Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis engendering high volatility in the capital markets is leading to investors losing their hard-earned money, at least for the time being. Most of the sectors have been badly affected due to the COVID-19 economic crisis
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis engendering high volatility in the capital markets is leading to investors losing their hard-earned money, at least for the time being. Most of the sectors have been badly affected due to the COVID-19 economic crisis. According to analysts, property prices after have declined by two to nine per cent after March, when the lockdown first came into effect. Even though the property prices have come down, the pandemic and the resultant lockdown have put a brake on people’s aspirations of owning a house of their own.
Among those affected are homebuyers who decided to buy a property in the new financial year by taking a home loan. But these people are now no longer sure if they would be able to afford the equated monthly investments (EMIs). Their reasons vary, ranging from layoffs, lack of business earnings to salary cuts, among others. The real estate sector has been hit by the lockdown, as construction activity all but came to a grinding halt with looming uncertainty over project completion dates.
Although the Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, took major steps to contain the fallout, still there are certain factors beyond her control as well, including lack of available manpower at construction sites.
The macro-economic uncertainty coupled with job cuts has left the buyers confused. We have come up with a piece of consolidated advice for homebuyers, if they are after owning a property in the post-lockdown economic scenario.
What a homebuyer should do?
- It would be best for the potential buyer with capital to wait for a couple of months and keep a close watch over the liquidity situation of the market.
- “Supply chain issues, labour availability and issues of raising any form of institutional capital will have their impact on projects and development timeline. Therefore, it would be prudent for buyers to pick up units in completed projects or wait till the construction activity on the site is resumed when it comes to under-construction projects,” says Ajay Sharma, Managing Director, Valuations (India) at Colliers International.
- It is prudent for a buyer to stick with prominent developers with a good track record with both customers and financial institutions. This will ensure safety in capital invested by them. “Given that residential pricing will be under pressure, good deals will come the buyer’s way but the timing of the buy should be prudent and not delayed in hope of more discounted pricing,” added Sharma.
- Buyers should evaluate their financial position, both current and in the next five years. They should carefully gauge if they are ready to take on any more loan liability, especially if they are solely dependent on monthly income from jobs.
- It would be important that they access all information from the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) sources to evaluate any buying-decision.
- It would be better if they take professional opinions from registered RERA brokers for a property before embarking on the decision to buy a project.
- “Buyers should closely work with their financial partner (banks or NBFCs) to obtain all information regarding the project they are evaluating,” said Sharma.
- Also, buyers should keep a sharp eye out for interest rates and take advantage of low-interest regimes at the same time. According to Adhil Shetty, CEO, BankBazaar, “With interests at an all-time low, this is a good time to buy a house. We’re currently in a low inflation period, and there are few triggers for an interest rate spike. Therefore, with rates falling regularly, a repo-linked loan will work to the borrower’s advantage.”
- A ready to move-in flat is more advisable to buy as compared to under-construction ones. Avoid putting your money into incomplete projects.
- Check the builders’ detail and then go and buy ready to move-in flats. Check all RERA rules before buying a flat. “Opt for a longer tenure if possible. While this means a higher interest rate, it means smaller EMIs. You can start putting together a small kitty towards your home loan, which you can pre-pay from time to time. This will reduce the impact of your increased tenure,” adds Shetty.
- For example, assume a loan of Rs 40 lakh at 8 per cent interest. For a 20-year loan, you will be paying an interest of Rs 40.3 lakh. For the same loan, you will have to pay an interest of Rs 65.7 lakh if the tenure is 30 years. However, a prepayment of Rs five lakh at the end of the third year will bring down the interest payable to Rs 41 lakh. Use a calculator to understand how you can prepay your loan to get maximum benefits.
- Consider opting for a smaller house with fewer premium amenities. This will bring down the costs for now. Over time, you can upgrade to a bigger premium home.
- With respect to any purchase decision, it is advisable to bring in financial consultant and take informed calls based on one’s ability to take liabilities.
- If the buyer is to dispose of a property to buy a new one, it would be best to complete the deal before signing on for a new apartment. This will ensure cash flow continuity and no hard surprises.
- It’s a common practice to monetise long-term savings like PPF to finance buying of the property, but in current times, it would be sensible to leave at least 9-12 months equivalent of monthly income in savings before buying a new property.
