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Gera in News

Setting a benchmark

FC Build - 8 May, 2014

Despite the real estate slump, child-centric homes are finding buyers and the idea could catch on Setting a benchmark You have an idea, pursue it, plan, invest and execute. It works. With the changing housing and realty landscape in India, buyers are increasingly looking for more than just a home to live in and carry on with their lives. The concept of housing has evolved, clearly, from just buying a trendy home, to now having a unique lifestyle with better opportunities.

In order to cater to this growing segment, Pune-based Gera Developments, a 43-year-old realty firm, a specialist in premium and commercial projects, is set to create a new category in the residential real estate industry and establish a benchmark in the product plus services model.

Its new upcoming housing projects would, for the first time in India, focus entirely on child-centric homes. These homes will create a paradigm shift in the real estate for both, the developer as well as the home buyer.

The firm is aggressively enticing home buyers with top of the class intellectual, physical and vocational coaching at the doorstep for children.

Real estate captains and international property consultancies, who always welcome a novel and innovative approach, admitted that at the end of the day, it was an effective marketing tool, with additional values, to sell the project. They said the overall residential landscape across India was sluggish on account of weak economy and sentiments and residential sales in fiscal 2014 had slumped to 20-25 per cent over the previous year. So, why not pursue something out of the ordinary?

The Gera Child Centric Homes, which would be launched initially in Pune, Bangalore and Goa, has roped in world-class celebrity academies to coach children professionally in over 15 disciplines. These include sports, arts, music, dance, dramatics, public speaking, painting - you name it.

The company has signed up India's top notch celebrities offering the best intellectual, physical and vocational coaching at the doorstep: Shankar Mahadevan for music, Shiamak Davar for dance, Viswanathan Anand for chess, Mahesh Bhupati for tennis, Anil Kumble for cricket and Dale Carnegie for personality development along with other tie-ups for swimming, arts, and dramatics. You can't ask for more.

The premium Gera ChildCentric Homes claims to provide its residents and their children with opportunities to learn from the best and grow in multiple dimensions. These homes are meant to create more time for children by eliminating travel time to and from various classes, help reduce parents stress as far as child safety is concerned since the facilities are on campus. Moreover, since parents can participate in the children's training and development, it would help to create bonding and build better relationship among parents and children.

"We have unveiled a unique and trend setting concept of child-centric homes, an innovative solution offering parents convenience along with an opportunity for their children to discover their passions and be the best they can while living in premium contemporary homes," Kumar Gera, chairman at Gera Developments told Financial Chronicle.

This first of its kind, he said, has been launched in Song of Joy, the fourth project at Gera's GreensVille, a 40-acre campus at fast developing Kharadi on the outskirts of Pune. GreenVille project already has completed three residential projects such as GardenVillas, (sold out), SkyVillas (1-2 per cent stock available for sale) and Trinity Towers (about 40 per cent available for sale). That's called bumper sale.

"We have a five-year contract with each of them and each academy will have its own premises on the project where children will be personally coached by professional teams," Rohit Gera, managing director, Gera Developments, told Financial Chronicle. He said the firm would pay certain fees for these professional services but declined to disclose the annual fees charged.

"In these projects, we are going beyond hardware and concepts like sports and yoga have become passe . We are making a serious concerted effort to provide software skills to children for their all round holistic development in the comfort of their campus," the junior Gera explains.

He said this project has been launched after a market research study which revealed the needs of today's young home buyers, who are working couples, living in a nuclear format with young children or are planning to start a family. "They want to provide the best available opportunities for their children and are even willing to sacrifice their career for their children. Our projects will fit the bill of an ambitious family that wishes to experience life to the fullest but is crunched on time," Gera said.

He said the variety of coaching academies, which would be designed and built on the campus as per the specifications given by professionals, would provide the convenience of never before facilities at their door step, features where their children could have fun, keeping the safety needs for their children in mind and development and training aspirations of their children were fulfilled.

"We have established a new category of living spaces designed for children as well as parent's lifestyles in mind," senior Gera said. These projects, he said would set a new benchmark not only in real estate marketing and brand building but also setting new standards of service orientation in the realty sector.

"Gera Developments has offered me the opportunity to set up my own academy at Gera Child Centric Homes and provide its residents with world class training in cess," chess wizard Vishwanathan Anand said in a statement.

Shankar Mahadevan said he was bringing the Shankar Mahadevan Academy to the doorstep of Gera Developments residential projects. "With over 36 training sessions over a year, we will provide both the children and parents the opportunity to learn and experience the joy of music," he said.

Dance maestro Shiamak Davar said "Teaching dance to people has been part of my journey and I am taking this further by bringing my dance classes to the doorstep of Gera's Child Centric Homes residents."

Industry captains and property consultants agree it is a novel and unique idea to sell homes with value additions and practical services to its residents. "With more and more families becoming nuclear with just one or two children, where both parents are working, this is a very innovative and creative approach to sell homes in a residential market where overall sales fell 20-25 per cent in fiscal 2014 from last year," Mudassir Zaidi, national director, residential agency at Knight Frank India, the international property consultancy, told Financial Chronicle.

He said although Pune and Bangalore residential property markets were not a badly impacted, property sales in Mumbai and Delhi fell to 50,000-60,000 units from 35,000-40,000 units and 60,000-65,000 units from 70,000-80,000, respectively, in the last seven to eight months.

"The investment segment has decreased considerably with second and third home buyers shying away from the market or postponing their decisions. Only those end-users who want to reside are buying," Zaidi said.

He added: "When the economy is down, competitors outbidding each other to sell their projects with celebrity endorsement are a common practice to entice consumers to part with their money."

Points out Rajiv Talwar, executive director at DLF, "Gera's child-centric homes is an innovative idea. In the past theme-based projects such as Mediterranean, Spanish, sports, art and culture, yoga etc were used to attract buyers across the country."

Rajeeb Dash, head, marketing at Tata Housing, said because of the clutter in the residential market, and the sales momentum slowed down, builders were resorting to innovative ideas to differentiate their products. "Child centric projects will be a high ticket property for a niche segment and not for middle and upper middle class segments," he said.

Dash said builders include cost of these innovative facilities at their housing projects in the price tag of the apartments. "While the first-time buyer is looking essentially for a home, parking facility, a club house and gated community, only those upgrading buyers will scout for such child-centric homes.

"Overall, things are not hunky-dory over the last one year or so. We have had investors not interested in buying properties and the end-users are thinking a lot before deciding to invest into a property," said Smeeta Neogi, vice-president, marketing at Mahindra Lifespace Developers. But Pune and Bangalore market has been less impacted compared with the other metros and top cities across the country, she added.

"If Geras are able to deliver what they promise, it would be the best things to have happened when parents are looking to provide the best opportunities for their children," Neogi said.

"The concept of child-centric homes has merit and potential. Such properties would be of great interest to young married couples looking to purchase their first homes," said Om Ahuja, chief executive officer - residential services at Jones Lang LaSalle India, a global property consultancy.

He said buyers and investors into such properties should also look at the other important aspects that make a home livable and give value to property. "In other words, there should be no compromise on location and social and civic infrastructure. After all, a home must cater to the needs of all family members," Ahuja added.

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