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Modular Construction India - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

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

By | INDIA, News | No Comments

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.

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…

Indian Real Estate and Modular Construction - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

A Sense of Understatement: Modular Construction and Indian Real Estate

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A Sense of Understatement: Modular Construction and Indian Real Estate

Mitsubishi Corporation announced this month its first ever investment in Indian Housing: it will invest $25 Million in Chennai through its subsidiary DRI India and plans to build 1,450 new homes on a 186,000 square meter site. And as if you needed any reminding of the buoyancy of Indian real estate, three quarters of those units have already been sold. Mitsubishi expects to earn more than 10 Billion rupees on the project within four years so it was probably with a sense of understatement that a Mitsubishi spokesman told the press last week that: “…middle-income earners (in India) are expected to expand, boosting housing demand.”

No prizes for original thinking there.

The United Nations has repeatedly forecast that the subcontinent’s current population of 1.3 Billion will overtake China by 2022, making it the most populous in the world so yes, middle-income earners on the subcontinent are indeed “expected to expand”…and how. Added to which India is already the fastest growing large economy on the planet, with an increasingly urbanised population so the demand for new homes will indeed be “boosted”. Look no further than the burgeoning conurbations of Mumbai and Bangalore. Mitsubishi might not be winning any prizes for economic analysis anytime soon but its decision to invest in the subcontinent’s real estate sector makes perfect business sense.

Of course, in the overall context of the economic phenomenon that is India, 1,450 homes is a drop in the Ocean. Just to keep pace with current housing demands, the subcontinent needs to build 856 new homes every hour (using up Mitsubishi’s contribution in less than two hours).

And that provides a graphic illustration of why Modular Construction is now at the top of the subcontinent’s political agenda.

Modular Construction is literally changing the shape of the world we live in: not just for homes but hospitals, bus stations and offices too…if it can be built at all, it can be built quicker and more efficiently in a modular format. So if, like India, you need to build nearly 900 new homes an hour, it should be obvious where to look for the solution. Indeed, having announced this week that the United Kingdom Government will commit an additional £2 Billion to affordable housing projects, Theresa May could usefully take a leaf out of Prime Minister Modi’s playbook.

And that’s not the half of it…with recent concerns over air quality in India’s conurbations also making the news recently, modular construction technologies also provide a ready answer to environmental concerns. Its technology eliminates high moisture levels occurring in traditional building materials, with units being constructed off site and indoors well away from adverse weather conditions. That not only protects the integrity of the structure but prevents excess moisture building up in the wooden framing too.

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:

Mitsubishi’s entry into the Indian Real Estate sector should come as no surprise to anyone: major Japanese consortia have been leading the wave of inward investment into the subcontinent in the wake of key initiatives such as Delhi’s high speed rail system. But the article is right to characterise Mitsubishi’s commentary on the strength of the sector as a wild understatement. India is currently the fastest growing large economy in the World, with a burgeoning and increasingly urbanised population that is projected to be the largest on the planet by 2022. That will inevitably make the subcontinent’s real estate market an attractive proposition for any investor.

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…

The Phenomenon of Eco Hospitality - Red Ribbon Asset Management - Eco Hotels

The Phenomenon of Eco Hospitality

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This year’s Sustainable Travel Report has reinforced the continuing momentum of Eco Hospitality in India: 84% of business and recreational travellers now confirm a preference for sustainable destinations, and as the saying goes, “sustainability starts where you stay”. Two thirds of travellers are willing to spend 5% more on accommodation if it meets sustainable criteria, meaning everything from water and energy consumption through to macro environmental management systems. But to get a real feel for the importance of those findings, you have to place them side by side with tourist and business statistics on the subcontinent and, in particular, for the first half of this year. It helps explain why India is currently experiencing an Eco Phenomenon.

The subcontinent will be the fourth biggest tourist economy in the world within the next four years, bigger than Italy, the United Kingdom and Australia put together and a major factor in this explosive growth is internal demand. In May alone airlines in India reported a 16.6% growth in passenger numbers, carrying 11.9 million customers with 80% occupancy (Spicejet reported an astonishing 94.8% occupancy rate). And with tourist numbers on the subcontinent riding at such an all time high with 84% of tourists preferring sustainable destinations (they have to stay somewhere when they arrive), even the most rudimentary of economists could spot an emerging trend.

