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Modular Construction Housing Needs - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

Modular Construction: The Answer to Housing Needs

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Modular construction is the answer to housing needs

Modular construction is an option for building homes that’s been available for over a century. Its popularity has ebbed and flowed with various significant events and global developments. However, one thing that remains clear about the system of preparing a property in a factory and then constructing that same building on site, in a matter of a few days or even just hours, is that it’s one that builders and policy makers return to whenever a new crisis or real need for homes arises.

Modular homes quickly gained in popularity in the US when they were developed and then sold by Sears at the end of the 19th century. That was fuelled by increasing wealth and an abundance of land to live and build on. The Great depression which began in 1929 soon put paid to the growth of buy and build your own home. And by 1932, Sears’ modular construction home sales were down by 40%. That was enough for them to put an end to that particular part of the business.

World War II ends

However, it wasn’t so very long from then, until the end of World War II in 1945 when soldiers and Governments could fully take in the sheer size of decimation across the UK and Europe, following years of fighting, destruction and bombing.
Add to that the returning soldiers needing homes to live in with their families and it was clear new homes needed to be built. Quickly. Pre-fabrication proved popular once again, with several areas in the UK benefitting from this fast and economical construction method.
However, once things began to settle, the workforce was back in balance and skilled builders were willing and able to work and modular construction, fell out of favour once more.

Confluence of developments

Fast forward to 2019 and there are a broad array of developments that have combined to once again push modular construction to the forefront of residential home building, but this time on a global scale:

  • The UK’s housing crisis where a lack of building during the credit crisis means there aren’t enough homes for the still growing population – the Government is supporting modular construction options to quickly build suitable housing for Britons across the country.
  • Geo-political unrest and refugees moving from place-to-place with nowhere to live – the RICS recently awarded a young home designer its top prize for his low-cost bamboo home that takes just 4 hours to build, to help with the slum crisis in the Philippines.
  • Economic prosperity and demand for homes and commercial properties in rural and city regions – India’s economy is among the fastest growing in the world and the changing needs of the country for less rural workers, to more city-based jobs, means more urban homes are required, quickly.
  • More and more people have developed an eco-conscience, either through their own nature or the growing number of ecological changes and concerns the global population is faced with – home-buyers and developers around the word are actively seeking green homes that are built with sustainable materials and are also powered that way, too.

Together, these separate crises and changes have led to greater demand for modular homes from a wide variety of consumers and policy makers. Meanwhile, that demand combined with a larger business desire to consider sustainability and green options, has encouraged further investment in the sector, too.

Modulex Construction is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Building Company, setting out to meet the challenges posed by India’s urban housing shortages in a practical and dynamic manner. The company is at the heart of a project established by Red Ribbon to harness the potential of India’s markets and delivering opportunities for investors. Because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows India and its markets better than Red Ribbon.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

When we think about how modular construction has time and time again proved the right answer to a crisis, problem or change, it becomes a much simpler decision as to whether or not it’s the right investment choice. Add to that the fast-growing knowledge about the importance of eco options and sustainability and modular construction becomes an even more compelling proposition.

Modular construction is already part of India – and the world’s – property development needs. And that’s something that is only going to increase as it becomes a major element of the construction landscape. Not only due to its speed of delivering the finished, habitable product, but also its cost-effectiveness, green credentials and sustainable factors it brings.  That’s why Red Ribbon was committed to Modulex Construction from the very beginning of the project and we remain committed to it today. I’m convinced it is not only a vital element in meeting market challenges but will also deliver on the unprecedented opportunities currently presented by the subcontinent’s burgeoning economy.

Modulex is the answer to many of India’s immediate needs and beyond. By creating sustainable, cost-effective homes and buildings across the country, Modulex is part of a growing industry that will remain relevant and profitable for many, years to come.

India Economic Ambition Planning - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

Broad-based planning supportive of India’s economic ambition

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Broad-based planning supportive of India’s economic ambition

It may be a New Year, but in many countries, old worries remain.

Take the UK, for example. Brexit is as uncertain as ever and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. Not only have forecasts for economic growth in the country been tempered by the lack of a clear path for Brexit, the latest survey data from IHS Markit have served to underscore the worry felt by consumers and businesses, with the country’s dominant services sector close to stagnation during December

However, the UK isn’t the only country experiencing uncertainty as to how 2019 will unfold.

India has an interesting 12 months ahead as incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi must work hard to maintain his position, after recent state election results make the likelihood of a new leader a real possibility. However, Modi has begun 2019 with ideas and a plan to show his support of the large farming industry, which is unhappy with the lack of fiscal support from the Government.

Speaking at the India Science Congress this week, the India PM urged scientists to find low-cost solutions for ‘social good’, including the creation of a more affordable and balanced agriculture industry and using big data analytics to improve crop yields for farmers with smaller holdings.

Introducing this element to the PM’s broader outlook for India’s economic development may always have been the plan. Although, there will likely be many who will say its merely a move to encourage more votes in an election year.

Regardless of the truth, this latest step is a further sign that Modi’s economic ambitions for the country remain front-and-centre.

Economic outlook

Even before this latest speech, the outlook for growth in the country was upbeat, particularly when compared with global competitors.

