Indian real estate sector is resilient and adaptable, says MQDC Country Director

 Indian real estate sector is resilient and adaptable, says MQDC Country Director

Inside the premises of Whiz Cafe and (inset) Chulamas Jitpatima, Country Director, MQDC India

Rajkumari Sharma Tankha

Headquartered in Bangkok, Magnolia Quality Development Corporation Limited (MQDC) was established in 2006. It forayed into India in August 2019 with the launch of its premium co-working project, Whizdom Club, in New Delhi. In February 2020, it launched an eating joint, Whiz Cafe in New Delhi. After the pandemic hit, MQDC launched a trading vertical, offering a premium range of anti-viral and allergy-free products. Life And More spoke with Ms Chulamas Jitpatima, Country Director, MQDC India for more. Excerpts:

What attracted MQDC about the Indian soil?
The Indian market is large and has a lot of potential. Over the last few years India has established itself as an entrepreneurial hub with a predicted positive growth trajectory. From the beginning, our operations in India have been exciting and we are optimistic about the opportunities that the market has to offer in terms of business expansion and diversification. The macroeconomic growth indicators, increased ease of doing business in India as well as the diverse demographics are the key reasons for focussing on the Indian market.
Both our properties, Whizdom Club and Whiz Café, have received tremendous appreciation in the country, which motivated us to successfully launch our trading vertical AVA that offers a wide range of wellness products. We are looking at expanding our footprint further in the Indian market.

How did the period of the pandemic treat the organisation and how did you cope with it?
Like most industries, co-working also faced many challenges when the country went into a lockdown. Almost all companies shifted their work online and were working from home; as part of the government regulations, we also had to close the co-working as well as the café space for a specific period.
However, we showed resilience and were able to create business continuity plans which helped us retain all our clients and we also added many new ones to the kitty. Since most of our clients at the time were SMEs and Start-ups, we offered them flexible solutions as per their changing requirements. At the same time, we collaborated with online delivery partners to keep business running for the café. We even initiated the COVID care meals campaign where nutritious low-cost meals were delivered to COVID affected families.
The primary focus for all of us was to ensure safety and hygiene of our workspaces for all our clients, customers, and employees. The co-working space has been equipped with wide desks, spacious corridors, dust free materials for furnishings, and air treatment systems (Treated Fresh Air) to provide fresh air at all times. All of this is complimented by the mandatory COVID-19 safety protocols that have been laid down by the government.

Do you think co-working spaces are feasible considering that the threat of pandemic is not over yet?
As companies are planning their return to office, they are looking for options that give options for lease flexibility, and cost effectiveness. This is where co-working spaces seem to fit the bill perfectly. In addition to this, co-working spaces also allow accessibility in remote locations across Tier II and III cities which is something that many companies are looking for at the moment as the workforce is scattered across the country.
The plug and play model is proving its versatility and the shared office segment is constantly adapting to stay relevant and provide the best facilities to their customers. To improve the working environment and enhance creativity, co-working spaces are evolving and providing even customised offerings to suit the needs of every client. It is no longer a preferred option just for startups but is also becoming the go-to option for large players. I am confident that the sector will continue to grow and be a feasible option for companies in the long run.

Covid-19 has pushed companies to go digital and has speeded the adoption of technology by several years. How has it been at MQDC HQs and in India?
MQDC globally has always been technologically advanced, more so during the pandemic working virtually became the norm and the organisation as well as all employees have been quick to adapt in a seamless manner. Also, in order to engage with and grow our member community during the pandemic, we hosted numerous online business mentorship sessions with prolific industry professionals and entrepreneurs. Community engagement and interactions have also been supported through a community application.
For MQDC HQs, several applications & tools have been introduced to make the members work seamlessly. The application systems help streamline frontline as well as back end work. Even Pre-Covid, the organisation had introduced digital interventions in most departments. However, during the pandemic, employees have actively adopted these systems which aid hybrid and remote working.

How do you view the Indian Real Estate sector?
What I love about the sector is its resilience and adaptability. COVID-19 induced lockdowns slowed down the activities in the sector but irrespective of all the hurdles, the sector has been agile and bounced back quickly. In fact, the commercial real estate sector is poised to witness tremendous growth in the coming years. The sector has transformed itself with the changing demands of buyers to offer more flexible, remote, and automated real estate solutions and this has played a vital role in reviving the sector from the COVID plunge.
I also believe that the sector needs to adapt itself further and look at creating more sustainable and smart properties which have a future-first strategy and promote green solutions. We have already started witnessing a shift towards that, and COVID-19 played a significant role in enabling it further, but we have a long way to go.

How do you foresee the future of India’s Real Estate market vis-à-vis international markets?
Indians have always had a keen interest in investing in the residential real estate market. This trend has changed significantly over the last few years and commercial real estate has picked up pace due to options such as Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) becoming popular. Also, the real estate market in India is expected to become more organised in the coming times. Co-working spaces have also contributed to the growth of the sector and will continue to be a major player in its future growth as well. The space is expected to grow around 15-20 per cent each year for the next four years, which will create a significant ripple in the market. From a customer perspective, the work culture and the day-to-day lifestyle of people has evolved post the pandemic. This will result in different property models and projects coming into focus


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