Certainly Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels haven’t been slow to pick it up: both companies are currently spearheading key innovations in India’s hugely significant mid market hotel segment, with eco hospitality at the heart of each of their business models.

No surprise then that JP Morgan reported Lemon Tree in June to be delivering better than average cost control and execution ratings as well as higher return rates on room occupancy. Better Eco credentials aren’t just a honey pot for prospective travellers, they make sound business sense too with reduced commodity use (and costs) delivering straight to the bottom line. JP Morgan have also pinpointed enhanced operating leverage as a driver for future growth for at least the next three years, which is likely to deliver improved capacity for better pricing and capacity structures.

Lemon Tree and Eco Hotels continue to roll out new hotel units across the subcontinent, with the former last month investing another Rs 850 Crore into its aggressive expansion programme. Interestingly enough, Lemon Tree’s President Vikramlit Singh has also again highlighted a continuing mismatch between demand for hotel rooms and availability as a likely source of future profitability, so there’s no sign of those capital programmes losing their momentum anytime soon.

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, designed to take full advantage of market opportunities available on the subcontinent at the moment. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on quality and will cater for commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Market changes rarely come about in isolation, with one revolutionary event: the iPhone would have been an expensive mirror without something to plug it into. And the same goes for economic trends generally where we should look for the confluence of a number of key factors before drawing any conclusions. That certainly applies to the Indian Eco Hospitality sector where a huge uptick in business and recreational travel on the subcontinent has coincided with a surge in demand for sustainable destinations. With mid market hotels already roaring ahead, added eco credentials are giving the platform a turbo charger.

And I would add a third factor too. As may not be generally known the whole, vast expanse of the subcontinent currently has less hotel rooms that the island of Manhattan alone. So the point mentioned at the end of the article also has considerable importance to my mind: demand for hotel rooms is in any event seriously outstripping supply and that is bound to make for a more profitable outlook. A turbo charge for the turbo charger perhaps?

Modular Construction Solution - Modulex - Red Ribbon Asset Management

Modular Construction: A Global Construction Solution

By | INDIA, News, UNITED KINGDOM | No Comments

Lets get straight to the point: the UK construction industry has a problem, three problems to be precise. First, an aging demographic (mostly with their own homes) combined with a impoverished younger population (mostly without); secondly, a lack of new companies entering the sector (think Carillion) and, third, a marked decline in skilled labour that isn’t likely to improve anytime soon with Brexit on the horizon. All of which makes the UK Government’s target of building 300,000 new homes every year until 2020 look distinctly shaky if only because, according to Arcadis Target, this would require 400,000 new skilled workers to be added every year from 2017(one every 77 seconds). Not particularly likely given lack of skilled workers is a core component of the problem.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In 2017 the Government fell 80,000 short of its target (nearly 30% short), which is why Modular Construction has now leapt up the list of UK Policy priorities: if you can’t change the system, change the method and no existing building technology is better equipped to deliver quality housing at pace than Modular Construction. In fact, off site prefabrication delivers units at three times the rate of conventional technologies so its just what the Government needs to meet its target…

Except no matter how hard Government seems to try, modular construction in the United Kingdom is still at cottage industry levels, largely because of the first of those three factors we just mentioned: an aging demographic and an impoverished younger population acting together effectively to staunch demand for innovation.

How different then things are on the subcontinent.

Rather than an aging demographic, India has an increasingly youthful population, increasingly urbanised and increasingly wealthy as well as being drawn inexorably to live and work in the subcontinent’s major conurbations (Mumbai and Bangaluru in particular). And it is this demographic trend that is creating a surge in demand for affordable urban housing added to which, unlike the UK, India has no shortage of new construction entrants or skilled labour.