Despite some GDP forecast downgrades from the likes of Fitch Ratings and the OECD – to a still healthy 7.2% and 7.3% respectively – India is assessed to have outpaced China during 2018 and to do so again in 2019. India’s finance ministry, meanwhile, forecasts economic expansion of 7.8% during 2019, which would likely be similar to the average pace of growth across 2018, despite the slowdown to 7.1% in the third quarter.

Indeed, it appears that the third quarter GDP number is partly behind most of the forecast reductions, although other details also weigh. They include:

  • Generally weaker global GDP outlook.
  • Global trade worries.
  • Liquidity squeeze.

Modi and his Government, however, are upbeat and standing firm on their positive outlook. Many would say, with good reason.

Despite the difficult global scenario, some developments have been in India’s favour. The high price of crude oil has receded, despite the sanctions against Iran. Meanwhile, the country has moved up the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’ rankings. And while there has been some disagreement over the Government’s demands for the Reserve Bank of India to relax some restrictions on weaker banks, inflation has remained under control.

The decision to remain firm on many fiscal elements of governance while creating a more supportive backdrop for businesses and consumers, has been a core driver of the strong level of economic expansion across India. It appears that focus on moving forward with policies designed to encourage start-ups and innovation is very much still in place.

Modi told delegates at the Science Congress that following on from its success of improving its ‘ease of doing business’ score, it must now work to improve the ‘ease of living’ in India. That requires a broad-based plan; working to support businesses across every industry, supporting innovation and new ideas, job creation across every industry and providing a stronger and more reliable infrastructure for consumers.

At Red Ribbon we understand the importance of introducing innovative developments into an existing industry, which is why we believe the Eco Hotel industry is one that can help ensure India’s economic growth ambitions will succeed and even exceed expectations.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

An economy the size of India’s will only flourish if a broad-based outlook is in place that also supports innovation and allows every industry to move in an agile fashion, particularly when it becomes clear that a new approach is required.

India’s leisure and tourism industry is a case in point. It draws tourists from within and without the country to its variety of regions and attractions. Introducing a new type of accommodation, such as Eco Hotels, will work to add yet another string to India’s bow as the destination of choice for an even broader range of holiday-makers and business travellers, while supporting jobs growth and industry innovation at the same time.

As long as business start-ups and industry innovations are supported and encouraged, they will only have a positive impact on India’s economy, the standard of living and the global environment.

Eco Tourism Odisha - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

How Eco-Tourism is generating economic boost for India

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How Eco-Tourism is generating economic boost for India’s Odisha state

Eco-tourism is becoming an increasingly important part of India’s economic growth. Just take a look at the state of Odisha. Located on the on the Eastern coast of India, on the Bay of Bengal, Odisha’s investment into eco-tourism is beginning to pay off, as it’s expected to generate some Rs6 Crore (£ 700,000) in revenue by the end of the 2018-19 financial year and providing a boost to local Government coffers.

As the popularity of the sector continues to grow, so too will the India Government’s return on its investment.

Of course, this economic benefit hasn’t happened overnight. However, nor has it taken as long as one might anticipate. The Odisha State Government has invested some Rs34 crore (£ 4 million) during the 2016-17 to 2018-19 financial years, into 37 separate eco-tourism locations across the state.

The eco-tourism offerings, created and managed by Odisha’s Forest and Environment Department are expected to reach Rs 10 crore (£ 1 Million) in the 2019-20 financial year, according to the department’s chief conservator of Forests and wildlife.

As you can see, even though the end of the current fiscal period has not yet arrived, the region is already seeing notable revenue generation form its investments, with further growth anticipated. That highlights the popularity of eco-tourism and hospitality as a something that’s more than a passing trend.

For the Indian sub-continent, which is awash with natural beauty and a growing desire to enhance that, with green, eco-friendly and carbon neutral hotels and other hospitality sector developments, now is the perfect time to support that ambition. Not only does it give tourists – from both India and the rest of the world – the opportunity to retain their eco-consciousness even when they travel far afield. But it also provides an option for investors to make socially responsible and sustainable financial decisions, too.

That’s essentially why opting for sustainable and eco-friendly investments is a good decision right now; they provide an option for travellers, countries and investors, who hold to environmental ideals that are now possible.

But Odisha isn’t the only region in India to pursue eco-friendly tourism. There are a growing number of mid-market eco-hotels that are continuing to expand across India. We’ve previously highlighted how Lemon Tree hotels is already proving a success in terms of cost controls and room occupancy rates.

Our own carbon neutral hotel group Eco Hotels, meanwhile, builds on everything we’ve mentioned here – and more. Demand for hotels across India is strong and rising, boosted in part, by the increasing middle-classes of the region.

Creating an eco-friendly hotel chain fulfills all the needs that we have identified:

  • The growing number of hotels across the subcontinent.
  • Creating sustainable, carbon neutral tourism options.
  • Giving investors peace of mind that their decision to support Eco Hotels, is a socially and environmentally responsible one, as well as a sound financial one.

Red Ribbon is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral hotel brand which offers “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India designed to take advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand meets all key sustainability criteria without compromising on either quality or standards of hospitality and is designed to cater for commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

The quick and impressive revenue generation from the commitment of an entire Indian state to eco-friendly tourism, only works to highlight our belief that socially and environmentally responsible developments and investment decisions, are the right path for, not only Red Ribbon, but the broader investment community.