- Fiscal prudence should be paramount and it will help in making the right decisions for buying property.
Pandemic affect from a buyer’s perspective:
- There will be two types of home buyers after the lockdown period, those who have capital at hand and those who have secured job but need a home loan, says Sharma.
- The former will look for properties that are complete and compliant from all perspectives as it would be a safe investment though buy-in price may not be much discounted.
- Investors will have to look at buying for the appreciation of capital value with low consideration for yields that are already very low
- The push of government for rental housing might see investment into residential units. Potential buyers could be at an advantage in view of the financial sops that could result in decent returns.
- Buyers will need to carefully assess two risks- liability risk and property risk. Liability risk will entail the loan taking ability and servicing ability in light of macro-economic issues.
- Property risks will entail the development stage, progress, solvency of the developer and the ability to complete the project. A delay in raising capital and progress in work will spill over into liability risk and buyers will carefully look at de-risking themselves.
- Buyers’ cautious approach will defer their buying and preference shift depending on the pricing of the units. Both buyer types will expect discounts from developers and push for box prices that could land them a good deal. “A fair amount of paperwork and verification are also involved. So, also utilise this time to keep these ready, says Shetty.
Things to keep in mind post-COVID-19 lockdown:
- It is important that a potential buyer of residential real estate have their PPEs on at all times when going for on-site inspection.
- It is best to wear gloves and avoid touching surfaces to minimise transmission risks.
- It would be advisable to carry out all documentation online.
- With respect to any purchase decision, it is advisable to bring in a financial consultant and take informed calls based on one’s ability to take liabilities. “If the buyer is to dispose a property to buy new one, it would be best to complete the deal before signing on for a new apartment. This will ensure cash flow continuity and no hard surprises,” says Sharma.
- It is a common practice to monetise long term savings like PPF to finance buying of property but in current times it would be sensible to leave at least 9-12 months equivalent of monthly income in savings.
- Fiscal prudence should be paramount and it will help in making the right decision for buying property.
- Make sure you have a good credit score. Check there are no misses and pay special attention to ensure that you pay your bills on time in full.
- There will be a certain amount of credit tightening, and a good credit score can go a long way in ensuring that you get a good deal on your loan.
- Increase your emergency fund, so that it covers six months to an year of salary as a security. This will ensure you have more funds at hand in case of an emergency. This also gives you sufficient time to get another job in case of a job loss.
- Read and understand all the property-related documents before you finalise your purchase. Take legal help if required. This will save you heartache in the future.
- It would be anywhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of months before you can actually go ahead with the purchase. Take this time to understand how home loans work, especially external benchmark-linked ones.
- Different banks have different loan qualification criteria such as the borrower’s age, job profile, employment stability, credit history and others. Use calculators and eligibility charts to understand your eligibility with a particular lender to avail the best possible offers.
- Lenders set terms and conditions pertaining to the repayment of home loans. So, you need to clarify the terms related to settlement/foreclosing the outstanding amount, transferring the balance to another lender’s account, pre-paying a part or full amount of home loan before finalising a lender.
Jairaj Bhattacharya, Arnav Pyasi, Shikhar Gupta, and Shashank Pandey The Pioneers of Edtech Common Sense
In the realm of India’s booming edtech industry, where the chase for funds and rapid expansion often takes center stage, a quartet of entrepreneurs has forged their path with a different approach. Jairaj Bhattacharya, Arnav Pyasi, Shikhar Gupta, and Shashank Pandey, the minds behind ConveGenius, have exemplified the power of common sense in navigating the complex world of education technology. Their journey began in 2014 when Jairaj Bhattacharya and Shashank Pandey, both engineering graduates from the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, ventured into the social enterprise and impact segment of edtech. They embarked on a mission that set them apart from the conventional edtech founders of their time. Their vision was audacious yet clear: to provide high-quality educational content to an astounding 100 million children from middle- and low-income households across India.