Again, the proof of the pudding is in the eating… Knight Frank’s latest India Real Estate Report found a surge in the number of new project launches for the first half of this year, up by 46% and with a marked increase in affordable housing starts too (making up 51% of supply). Most Indian Cities are also showing exceptionally strong rental growth, with Bengaluru in the lead at 17% year on year. All in all it’s a very different picture from the UK but what the two countries do have in common is housing targets: specifically those established in India by the Affordable Housing Programme which are if anything tougher than those confronting the UK Government.

That’s where Modular Construction comes in, because in contrast to the position in the former mother country, off site prefabrication on the subcontinent is very far from being a cottage industry. Favourable economic conditions and underlying demographic trends have instead made it an essential component of India’s drive to meet its public housing targets by 2022. The sheer pace and quality of delivery offered by modular technologies (not only for homes but hospitals, schools and office buildings too) simply can’t be matched by conventional building techniques: something the UK Government seems to be waking up to, if perhaps a little too late.

Red Ribbon set up Modulex Modular Buildings with the intention of building on these demographic and economic trends, recognising the outstanding capacity of Modulex to deliver above market rate returns for investors by tapping into high demand levels in India’s real estate markets. Modulex provides an exciting opportunity for investors to participate in this key sector of the fastest growing large economy in the world.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

I found it interesting to compare the current strengths and weaknesses of the Indian and UK construction sectors where the same three factors for change seem to be working in wholly opposite directions (to India’s advantage). But more than that, I was also struck that both sectors have now come to the conclusion that view modular construction has to be a key component in delivering the significant number of new units required in each country. I know, for example, that the House of Lords Technology Committee has recently started an investigation into the advantages off site prefabrication offer in helping meet policy targets which seem at the moment to be running away from the Government. Perhaps though, as the article points out, that may all be too little too late.

For our part, and with Red Ribbon’s roots set deep in the Indian markets for over a decade now, it is a trend we have obviously been following with great interest for some years. That’s why we decided to take a pivotal role in establishing Modulex Modular Construction on the subcontinent and its why we remain excited at its prospects of delivering above market rates for our investors in such a resurgent real estate market. We firmly believe Modular Construction will play an essential part in India’s future.

India’s urban challenge and Modular Construction - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

India’s urban challenge and Modular Construction

By | INDIA, News | One Comment

We must run as fast as we can just to stay in one place… and if you want to go anywhere we must run twice as fast as that.” (Alice in Wonderland).

As well as having an engaging smile, indeed sometimes only an engaging smile, the Cheshire Cat’s advice to Alice demonstrated wisdom beyond his nine lives. We would be well advised to remember it when considering the real estate challenge facing India’s economy as it comes to terms not only with the fastest growing population on the planet but also a radically increased urban population. Mumbai and the New Delhi Conurbation are already creaking at the seams, so staying in one place is no longer an option: now we need to run twice as fast to get anywhere.

And as we have commented previously on this site, when it comes to sheer speed of delivery Modular Construction will always have the upper hand over traditional construction techniques, making it singularly well suited to meeting the demands of India’s rapidly expanding population. Modular units are pre-built offsite in a controlled environment where the weather matters less and logistical barriers barely matter at all: think about building anything from scratch on site in Downtown Mumbai in the middle of summer and you’ll get some idea of the problem. Just in time supply chain efficiencies, including progressive stacking of modules on site, also then ensure maximum speed of final delivery without any of the “dead time” delays frequently associated with traditional construction methods.

But how does that all work out on complex construction projects? Using Modular Construction to create a small block of flats is one thing, but what about a 100-room Hotel?

Well, as it happens, that’s not a problem either.

The Marriott Hotel Group decided last year to adopt modular construction technology on some of their newest hotels and other major and mid sector hotel chains have been following suit with projects ranging from four star hotels through to boutique eco hotels. Marriott kicked off its initiative with a commitment to build 50 hotels using prefabricated guestrooms and bathrooms as well as a 97 room signature hotel entirely constructed with modular technology (and, take note, completed two months ahead of schedule). As their International Chief Development Officer, Eric Jacobs put it: “Construction is the next frontier for innovation and modular technology is leading the wayBy working with our modular partners we can open hotels faster, put associates to work earlier and generate revenues sooner”.