Eco hotels, that are created to provide business and leisure travellers with the accommodation they desire, in the location of their choice, is just one way we are supporting this view. With demand for such options growing both domestically and internationally, the Eco Hotels brand is proud to be built with carbon neutrality and green credentials as part of its fundamental core.

I’m proud that Eco Hotels have done just that from the very beginning of the project, and proud too of the part Red Ribbon has played in developing the brand and its ambitions in the succeeding years, spearheading an environmentally friendly response to India’ resurgent tourism demands.

Key Benefits Modular Construction - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

Key Benefits of Modular Construction

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Right now, the demand and requirement for residential and commercial property across India remains elevated. And, true to form, the relevant industries are supporting that need in the best way they can – constructing buildings. However, having relied upon mainly traditional methods for so long, that’s the go to option in many cases.

Enter modern, modular construction.

Modular construction techniques have come a long way since the first attempts in the 1800s. Indeed, they’ve even evolved and improved vastly in the past 10 years. That’s part of what makes it a big part of the answer to India’s requirement for homes and business premises. Add to that the easier property construction regulation under forward thinking Prime Minister Modi’s RERA act and modular construction is most definitely an option drawing increased interest. Not only across India, but globally, too.

There are many reasons why that should be the case and is now becoming so.

Why modular construction is an essential part of the solution to India’s housing needs

Because modular construction is an excellent way to create housing and commercial properties of all shapes and sizes, quickly and relatively affordably. This has helped encourage thought and investment into the industry, with extremely positive results.

That’s not to say it should completely take over traditional property construction methods. There’s absolutely room for all kinds of skills and ways of building. However, modular construction is no longer a final thought or last option. It’s right up front with all the other property construction methods, which is exactly where it should be.

Its cost-effective

When it comes to building property, its not something that could ever realistically be described as ‘cheap’. One thing that makes modular construction a more cost-effective building option is the use of set, factory-based methods.

This is particularly relevant for apartment blocks, or developments where properties will feature the same internal layout. Having a set pattern for the off-site, factory construction, means fewer plans, designs and templates are required. This also helps support a more efficient work-rate. In addition, among the various ‘major costs’ of on-site construction, is the wages of builders, supervisors and other professionals, who need to be there. With modular construction, many of the builders only need to be on the actual building site for between a quarter and half of the time they would on traditional build.

Eco-credentials

Building property will always have pros and cons. Among the cons is the amount of waste and also the often-difficult task of ensuring all required energy efficiencies are made-to-measure and in place from the beginning. Utilising a purpose-built modular factory dramatically improves waste control. That’s borne of working to specific measurements in an environment that makes it easy to order only exactly what you need.

That’s not to say that traditional building methods aren’t precise and materials ordered accordingly. But, without such controlled conditions, over-ordering and materials waste is notably higher. But that’s not the only green credential modular construction techniques lay claim to.

By constructing all the internal wall panels and other elements of a modular building in a factory, it’s much simpler to ensure all the required energy efficiencies are fully installed, at source in the right way. This makes any eco-friendly options easier to safely install in the factory. Solar panels, water saving features and suitable heat conservation, or air circulation requirements can be handled in a controlled, measurable way, using the right materials and methods.

Modulex Construction is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Building Company, setting out to meet the challenges posed by India’s urban housing shortages in a practical and dynamic manner. The company is at the heart of a project established by Red Ribbon to harness the potential of India’s markets and delivering opportunities for investors. Because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows India and its markets better than Red Ribbon.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

India’s housing needs are no secret. But nor are the advances in techniques to help support faster and more cost-effective construction options. Add to that a supportive Government regulatory environment it begins to make sense that all types of reliable and suitable methods are put to good use. We, along with an increasing number of professionals, investors and industry specialists, know that modular construction is a major part of the answer to India’s housing needs.

Modular construction is already part of India – and the world’s – property development needs. And that’s something that is only going to increase as it becomes a major element of the construction landscape. Not only due to its speed of delivering the finished, habitable product, but also its cost-effectiveness, green credentials and sustainable factors it brings.  That’s why Red Ribbon was committed to Modulex Construction from the very beginning of the project and we remain committed to it today. I’m convinced it is not only a vital element in meeting market challenges but will also deliver on the unprecedented opportunities currently presented by the subcontinent’s burgeoning economy.

India Real Estate - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

Time matters with India’s Real Estate revitalisation

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KPMG reported last month that Indian Real Estate Sector has now entered a “revitalisation mode”, with aggregate growth projected to reach $ 650 Billion by 2025 and topping $850 Billion by 2028: the average yearly contribution of real estate to the Indian economy will more than double from its current 7% by 2025. And CBRE India are equally optimistic: in their own quarterly report, snappily titled “India Real Estate: Variance in Construction Costs”, they forecast 17 Million new jobs will be added to the sector and an additional 8.2 Billion square feet of space released by 2025.  It all resonates well with the ambitions objectives of Prime Minister Modi’s Affordable Housing Programme, with Real Estate now set firmly in growth mode, and growing stronger every year. But there’s a dark shadow in the garden…

Each of these influential reports has highlighted a potential issue relating to construction costs on the subcontinent, capable of acting as a brake on growth and with no less than six major conurbations (Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi) causing particular concern. Perhaps predictably, Mumbai tops the list of areas where unit construction costs have spiralled over recent years and show little sign of slowing down despite the broadly stabilizing effect of GST legislation introduced by the Modi Administration which helped smooth out some of the worst supply and pricing differentials across the country.

