Banking on an emotional pull to get NRIs buying

Exhibitions are a time-tested medium for bringing target audiences together with products. To draw attention to such events and to differentiate them from the regular marketplace, schemes and offers are often employed.

Real estate sees a massive number of exhibitions, and the reason is simple — this is an extremely competitive sector, and developers are constantly challenged to find ways to talk to their intended clientele.

During exhibitions, developers get an opportunity to showcase their properties via various different audiovisual media. Also, their sales teams can engage with large numbers of potential clients.

At a local level, exhibitions allow developers to pull away from the immense online marketing clutter and to strike up direct sales conversations with people who are looking for immediate solutions to their housing needs. With the growing popularity of Indian property exhibitions abroad, this platform has now extended its local reach to include the non-resident Indian (NRI) community.

On the whole, NRIs face peculiar challenges. Apart from getting caught up in the intricacies of work that often has no Indian elements at all, they must also assimilate into new social networks. Even when they put in concerted efforts to maintain them, their connections to India tends to erode for the duration of their stints abroad.

• For those who are working on establishing new lives on foreign soil, this may not be a very serious issue. Thanks to technology, they manage to stay in touch with their families and friends in India, thereby maintaining the emotional connections and moral support they need to pursue their outward-looking plans for the future. Nevertheless, many of these individuals are interested in investing in property in India for ongoing financial security and growth.

• For the significant multitude of NRIs who have every intention of returning to India at some point, buying a property in India has much more personal connotations. The growing housing needs of their families need to be addressed, and they need to lay a strong foundation for their own eventual return.

One common factor that applies to both categories is that they are separated from the on-ground real estate milieu in India. Naturally, this can lead to considerable confusion. Though they have online access to real estate options in their cities and towns of interest, the internet has, in fact, been massively contaminated by marketing campaigns aimed specifically at attracting the attention of NRI property seekers.

Not to put too fine a point to it, many developers have joined hands with real estate aggregator sites and specialist marketing agencies to gain focused access to the NRI community. The properties being marketed to this audience are often overpriced, and the impressions being created of the project itself may have very little in common with its on-ground reality.

The end result is that NRIs invariably have a much distorted picture of the realty sector in India. For those who are seriously interested, exhibitions of properties in India organised in their foreign cities of residence can provide a means to educate themselves on the options available to them and ask the right kinds of questions.

NRIs often attend such exhibitions in groups, and this allows them to apply a more consultative approach to their decision-making. By connecting with friends back home, they are able to obtain information that may not be available at the exhibition. Likewise, online searches during and after the exhibition can provide needed granularity.

Because of these channels available to them, it is a mistake to assume that all NRIs tend to make snap real estate purchase decisions at exhibitions. As a rule, that does not happen — though there are exceptions. Of course, the overall objective of property exhibitions is to catalyse and encourage impulse buying, and developers showcasing their projects at such events bank significantly on this factor.

However, even NRIs who take a more calculated approach will be influenced by the psychological hooks that are thrown out at such events. The final effect can often be that a property is examined and finally identified for investment.

Therefore, it can certainly be said that NRI-specific property exhibitions in foreign countries manage to meet their objectives in one way or the other. At the very least, they provide fuel for the thought process that always precludes a real estate investment.

• Being a capital-intensive product, real estate investment decisions need to be backed by sound advice from professionals coming from a strong research-driven background.

• NRI investors are advised to opt only for reputed developers, unless they can actually go to India and look at projects in different areas of their preferred cities.

• Alternatively, they can depend on their friends, colleagues and relatives back home to look beyond options by leading, reliable developers.

• They should have a general checklist to verify the track record and brand visibility of a developer, as well as the soundness of the identified location in terms of social and civic infrastructure, and the amenities in the project.

• Investors looking for discounts could book in the pre-launch stage to get competitive prices. Developers have traditionally tried to attract high net-worth individuals with exclusive investment opportunities.

• Due diligence is important for end users, and even more so in the case of investors looking at upcoming or peripheral locations around big cities. Professional property advisers should be consulted for different real estate asset classes.

Read about the Indian real estate market witnessing a new dawn

Source: Ashwinder Raj Singh, Special to

The writer is CEO — Residential Services at JLL India


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