Quite so…

And its not just hotels either: modular construction is currently being used across the subcontinent to deliver student housing, hospitals and public buildings of all shapes and sizes. Getting just where India needs to be… by running twice as fast.

Red Ribbon played a key role in setting up Modulex Modular Buildings, recognising the company’s outstanding potential to deliver above market rate returns for investors through its ability to tap into high demand levels in Indian real estate markets. The company provides an exciting opportunity for investors to take advantage of this key trend in the fastest growing large economy on the planet.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

I was interested to read about the Marriott Hotel initiative because it deals with a misapprehension that I sometimes come across, that modular construction is appropriate only for smaller scale projects. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. From my own work on behalf of Modulex on the subcontinent, I know that this fascinating and innovative technology is equally at home on major construction projects as well including, as the Article says, Hospitals and Schools. I’m convinced the technology has a major part of play in meeting the huge challenges currently facing India’s real estate markets.

And as a matter of interest, Marriott certainly wasn’t the first company to enter the market with a modular construction hotel: Red Ribbon’s own Eco Hotels have been doing that since the company’s inception and I’m very proud of the part we’ve played in its growth: because at Red Ribbon we don’t just believe in the theoretical value of modular technology, we’ve been using it for years.

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Taking It In Stages: Modular Construction and India’s Urban Challenge

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India’s already congested conurbations will have to find homes for 900 Million more people by 2050, and assuming a modest four person occupancy rate that means 856 new homes will have to be built every hour, every day for the next thirty years (fourteen a minute in case you’re wondering), with the subcontinent’s builders working an implausible twenty four hours a day with no time off. The sheer scale of the challenge is unprecedented, and given the pressures it will place on India’s already overstretched urban infrastructure, it will call for a solution of equally unprecedented ingenuity. But more of that in a moment… first let’s look at those trends in a little more detail.

The latest industry source to address the issue is KPMG in its NAREDCO Study, “Bridging the Urban Housing Shortage in India” (the clue’s in the title obviously) and the Report draws an arch reference to commentators having first predicted a critical shortage of urban housing as long ago as 2012, with a then projected deficit of 18 Million units. But things have got worse since then and KPMG now say there are some 1 Million urban households currently living in “non serviceable accommodation” and over half a million without any homes at all. So what’s to be done?

Well, the first point to make is that it would be unduly Eeyorish (with apologies to Philip Hammond) for us to ignore the work Prime Minister Modi’s Government has already done to re-vitalise the subcontinent’s Affordable Housing Programme: introducing a raft of new tax incentives over the course of the last two Union Budgets with more streamlined Planning Procedures thrown in for good measure and a general cutting of Red Tape across the board. Which is, of course, all well and good but cutting Red Tape and going Fiscal Max won’t get any homes built by themselves. Something more is obviously required.

KPMG’s Director of Real Estate on the Subcontinent, Neeraj Bansal, more or less put his finger on the solution when he highlighted that the single most important policy initiative which has so far gone largely unexplored is the use of innovative and low cost technologies which can speed up the construction process: and that means Modular Construction.

Prefabricated units are, indeed, likely to be key to delivering affordable housing on the required scale and within cost structures optimum to the framework of incentives put in place by Prime Minister Modi’s Government. Modular Construction has a real potential to overcome all of the structural barriers to volume delivery at pace which are inherent in India’s traditional building technologies: including a lack of skilled construction workers (or at least skilled in sufficient numbers in the urban areas where they are required); a pressing shortage of non land resources, from precious water supplies to fabrication materials and, most crucially of all, the severe time delays which come hand in hand with conventional construction methods.

Modular Construction ticks all of those boxes.

First of all, it has clear advantages on speed: manufacturing and site work can be carried out simultaneously, reducing overall completion times by as much as 50%. Think about that: for every two hundred traditional units completed, modular construction can build three hundred. And that means reduced labour costs too, with nearly all of the design and engineering overheads being rolled into the bottom line manufacturing process. Roofs, walls and floors can all be constructed as part of the same process when, in stark contrast, ceilings can’t be put in place on a conventional project until the walls are completed, and walls can’t be completed until the floors are laid down: resulting in a lot of workers standing idly by as each small delay in the process dominos into a bigger one. That isn’t the case with modular construction where these same workers can work together at the same time; and they can also be recruited centrally so that local skills shortages (of the kind that have blighted the Mumbai construction sector) also become a lot less significant.