The average cost of construction for a residential apartment in Mumbai is now Rs 3,125 per square foot, compared to the Rs 2,375 per square foot the same apartment will cost in Hyderabad. At one (macro) level the reason for all this is obvious: an increasingly urbanised population pushing up demand for units in the largest conurbations as part of a gradual drift away from the land, but the disparity in relative costs between conurbations is still striking. Inter market differentials of this kind are likely to be caused primarily to an uneven distribution of construction skills, with highly skilled workers drawn to areas of greater demand so increasing the unit cost of labour in specific areas of the subcontinent. Certainly we might expect other variables such as recent sharp rises in the wholesale price of steel to be more uniformly spread across the country.

In short, construction is becoming progressively more expensive in the very areas where more housing and commercial units are likely to be needed most…and that’s a real dilemma.

One answer is to make greater use of just in time delivery systems which are capable of dramatically reducing overall construction schedules: simple maths tells us that if an expensive worker is on site for a quarter of the normal building phase, costs will come down no matter how prohibitive the daily rate. And of course we have now grown used to the significance of just in time methodologies because of the prominence the issue has assumed as part of the current Brexit debate. Just as any significant inhibition on frictionless trade has potential to throw the UK economy into chaos after Brexit, so too the same frictionless technologies can help address systemic cost differentials across the Indian construction sector as well.

Modular Construction prefabricates all of the essential components of the building off site, everything from exterior walls, ventilation systems and internal wiring networks with the parts then arriving on location only when they’re needed: meaning field workers aren’t left waiting around (expensively) for the next phase of the project to get underway. Research has shown that through a combination of just in time delivery techniques and modular technology, otherwise complex units such as student accommodation blocks or hospitals can be erected on site in days rather than the months and sometimes years of conventional technologies. And an added advantage is that Modular Technology also reduces the potential for human error and snagging in the final building which can also be a major but hidden expense on any project.

Modulex Construction is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Building Company, setting out to meet the challenges posed by India’s urban housing shortages in a practical and dynamic manner. The company is at the heart of a project established by Red Ribbon to harness the potential of India’s markets and delivering opportunities for investors. Because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows India and its markets better than Red Ribbon.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Prime Minister Modi has successfully appealed to the youthful and increasingly urbanised population that is currently driving India’s economic growth, not least through his Government’s re-energised Affordable Housing Programme the scale and scope of which has at times been breathtaking. So it should come as no surprise to learn that such an increasingly mobile population is also creating real estate hot spots (and cost differentials) through being attracted to a number of specific locations: by definition, a mobile population is difficult to keep still.

So as it seems to me the resulting cost differentials in construction across the subcontinent are likely to be a fact of life for some years to come yet. But that’s certainly not to diminish the problem, and cost disparities are a problem in India’s most expensive real estate markets, Mumbai in particular. They have real potential to distort the market.

In delivering a workable solution to that challenge most expert commentators now agree that Modular Construction is simply inescapable. No other technology offers the pace and scale of delivery needed to meet India’s housing needs and, as the article points out, it is the perfect corollary for just in time delivery systems. That’s why Red Ribbon was committed to Modulex Construction from the very beginning of the project and we remain committed to it today. I’m convinced it is not only a vital element in meeting market challenges but will also deliver on the unprecedented opportunities currently presented by the subcontinent’s burgeoning economy.

India Mid Market Hotels - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

How and why mid-market hotels are taking over India’s branded sector

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In the late 1980’s Esso commissioned a survey of its UK customers and found less than 7% travelled onto Mainland Europe with their cars. Why this reticence on the part of families clearly capable of making their way from Poole to Provence in an overcrowded Metro? And no, it’s not what you think: back in those days we hadn’t even thought of Brexit. As Esso found out, there was a more homely explanation: the Continent simply had far fewer automated pumps on its forecourts, so drivers were in danger of having to talk with an attendant and you know how the English are with languages. Better leave the car behind than risk the unseemly spectacle of sign language on the forecourt with a Frenchman.

And when you think about it, that’s all quite interesting. It’s the reason petrol stations have gradually come to look exactly the same all over the world: with the pumps all roughly in the same place, all self service and roughly the same kind of shop to pay in. It’s why you can now buy a burger (from a screen) in identical McDonalds outlets from Vienna to Vladivostok without once having to speak a word of German or Russian, and it’s why Esso long made sure you can buy your petrol the same way. There’s simply no need to leave the car at home anymore…so we don’t. We buy more petrol instead and everyone’s happy.

Economists call this phenomenon Brand Synergy and until recently India’s mid-market Hotel Sector was widely perceived to be more or less dead to its charms. A senior analyst on the subcontinent memorably (and anonymously) put it as follows: “…it was like an airline that uses a Boeing 747 for travel between Delhi and Mumbai, a Dakota for Kolkata-Delhi, and a Dornier for Bengaluru-Pune”. The poor old travellers never knew what to expect when they got there. Just like trying to buy petrol by word of mouth.

