.  

Obstacles like power shortages, lack of an effective public transport system and bad roads still plague the cities.  

As the infrastructure in most parts of India is ageing and very poor, most developers have to build in green fields or outskirts, taking the chance and hoping that the city will expand in the direction of their projects. 

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