Modulex Modular Buildings 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 through the platform of the Red Ribbon Real Estate Fund: because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows its markets better than Red Ribbon.

Red Ribbon played a key role in setting up Modulex Modular Buildings, recognising the company’s outstanding potential to deliver above market rate returns for investors through its ability to tap into unusually high demand levels in Indian real estate markets. The company provides an exciting opportunity for investors to take advantage of this key trend in the fastest growing large economy on the planet.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

When you come to look at the nuts and bolts of what it will take to deliver on India’s housing targets for its burgeoning urban population, the figures are truly eye watering. Building fourteen new homes every minute for the next thirty years would strain the limits of any conventional construction methods: not to mention the resolve of workers required to put in a twenty four hour a day shift, seven days a week.

But for me the answer is always been obvious and, as the article says, challenges on this scale require groundbreaking and innovative solutions. That solution, I am convinced, is Modular Construction.

No conventional industry methods can beat Modular Construction for its sheer pace of delivery and, of course, the key challenge faced in India and elsewhere is delivery timing: and its low overheads combined with unique operational efficiencies mean it will beat conventional construction methods hands down on overall profitability too.

That in a nutshell is why we have been committed to Modulex Modular Buildings (as a founding partner) since the project’s foundation several years ago. We remain convinced that it will play a vital part in meeting the challenges of India’s housing sector over the years ahead.

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Post Brexit: the enigma of Free Trade

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No less than 800 Indian companies currently do business in the UK, investing $5.95 Billion and generating revenues of $66.5 Billion annually. And the UK ranks 15th amongst India’s trading partners: at $18.2 Billion, it is the subcontinent’s fourth largest inward investor.

So what will Brexit do to that relationship?

The process of EU withdrawal has already proved its potential seriously to undermine the value of Sterling, and that’s important because Sterling receipts account for more than 15% of Tata Consultancy’s global revenues, and Tata is by no means alone amongst Indian companies investing in the UK. Indeed, fearing that a weakened Sterling rate will seriously inhibit future trade, the UK’s Export Credit Agency has already extended $6.4 Billion in credit facilities to companies trading with the subcontinent. The problem, of course, is that this is less than 10% of the revenues generated by Indian companies annually in the UK. Can we seriously expect Sterling to fall by less than 10% when Brexit finally goes live in less than a year?

Obviously not, which is why a Free Trade Agreement (“FTA”) with India is so important for the UK: bolstering weaknesses in the existing trading relationship with an aligned regulatory framework and restricted or zero tariff programmes. Research shows that an FTA would increase India-UK trade by $2.8 Billion a year, and British Ministers have been suggesting the process will be easily accomplished by the end of the “transition period” in 2020.

Hard experience suggests otherwise.

India currently has FTAs with just four other countries (all of which are parties to the ASEAN Free Trade Area) and it is in addition a signatory to BIMSTEC, a grouping committed to technological cooperation in the Bengal Bay Area…and that’s it.

The United States is a far bigger market than the UK, and Donald Trump has, well… trumpeted his desire for an FTA with India for some time, adding to all the trumpeting that has been going on for the last forty years, right up to the point where the US and India start suing each another and stop talking. The US sued India for Solar Panel Subsidy infringements two years ago and is currently threatening to sue again on India’s subsidies for its all-important farming constituency (mildly duplicitous given US protection for its own agricultural interests is legendary (chlorinated chicken anyone?)). There are also fierce disagreements between the two countries on textiles (hardly a minor matter for India), pharmaceuticals, steel (of course) and cars. Indeed, at the last count India was suing the US in 10 cases before the WTO and the US was countersuing in 8. So the chances of an FTA anytime soon between the two are…pretty much zero.

What, then, of the European Union: India’s largest trading partner with 13.5% of the subcontinent’s global trade. Surely India would have signed up to an FTA with Brussels by now?