But not anymore…

The subcontinent’s mid-market Hotels including Ibis Styles, Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels have all made progress over the last decade in adopting a much more uniform approach to product profiling, achieving a consistency in specification that has now seen the mid-market secure nearly half the branded hotel sector: spurred on, no doubt, by an increasing number of private equity investors, none of whom are noted for being slow in recognising brand synergies when they see them.

All of which has made the mid-market uniquely well placed to take advantage of the surge in India’s middle class and increasingly urbanised travellers that has doubled airline occupancy rates over the last seven years.  And with the average cost of building a mid-market room coming in at between Rs 3 Million and Rs 7 Million, breaking even within six years, it all makes bottom line economic sense too. Compare that with the larger branded chains where average construction cost for each room is Rs 15 Million and break even takes 15 years: more than twice as long.  In the past 10 years alone the mid-market has expanded at more than 15% annually (according to Howarth HTL) and now accounts for 43% of total branded stock.

Having got away its successful IPO earlier this year (raising Rs 311 Crore from key investors), Lemon Tree Hotels last week took the trend a stage further by launching its brand overseas: signing a deal for the first of its hotels to open in Dubai next year. It will be the first mid-market hotel on the luxury studded Al Wasi Road, sitting literally in the shadow of the Burj Al Arab and Al Waleed Real Estate’s CEO didn’t miss the significance:  “There was a need for a mid-market hotel of this calibre in this location and India has been the largest source of tourists into Dubai, as well as the UAE as a whole, for over three years now.” To save you Googling it up, the exact figure is 13%: India now accounts for a whopping 13% of total tourist numbers into the Emirates, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody given the subcontinent’s wealth and proximity as well as the population’s found mobility.

And now they’ll recognise at least one familiar, distinctively Indian hotel brand when they get there…Plus ca change.

Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid-market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India which intended to take full advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and is designed to cater to commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Working as part of the Eco Hotels Project has certainly taught me the importance of branding and product profiling in the hospitality sector, so I was pleased to read about the renewed emphasis on branding generally and unsurprised to see that it has now increased the mid-market share to just shy of 50%. Monolithic 2000 room hotel chains are no longer the first choice for travellers, especially given all the evidence suggests they are increasingly looking for accommodation that also complements their preference for sustainability.

And that’s important because the boom in Indian tourism (domestically and internationally) is playing a significant part in driving forward the subcontinent’s resurgent hotel and hospitality sector. It’s certainly an area that cannot be overlooked when seeking out the best investment opportunities over the coming years.

That’s why I’m very proud that Red Ribbon has played such a significant role in the creation and development of the Eco Hotels Project, spearheading the response to that demand in an environmentally friendly manner.

Modular Construction India - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

Modular Construction: the answer to the shortage of skills in India

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Most Indians work in agriculture but next comes construction, and according to the latest Economic Survey the subcontinent’s real estate and construction sector is likely to create more than 15 Million jobs over the next five years, that’s three million every year. To put that in perspective less than 3 Million people are currently employed in the entire UK construction industry. And of the 52 Million building workers employed by Indian companies, 90% are involved in on-site construction with the other 10% busily painting, plumbing and wiring the finished product. It’s fair to say all these painters, plumbers and electricians are skilled workers…but not so the other 90%.

Because the vast majority of India’s construction workers are either minimally skilled or have no skills at all: an astonishing 97% of them aged between 15 and 65 will receive no formal training of any kind before starting work on site and, plumbers and painters aside, most of the skilled workers won’t be getting any cement dust on their boots because they’re probably office based clerks, technicians and engineers. And that’s a real problem…

It’s a problem, because coming the other way down India’s infrastructure and logistics superhighway is an unprecedented surge in demand for urban housing, fuelled by an increasingly urbanised population projected to become the biggest on the planet by 2022. India’s National Skill Development Council predicts that by then the real estate and construction sector will require a workforce of more than 66 Million, so without any obvious core of skilled workers currently able to sustain anything like growth it’s no wonder the sector is starting to show signs of stress.

Of course all this was supposed to be addressed by 2016’s Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act which was intended to act as a platform for local, State driven planning capable of creating an appropriate environment for improved training and regulatory structures, but so far six States out of 29 have failed to produce any plans at all under the legislation which means finding workers with the right skills in the right place will continue to be a source of real concern.

Billionaire developer Niranjan Hiranandani, head of Hiranandani Construction, has a simple enough solution: just pay unskilled workers less and reap the savings while you can. But that’s not a particularly attractive solution for anyone buying one of his apartments 76 floors up in the Mumbai skyline where quality assurance is far from being a dispensable extra. The behemoth that is Hindustan Construction Company perhaps takes a slightly more realistic approach, going on record last week to say that skills shortages have become a huge problem for the sector: 50% of its workforce needs advanced training just to use the complex machinery now prevalent on most modern building sites. With a heavy tone of understatement a spokesman for the company announced grandly that given these skilled workers are not available, “the only option is to train them”.