What made their approach unique was the decision to offer this education for free. It was a decision rooted in common sense. They recognized that their target audience lacked the financial means to pay for educational resources. Drawing inspiration from tech giants like Google and Facebook, who offered their products for free to achieve massive scale, Bhattacharya and Pandey saw the potential for impact through a similar strategy. In the fast-growing edtech landscape of 2014, where venture capital was pouring into the sector, Bhattacharya and Pandey remained focused on their mission. They were not driven by the fear of missing out (FOMO) on funding rounds but by a genuine sense of purpose. They possessed an unwavering belief in the importance of what they were doing and never felt pressured to conform to industry norms.
In a market where edtech startups were raising substantial sums, ConveGenius managed to secure just one angel investor in 2015, who contributed a modest sum of Rs 25 lakh. Undeterred, they persisted, and in 2016, they raised a seed round of $1 million. Throughout this period, they remained acutely aware that investors were not queuing up to back their socially impactful edtech model. This awareness became one of their key strengths. While many startups were chasing vanity metrics like user engagement, Bhattacharya and his team focused on the fundamentals of building a sustainable edtech business. They understood that having thousands or millions of users did not automatically translate into significant revenue. Their emphasis on user retention and stickiness set them apart from others in the industry.
One striking example of their approach is ShareChat, a social media platform backed by Google. ShareChat had a massive user base of 400 million monthly active users by December 2022, with a valuation exceeding $5 billion. However, over 60 percent of its revenue in FY23 came from advertising services rather than direct user payments. Bhattacharya understood that having a large user base did not guarantee proportional revenue growth.
ConveGenius’s journey has been characterized by steady, sustainable growth rather than meteoric rises and dramatic falls. Their revenue from operations increased from Rs 13.5 crore in FY21 to Rs 46.7 crore in FY23, with losses growing modestly from Rs 6.87 crore to Rs 7.8 crore during the same period. This performance stands out, especially when compared to some of their peers in the edtech industry. For instance, FrontRow, an edtech platform for non-academic skills, raised significant funding but ultimately shut down in July. In contrast, ConveGenius, with its lean approach, managed to make a meaningful impact with fewer funds raised.
Amidst the challenges of 2022, when edtech venture funding declined, Bhattacharya faced pressure from various quarters to diversify beyond edtech. However, he viewed the market downturn as an opportunity to be more aggressive, emphasizing the importance of doing less and achieving more. His common-sense approach, combined with a lean team and a lack of heavy operational and administrative machinery, allowed ConveGenius to stay on its unique path. In reflecting on his journey as a social impact edtech founder, Bhattacharya remains humble. He does not consider himself a genius, noting that he possesses an average IQ. However, his journey and the success of ConveGenius exemplify that genius lies not in extraordinary intellect but in the thoughtful application of common sense.
The story of Jairaj Bhattacharya, Arnav Pyasi, Shikhar Gupta, and Shashank Pandey serves as an inspiring example of how entrepreneurs can make a lasting impact by staying true to their mission and relying on common sense to navigate the complexities of the business world. In an industry often dominated by hype and excessive spending, ConveGenius stands as a beacon of thoughtful, sustainable growth.
Kaushal Shetty Transforming Lives with Nostos Homes
In a world where innovation is often synonymous with profit, Kaushal Shetty stands out as a beacon of hope. At the age of 27, he is not only a Senior Product Manager at Mastercard but also the Co-founder and CEO of Nostos Homes, a non-profit organization with a noble mission – to provide shelter, dignity, and safety to displaced persons. The story of Nostos Homes is deeply personal for Kaushal Shetty. Hailing from a village plagued by annual floods, he intimately understood the plight of those who were forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters. His own journey from his flood-ravaged village to the bustling metropolis of Mumbai shaped his perspective and fueled his determination to make a difference.
Modular, Lightweight, and Transportable Shelters
Nostos Homes took shape as a solution to a pressing global problem – the plight of displaced persons. The organization designs and builds modular, lightweight, and easily transportable shelters. These shelters serve as a robust and safe alternative to the conventional tent, providing not just a roof over one’s head but also a semblance of privacy, dignity, and safety during times of crisis. One of the remarkable aspects of Nostos Homes’ shelters is their cost-effectiveness. These shelters come at a price point comparable to traditional tents, making them accessible to those who need them the most. For displaced individuals and families, Nostos Homes’ shelters represent more than just a physical structure; they symbolize hope and the promise of a better tomorrow.