Not a bit of it. The EU and India started talking about an FTA eleven years ago and stopped talking when Brussels cried foul on generic drug manufacture, Indian farming subsidies (again) and greenhouse gases … the talks have been stalled ever since.

So the next time you hear a member of the UK Parliament bursting a blood vessel to explain how easy it is to strike a Free Trade Deal with India remember: the odds are stacked against it. Better perhaps to forget Brexit and stay focussed on the success the two countries have already achieved together at corporate level, without any Treaties at all. Eight hundred companies investing in and doing business in the UK is, after all, something to be proud of in itself.

And, of course, the powerhouse that is the Indian economy, predicted to grow annually at 7.2% for the next decade, will continue to drive the global economy with or without Brexit. Nobody understands that potential 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, the Red Ribbon Private Equity Fund offers a unique opportunity to share in that potential.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

During a recent meeting of the Indian Professional’s Forum held at Chatham House in London (and sponsored by Red Ribbon) the Indian Ambassador was asked what he thought the prospects were of a Free Trade Agreement being signed between India and the United Kingdom after Brexit takes effect next year.

As with this article, the Ambassador didn’t rule it out: but he wasn’t overly optimistic either, pointing out that UK political interests were perhaps too prone to see India through the prism of Empire rather than, as India is more inclined to, regarding the UK as a smaller market than the remaining EU 27.

For my part I find it difficult to predict what the future holds in these uncertain times, but I draw comfort, as the Article does, from the strong trading relationship that exists already between India and the UK. We can expect that to re-calibrate itself after Brexit, but it’s not something we are likely to lose altogether and both countries will be stronger for it.

Real Estate India - Red Ribbon Asset Management

“The Time for Change is Now”: India Real Estate Beyond the Bubble

By | INDIA, News | No Comments

Western Economists react sceptically to any suggestion of a model for sustainable economic growth, reverting typically to Keynes’ maxim that most “markets can stay irrational for longer than you can stay solvent”. And certainly since the financial meltdowns of 2008, markets across the globe have grown increasingly accustomed to short-term investment strategies, often with the single default of Government Bonds as a buffer against turbulent trading cycles. “Most markets” that is… except for India. Because the subcontinent has been bucking this trend for at least the last five years, and in the process it has created a new paradigm for sustainable and resilient economic growth.

Take, for example, India’s Real Estate Markets.

According to this year’s CREDAI Report (the highly influential barometer for trends in real estate globally) property investment on the subcontinent is set to increase from an already strong base to at least USD 180 Billion by 2020, with new funding for domestic housing making up 47% of that total and expected to double by the same year. These projections and underlying rates of growth are wholly atypical of worldwide property markets, but the sheer consistency in performance of Indian markets over recent years suggests investors would be well advised to look now to the subcontinent for the type of longer term solutions that are increasingly unavailable in more developed economies.

And you don’t have to look far to find the reasons for why CREDAI’s growth projections point to sustainable growth as well.

India’s vastly improved regulatory climate, for example, has helped sustain progressively increased demand for domestic and commercial properties, matching the needs of the subcontinent’s growing and increasingly urbanised population with a parallel relaxation on the historic fetters which have tended to act as a brake on development. Added to that there is now a much more fertile fiscal environment as well, primarily  as a result of measures introduced by Prime Minister Modi’s Government such as the much heralded RERA initiative which is expected to consolidate current trends by eliminating some of India’s more unscrupulous development activities as well as, of course, the new Goods and Sales Tax (“GST”) which is expected to result in a reduction in global development costs of up to 4%.

Recent relaxations in FDI restrictions have also provided an enormous boost for foreign investment, most notably a sharp increase in Private Equity participation in the real estate sector. The CREDAI Report notes that “Private equity investments in real estate increased by 12% year-on-year across 79 transactions in 2017.”

And the Report itself concludes with something of an understatement: “The time for change is now…Game changing developments like RERA and GST have created a strong base for the sector to grow and coupled with India’s strong economic advancement they have provided a perfect spring board for investment in Indian Property.”

