May 05, 2021
Minute by minute, day by day, we’ll all end up living in the future: and no matter how hard and painful the present might be, we can’t afford to forget where we’re going. Of course, there’s no denying COVID-19 has been a fell disrupter of our daily lives: local lockdowns hit supply chains and the construction sector particularly hard last year, with migrant workers suddenly finding themselves unable to travel back to urban centres: especially in India, which saw mass migration to the countryside after restrictions were announced last March. Vaccinating the Subcontinent’s 1.3 Billion people, making them safe to travel again, is now an obvious priority for India as it builds back stronger for the future…
But remember this: in the face of unremittingly grim recent headlines, Pune-based Serum Institute of India is still (by far) the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, and having last year been enlisted by Prime Minister Modi’s Government to produce a billion doses in short order, it had started distribution by January this year: the United Kingdom Vaccination Programme may (deservedly) be drawing plaudits, but the United Kingdom is nineteen times smaller than India. It matters to be ahead of the curve in these trying times, and COVID may yet turn out to be what Harsh Patodia (National President of CREDAI) recently called “a short-term dampener”: and more than anything else, given its rare potential to touch our workaday lives, that goes for Indian Real Estate in particular…
At its Policy Meeting last month, The Reserve Bank of India maintained the Repo (inter bank) Rate at 4%, as well as committing itself to keep it there (at historically low levels) for the foreseeable future: and the Central Bank has also injected an additional $390 Billion liquidity into the subcontinent’s economy since the pandemic began, but in response to both initiatives one of India’s biggest home loan providers, The State Bank of India (www.onlinesbi.com), has now increased its high street rate by 25 basis points.
So what’s going on there…why the disparity? Well, while the Central Bank was focussing on the bigger picture, Prime Minister Modi’s Government has been steadily buttressing the housing market: introducing stress funding for developers with the intention of meeting a surge in domestic demand that began in the third quarter of last year, and has been surging ever since.
It’s never been cheaper or easier to buy a new home in India (pandemic or no pandemic): compared with lending rates of 8% in January 2020, current home loans (even with recent hikes) are still running at a historic low of 6.65%. House prices are rising, and demand has responded as demand always does to favourable market conditions. Sales in India’s eight prime residential sectors reached 58,914 by the end of 2020: a staggering 68% increase quarter by quarter (www.PropTiger.com): and new builds are also up 173% quarter on quarter, so Narendra Modi’s policies are obviously working.
But don’t just take my word for it:
“All things considered, the housing sector has shown remarkable tenacity in 2020, against unprecedented odds that have caused the economy to contract and impacted consumer spending. The fact that housing sales in India’s key markets have started to bounce back, in spite of the general gloom caused by the pandemic, shows the immense potential of the real estate sector, which employs the highest number of unskilled workers in the country” (Dhruv Agarwala: Group CEO, Housing.com)
Last month Fitch Ratings (www.fitchratings.com) revised India’s growth forecast for the current fiscal year from 11% to 12.8%: compare that with the UK, at 6.8%. And Fitch deliberately singled out the subcontinent’s housing sector for special mention: predicting that existing momentum in housing sales would sustain itself until at least the end of 2021. Moody’s Analytics and the OECD have followed course: both making upward revisions in their forecasts for growth.
So that’s what the future’s likely to look like… let’s start to embrace it with confidence, however hard things seem at the moment…
These are challenging times, and they’re trying times too: but that’s all the more reason to look up and look forward. Things are changing, and after COVID is a distant memory, I believe they will have changed for the better.
Although we are living in a Covid era, real estate is a longer-term investment play. Moreover, Indian real estate’s growth is underpinned by rapid population growth and urbanisation. Our Fund offers investors one of the best ways to participate in the exceptional returns this growth will generate.