Nostos Homes’ reach extends far beyond the borders of India. While the organization has provided its innovative shelter solutions in Assam and Nagaland, its impact has also been felt in Africa. The modular shelters have not only improved living conditions but have also instilled a sense of security among displaced communities. Kaushal Shetty’s vision for Nostos Homes goes beyond providing shelter to a few. He envisions a world where his organization’s solutions can make a significant impact on a global scale. To turn this vision into reality, Nostos Homes is actively engaging with governments and agencies, exploring partnerships that can help scale up their operations.
Kaushal Shetty’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of social entrepreneurship. With a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to making a difference, he has harnessed his skills as a product manager to create real-world solutions that address one of humanity’s most pressing challenges – displacement.
Kaushal Shetty’s dual role as a Senior Product Manager at Mastercard and the CEO of Nostos Homes exemplifies the fusion of technology, compassion, and innovation. Through Nostos Homes, he has demonstrated that profit is not the only driving force behind innovation. Sometimes, it’s the desire to alleviate human suffering, to provide shelter and security to the vulnerable, and to restore dignity and hope to those who have lost everything. Kaushal Shetty’s journey is an inspiration to all, a reminder that each of us has the power to make a positive impact on the world, regardless of our age or circumstances.
Genrobotics Revolutionizing Cleaning and Rehabilitation with Robotics
In the heart of India’s bustling tech landscape, where innovation thrives and new frontiers are explored, a group of visionary individuals came together to create Genrobotics. Arun George, Nikhil NP, Rashid K, and Vimal Govind MK, all in their late twenties, are the co-founders of this ground-breaking venture that has set out to revolutionize several industries through the power of robotics.
Founded in 2017, Genrobotics embarked on its journey with a singular mission – to eradicate the perilous and inhumane practice of manual scavenging in India. Manual scavenging, a practice that had claimed far too many lives, was about to meet its match in the form of a revolutionary robot scavenger.
Robots to the Rescue:
Genrobotics’ flagship creation, the robot scavenger, is designed to perform tasks that were previously done by manual scavengers. These robots not only ensure efficiency and precision but, more importantly, they eliminate the life-threatening risks associated with manual scavenging. It’s a giant leap towards safeguarding the dignity and lives of those who were once forced into this. The impact of Genrobotics was not confined to ending manual scavenging alone. The company’s visionary founders set their sights on broader horizons, seeking innovative solutions for the healthcare, sanitation, oil, and gas sectors. With an unwavering commitment to enhancing human lives through automation, they ventured into creating robots catering to various cleaning requirements.
Genrobotics’ influence spread like wildfire. The company’s solutions found favor with 85 urban local bodies across 17 states and three union territories in India. Its robot scavengers and other cleaning robots became integral to maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in numerous areas. One of Genrobotics’ most commendable initiatives is its rehabilitation program. While automation was improving sanitation and safety, it also had the potential to displace manual scavengers from their livelihoods. To address this, the company introduced a comprehensive rehabilitation program. The rehabilitation program initiated by Genrobotics has transformed the lives of thousands of former manual scavengers. With a focus on imparting skills that are directly aligned with operating and maintaining the robots, the program ensures that these individuals don’t lose their source of income due to automation.
To date, Genrobotics’ rehabilitation program has benefitted over 3,000 people. This remarkable feat showcases the company’s commitment not only to technological innovation but also to the welfare and upliftment of those who were once marginalized. As Genrobotics continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible with robotics, the co-founders, Arun George, Nikhil NP, Rashid K, and Vimal Govind MK, remain steadfast in their commitment to creating solutions that enhance the human experience. Their journey, which began with the noble goal of ending manual scavenging, has expanded to encompass multiple industries and sectors, with a focus on improving lives and preserving human dignity.
In a world where technology often takes centre stage, Genrobotics stands out as a beacon of innovation with a heart. The co-founders’ dedication to tackling societal issues with cutting-edge technology while simultaneously empowering individuals through rehabilitation is a testament to the positive impact that tech-driven social entrepreneurship can have on our world. As they continue to pioneer advancements in the field of robotics, Genrobotics serves as an inspiring example of what can be achieved when visionary minds come together with a shared purpose.
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