The Red Ribbon Real Estate Fund offers a unique opportunity to participate in the enormous potential of India’s Property Markets, with the benefit of unrivalled expertise from the company’s team of experts operating in all key segments and informed by a network of more than a hundred analysts and advisers working every day in India’s pivotal areas of expansion. The Fund was launched last year so as to make the most of the opportunities offered by these explosive trends for growth in India’s property sector. The aftershocks of the Bubble experienced by western property markets in 2008 is now a distant afterthought for the subcontinent.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

As the Article points out, Red Ribbon’s Real Estate Fund was listed last year to make the most of explosive growth trends in Indian Real Estate markets, and with the benefit of our expert teams working both in the subcontinent and at our head office in Mayfair, we are in an unrivalled position to calibrate just where and why the best opportunities for above market rate returns are likely to be found. Red Ribbon has placed India at the heart of its investment activities for more than a decade now, and we are proud of the accumulated knowledge this has given us: particularly in key areas such as the commercial and domestic real estate segments.

This store of accumulated knowledge confirms too the sustainable character of the current trends for growth in both segments as confirmed by the CEDRAI report, so I can only concur with the Report’s conclusion that the time to invest is now. And especially so with the radically improved regulatory and legal measures now in force in India, creating a commercial climate that has never been more conducive for successful investment, aided of course too by the key fiscal initiative introduced by Prime Minister Modi’s Government.

India Infrastructure Investment - Red Ribbon Asset Management web

India’s New Direction in Infrastructure Investment: A Country Break

By | INDIA, News | No Comments

For those commentators who might have thought they detected a slackening off over recent months in the appetite of Prime Minister Modi’s Government to engage in still further rounds of major infrastructure spending, the Union Budget Statement was something of a wake up call. Anyone sensing a slackening was simply looking in the wrong place, because key infrastructure developments are now happening outside India’s crowded urban conurbations: they’re happening in the countryside.

Rural Infrastructure Investment is the next big thing…

The Union Budget allocated close to Rs 5.97 lakh crore in infrastructure investment for the 2018/19 Financial Year, which is an increase of 21% on the equivalent figure for the Financial Year ending April 2018. So much for a slowing down and a loss of appetite; and that’s not all by any means, because the Budget has also created an “environment for demand recovery” particularly aimed at rural India and which looks set to lead to still further improvements in capacity utilisation and greater private capital involvement in future projects.

The Budget increased Rural Infrastructure spending commitments by no less than 30% percent to Rs 1.43 lakh crore, all of which will go towards increasing rural income levels through providing additional employment and greater market demand through the operation of the multiplier effect in rural markets (bearing in mind of course that the marginal propensity to consume is so much higher in rural areas of India).

Just take a look at the underlying facts if you’re still in any doubt on that.

Nearly 65% of India’s burgeoning population of 125 crore people live in the countryside, so an increase in spending across the board of 30% through ongoing connectivity projects (within the aegis of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana Programme) is bound to give a major boost to growth. In particular, through new highways that will not only create a welter of additional construction jobs but also by connecting internal agricultural markets; and then there are sanitation projects, projects to conserve and distribute precious ground water and new electricity supply infrastructure, all of which will have positive economic spin offs.

And the Budget also envisages the construction of 51 lakh rural houses this financial year and another 51 lakh next year, meeting a pressing and ever increasing demand for more affordable housing across the subcontinent.

But it’s not all about the countryside by any mean.

57,000 kilometers of new roads have also been slated for construction at a total cost of Rs 19,000 crore; and to put that in perspective, the United Kingdom motorway network is 3,400 kilometers in length (less than a tenth of the new roads now to be built in India). There will also be 600 new major railway stations and a planned fivefold increase in airport capacity with the intention that it should meet the rapid increase in tourist and business travelers visiting India each year: the new capacity will be an eye watering one billion trips a year.

Economic miracles are seldom miraculous or sudden; they are ground out every day in the slow process of infrastructure expansion, but in modern India that process now has real traction and it has started to change the very fundamentals of the subcontinents economy. No wonder then that Red Ribbon still places Indian Projects at the heart of its investment strategies, just as it has done ever since the company was founded more than a decade ago.

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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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