Well, it’s not quite the only option…

With no actual shortage of workers seeking employment in India’s urban conurbations, particularly in the light of a seemingly inexorable drift of former agricultural workers from country to town, what if the physical construction process itself could be de-skilled? Why not make a virtue of necessity and draw on this pool of former agricultural labourers to release the margins of between 20% to 70% that Deloitte India predict would follow from a wholesale deskilling initiative? These savings would go straight to the bottom line without endangering the quality and safety of the finished building. Skilled construction workers earn Rs 1,000 a day as opposed to their unskilled counterparts who earn an average of Rs 200.

And there is just such a business model on the market right now, a model with the potential to uncouple construction projects from a seemingly insoluble skills conundrum: it’s called Modular Construction.

Modern Modular technologies allow all of the building’s key components to be put together off site by specialist workers and then assembled locally at the same time as the site works are completed, not only reducing overall completion schedules by as much as 50% but also significantly reducing the need for skilled workers in the construction phase. All of the design and engineering disciplines are instead concentrated at the offsite manufacturing facility leading to labour, financing and supervision costs. Which will all be music to Mr Hiranandani’s ears…

Modulex Construction is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Construction Company, meeting the challenges of the subcontinent’s current urban housing shortages in a practical and focused manner. The company was founded by Red Ribbon as part of an innovative project to harness the potential of India’s dynamic and evolving real estate markets whilst at the same time delivering opportunities for investors through Red Ribbon platform. Because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows India’s markets better than Red Ribbon.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Delivering on India’s stringent housing targets over the next five years presents an enormous challenge for the subcontinent, and that challenge is likely to get more testing still given the underlying demographics of a rapidly increasing and ever more urbanised population. Existing skills shortages within the construction sector have the potential to be a crucial block to meeting these targets, especially given the scale and scope of the training programmes necessary to release a further 3 Million workers into the sector every year for the next five years: never mind the attendant costs which are likely to be eye watering on any basis.

That’s why to my mind the answer has to be Modular Construction. No conventional technologies can beat it for sheer pace of delivery and, with a centralising of skilled labour in the offsite manufacturing facility, it will beat conventional construction methods hands down on overall profitability too.

An Ambition for Growth - India Economic Miracle - Red Ribbon Asset Management

An Ambition for Growth: The Roots of India’s Economic Miracle

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Currently locked in a peculiar species of death roll with her backbenchers, Theresa May still (to her credit) seems intent on securing an orderly exit from the EU by 2020, but most economic commentators are forecasting a long term decline in UK GDP however “soft” the exit terms might be. Price Waterhouse for one are predicting that within a decade of exit, by 2030 the United Kingdom will have fallen to tenth place in Global GDP, behind Mexico and Indonesia and a whisker ahead of Turkey and France (which has a certain irony in the circumstances). And the same survey predicts that by 2030 India will have risen to third place in the global league, treading hard on the heels of China and the United States in first and second place respectively. But unlike the former mother country there is no suggestion that the subcontinent’s remorseless ambition for growth will lose any of its momentum over the course of the next half century.

China had better watch out…

The subcontinent’s economic ambition has been powered by a combination of progressive (some might say revolutionary) economic policies on the part of Prime Minister Modi’s Government (think demonetisation), coupled with a burgeoning and increasingly middle class population fuelling an unprecedented surge in consumer demand. But in a subtle and complex take on that dynamic, McKinsey this month published a fascinating report concluding that India’s explosive growth has just as much to do with interlocking trends in agriculture, urbanisation and mobility.

Take the first element in that triumvirate: agriculture. For decades now (at least the last thirty years), India has pursued an aggressive policy of agricultural self-sufficiency which has not only made the farming lobby one of the most powerful political forces in the country but has also delivered growth rates in the sector that are the envy of most of its near neighbours (indeed, the envy of most farmers anywhere in the world). But despite this, as McKinsey also point out, Indian agriculture still faces a spectrum of uniquely local challenges: severe water shortages alternating with devastating monsoons, combined with often antiquated supply structures and what McKinsey quaintly call a “limited exposure to high productivity practices”: in other words, a lack of investment in the latest farming technology.

That’s where the subtlety comes in…The Indian Government has re-calibrated its agricultural policy to shift the emphasis away from output targets, replacing them with a system of local subsidies designed to buttress farmers’ income (a policy that roused the never less than exuberant President Trump to bring proceedings against India again before the WTO). It was a smart shift in direction too because the new policy will almost certainly double agricultural wage rates by 2022 and, in a characteristically Keynesian frame of mind, the Modi Government are betting that with more money in their pockets India’s farmers will now start investing more in new technology. It can’t do much to stop monsoons but it can, as McKinsey would no doubt put it, “increase exposure to high productivity practices”.

That same factor feeds into the second limb of McKinsey’s triumvirate: urbanisation. More than 200 Million of India’s rural population are expected to move into its urban conurbations over the next 15 years and for those with the instinct to move rather than invest locally, improved agricultural subsidies are giving them a store of money to do it with. And, the Modi Administration is playing to its strengths on this too with a new Smart Cities Mission designed to meet the additional, affordable housing required to cope with resulting surges in demand, reducing urban pollution levels and increasing resource productivity and economic development through enhanced infrastructure programmes. You don’t need to look any further to find the real roots of India’s economic miracle.

And what about mobility: the third element of the McKinsey triumvirate? Well, that’s coming along nicely too with India now expected to become the world’s third largest passenger vehicle market by 2021. It’s not just that the subcontinent offers the same, parallel opportunities and challenges as other western and developing markets, it is offering them with a turbo charger attached. Many of those 200 Million people who are moving from village to town over the next 15 years will want (and get) a car, paying for it with the increased wages earned from working on all those new infrastructure projects; and their family and friends who stayed in the country and invested in new agricultural technology will probably want (and get) a new car too. You need to keep up with your cousins in town!

That, in essence, is what we mean by an interlocking economic structure, and it’s here that we can find the real roots of India’s explosive growth. Just wait to see what happens next…

Nobody understands that potential for growth better than Red Ribbon Asset Management, which has placed India at the very heart of its investment strategies since the company was founded more than a decade ago. With an unrivalled knowledge of market conditions on the subcontinent, Red Ribbon offers a unique opportunity to share in that vast potential.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

At Red Ribbon we are very proud to have been playing our own part in India’s economic resurgence over the last decade, investing in just the kind of projects that are at the heart of the interlocking triangle of growth mentioned in the article: everything from the modular construction technologies now being developed by Modulex so as to deliver affordable housing at the pace demanded by the subcontinent’s urban expansion, through to innovative sustainable energy infrastructure investment. And to see India now firmly established at its place on the economic top table, uniquely well placed to move further forward still is, of course, a particular source of pride for us.

We look forward to continuing to play our part in India’s future, participating to the utmost in the opportunities the subcontinent’s explosive growth has to offer and at the same time providing above market rate returns from our investors in what I am convinced will continue to be one of the world’s most exciting markets for many years to come.

Smart Eco Hospitality - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc - Eco Hotels

Better Smart than Big: India’s Eco Hospitality Sector

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The problem with global conglomerates is that they have global reach but monolithic thinking. Look how long it took Facebook to respond to high profile data breaches, with the hardly media shy Mark Zuckerberg virtually disappearing from the ubiquity of his own platform for weeks on end. Think of IBM: slow to the point of near extinction in responding to software innovations in the market, and poor old Kodak, slow to the point of actual extinction in meeting challenges posed by a blizzard of new, digital based technologies. So it should be a sobering thought for our current crop of global empire builders that big certainly doesn’t always best, because all too often great size comes with an inbuilt decision making stasis …in business, it’s always better to be smart.

Even so the thickest commercial hides can sometimes let in a little oxygen, which is why economists still like to look at the interesting conundrum of scaled decision making: big companies deluded into thinking they are fleet enough of foot to react on time to critical and fast moving trends, rather like an elephant finding a discarded pair of tweezers and thinking they must be good for something.

The latest example is Hilton Hotels, which this month unveiled its “Travel with Purpose Campaign” designed to reduce the group’s global carbon emissions by, wait for it, reusing old bars of soap left behind by its guests. Good luck with that: the Hilton Hotel chain on the subcontinent has properties with in excess of 1000 rooms pumping out as much carbon as a Victorian glue factory, so you might be forgiven for thinking the odd bar of soap is unlikely to make much of a difference. But the Hilton monolith is simply reacting (monolithically) to the unsurprising revelation that most of its guests are now placing environmental concerns at the top of their list when deciding where to stay. Hilton knows this because it conducted an expensive survey of 72,000 of its guests in May this year.

Of course it could have saved its hard earned cash and had a look instead at earlier newsletters on this site (amongst other places): sustainability concerns have been a key trend in the Indian Hospitality sector for at least the last decade and are becoming progressively more important. Hilton’s laborious, too little too late response is yet another example of big not being better. Big, in this case, is positively bad.

The companies that are instead best placed to make the most of eco trends are not operating out of densely occupied concrete blocks. They are strategically positioned in India’s mid market hospitality sector, with Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels being prime examples: smaller in scale and with sustainability ingrained into the fabric of their buildings (rather than in last minute memoranda urging staff to pick up discarded soap). As a result Lemon Tree Hotels is currently valued at 17 times EV/EBITDA and since completing its successful IPO in March of this year the company’s shares have risen in price by an impressive 28 per cent.  

Both companies find themselves carried forward by a relentlessly upbeat market outlook, typical of which is JLL India: “The hospitality industry is witnessing a new buoyancy” and Anarock Capital, where Shobbit Agarwal had this to say: “Stocks of listed hotel companies are on a new high due to improving fundamentals increased occupancy levels, higher revenues and average room rates seeing 5 to 6 per cent year-on-year growth”.

Quite so, we don’t need an expensive survey to tell us that.

And it also has a great deal to do too with a recent surge in India’s domestic and overseas tourist numbers as well as an increasingly affluent middle class demographic prepared to put their money where their heart is…Hilton Hotels might take note.

Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India which intended to take full advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and is designed to cater to commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

I’ve always believed in the essential flexibility and virtue of smaller business platforms, capable of responding quickly and effectively to market opportunities as well as medium term market trends. Because, to paraphrase Keynes, over the medium term a business that finds itself rooted in a fixed strategy can also all to often find itself dead. Just look at the object lesson provided by the once all powerful Kodak Corporation.

And the sheer pace of change and market innovation in the subcontinent’s hotel and hospitality sector at the moment makes that lesson all the more compelling. Mid market groups like Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels are quite simply better placed to respond successfully to rapid innovation and key demographic changes. Not least because they have both been positioned from the outset to anticipate a sustained and progressive move towards sustainability based tourism and business travel. Sustainability is built into their DNA.

That’s why I’m particularly proud of the part Red Ribbon has played in founding Eco Hotels and helping with its strategic development, anticipating exciting developments in Indian markets capable of generating above market rate returns for our investors. So, whilst like the Hilton Group, I’m sure Eco Hotels will be encouraging guests not to waste soap, the company has a lot more to offer in the future.

Indian Real Estate, Modulex Modular Buildings, Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

Affordable Housing for India: A Perfect Storm of Opportunity

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Affordable Housing for India: A Perfect Storm of Opportunity

Mumbai’s skyline has, of course, been transformed beyond recognition over recent years, but its glass pinnacles are well beyond the reach of all but its wealthiest residents. So you need to look closer to the earth to find the true driver behind the subcontinent’s resurgent real estate sector.

India’s increasingly youthful population is moving out of the countryside at an increasing rate in search of better work, pay and living conditions and this is precisely the demographic the Affordable Housing Policy is designed to appeal to, because the dream of having a home (or a flat) of one’s own resonates like nothing else with this new wave of discriminating voters on the subcontinent…and nobody knows that better than Narendra Modi. His Government has aggressively pursued legacy policies on housing with the introduction of a raft of new tax incentives over the course of the last two Union Budgets, including giving infrastructure status to qualifying affordable housing, offering developers increased tax concessions and providing buyers with a range of fiscal incentives including subsidised interest payments.

And it’s not just voters who are being energised: investors are responding positively too in increasingly ingenious ways. For example, because banks in India aren’t allowed to finance land acquisitions the Private Equity Fund KKR has moved into the sector to offer development funding directly to contractors, taking an equity stake in the completed project. In what might be taken by some as a statement of the obvious, Sanjay Nayar of KKR India pointed out that “with the right project and partners, there’s good money to be made”.

There is indeed Mr Nayar.

Chris Wood of Citic Securities perhaps put it a little more eloquently: “Affordable housing in India remains one of the most straightforward bull stories in Asian equities. There will be an acceleration in economic activity in India in the coming 18 months driven by housing.”

But there is, of course, at least one (more or less hidden) difficulty with all of that. Given such a voracious and burgeoning consumer appetite coupled with capital market ambition and expansionist government policies, where are all these new homes going to come from? As we have noted previously on this site, stoking up such high levels of demand means India is now committed to building 856 new homes every hour between until 2050. Traditional construction technologies simply aren’t up to that kind of challenge, which is why commentators (including KPMG India’s Director of Real Estate Neeraj Bansal) have pinpointed Modular Construction as the single most important innovator in the sector.

By prefabricating units at scale and off site, Modular Construction is capable of delivering affordable housing on the required scale and at a reasonable cost: three times quicker and half as expensive as traditional construction methods. It is perfectly positioned to meet the demands and opportunities being created by this perfect storm in India’s real estate markets.

As Mr Nayer would probably say over at KKR: “there’s good money to be made”.

Modulex Construction is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Building Company, working to meet the Challenge of India’s urban housing shortages in a practical and focused manner. It was established by Red Ribbon to harness the potential of India’s dynamic and fast evolving markets, delivering exciting opportunities for investors. Because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows India and its markets better than Red Ribbon.

Modulex Modular Buildings Plc is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Building Company, working to meet the Challenge of India’s urban housing shortages in a practical and focussed manner. It was established by Red Ribbon to harness the full potential of India’s dynamic and fast evolving markets, delivering exciting opportunities for investors because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows its markets better than Red Ribbon.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

For me, the key determinant of exponential growth in India’s real estate sector over recent years is the combination of an unprecedented growth in the subcontinent’s population and a rapid trend for its urbanisation: largely, as the article rightly points out, a product of this rapidly expanding population becoming progressively more youthful and more affluent. In time honoured fashion, India’s younger demographic is streaming from village to city with money in its pocket (in the hope of making more).

This is the demographic that Prime Minister Modi has so successfully appealed to through his Government’s re-energised Affordable Housing Programme: the other key factor driving growth in the sector. As with some of his other radical initiatives, the scale and scope of the programme has at times been breathtaking, but in truth it has to be to meet the sheer scale of the challenge.

And when it comes to delivering a workable solution to that challenge it seems to me, as most expert commentators now recognise, that the attraction of Modular Construction is simply inescapable. No other technology offers the pace and scale of delivery needed to meet India’s housing needs. That’s why Red Ribbon was committed to Modulex Construction from the very beginning of the project and we remain committed to it today. I’m convinced it is a vital element in meeting the challenges as well as making the most of the opportunities currently being presented by the subcontinent’s markets.

But none of that should beguile us from forgetting the sheer scale of the housing challenge India currently faces, in common with other leading global economies. Traditional construction technology simply can’t deliver to the scale and pace required by projected demand on existing governmental programmes. No wonder then than Modular Construction is a policy priority for Prime Minister Modi’s Government. It’s only a question of time before others follow suit…

Red Ribbon

At Red Ribbon we understand that the transition towards a resilient global economy will be led by well-governed businesses in mainstream markets, striving to reduce the environmental impact of their production processes on society at large and on the environment as well.

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