Accelerating Corporate Real Estate in India

A recent report from CoreNet Global states that the Corporate Real Estate (CRE) in India has a bumpy road ahead. CRE as a specialized function and profession in India arrived with multinational corporations (MNCs) and their outsourced service providers about a decade ago. In most Indian companies dedicated Corporate Real Estate departments delivering end-to-end services are not fully developed.

My experience and challenges in recruiting CRE talent and sourcing services while working for a MNC with presence in India has led me to reflect on the state of the industry. Commercial Real Estate sector is expected to add 45 million square feet of office space in the top 7 cities by 2014 (Source: With this demand for space in mind, CRE professionals in Corporate India need to focus on three main areas of improvements: Connecting with the C-suite, improving real estate education, and fast-tracking recruitment into industry from allied fields.

Establish the C-Suite – Corporate Real Estate Connect

George McKay, South Asia Director for Office & Integrated Services with Colliers International, noted in the CoreNet Global’s India Report, “The CRE function in India is still struggling to get its voice listened to at the C-Suite level. In this aspect it is definitely lagging the West.” This is in part because most Indian Companies currently do not view real estate as a controllable asset that can contribute to the financial bottom line nor the workplace as a vehicle for promoting business goals.
Currently, CRE is in the “emerging” stages of an industry life cycle; companies are actively implementing the basic facilities functions of housekeeping, capacity planning, project delivery and other employee services. Because CRE is a broader construct that Facility Management, defining its benefits and value proposition is critical to educating the C-suite. The first task is to show the relevancy of real estate as a key contributor to solving business problems. As Rimi Chakravarthy writes in this blog post, CRE can improve company culture, enhance collaboration, and increase productivity. Quantifying the benefits of professional management of CRE and how it contributes to financial success of the company is an important next step.

Companies with larger portfolio could take the next leap in operating as an integrated service model that enables business efficiency and effectiveness instead of delivering CRE services in silos. Companies with no dedicated CRE functions have the advantage of adopting this model from the start.

Address Education

By far, the biggest roadblock to adoption of CRE as a profession is the lack of suitable talent. The talent deficit is even more problematic strategic planning, relationship management, change management, and financial analytics.

To bridge the professional skills gap in real estate, construction, infrastructure, and associates services, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Amity University have jointly established the RICS School of Built Environment, Amity University at Noida. The school will offer a range of 2-3 year degrees with an aim of closing the skills gap by training 15,000-20,000 professionals over the next three to five years, according to the news report. How many of these graduates will enter CRE specialized roles is yet to be seen, at least this is a step in the right direction and will vastly improve recruitment options for CRE departments.
The established Architecture and Interior schools in India could also take the lead in expanding their current design-based curriculum by offering students courses that enhance strategic thinking and workplace innovation. There is a distinct need in companies for innovative strategy and designs that emphasize the People-Technology-Place connect. These areas should be a natural fit for design school curriculum where students who want to explore it. Management schools should take up the challenge of closing the professional gap with providing training in real estate finance, asset management and business strategy.
Industry Organizations such as CoreNet Global, IFMA India should put in a focused effort on expanding their chapters and membership especially for students (CoreNet Global directory shows 70 members in India) offering industry-oriented educational programs and continuing education. In turn, professional organizations could arrange summer internships and job placements for those wanting to consider CRE professionally.

Attract Talent and Improve Recruitment

While the skills pipeline is being addressed, what can Indian companies do to fill their CRE positions now?

CRE hiring managers should actively work with their HR Recruiters to source the right candidates from allied fields by identifying key competencies profiles for specific CRE jobs while recruiting MBAs, Architecture, and Engineering candidates. While key competencies for CRE roles vary, strategic agility, problem solving, customer focus, financial acumen, and negotiation are highly desired. Tailoring recruitment practices to identify candidates who have fungible skill to enter CRE roles can vastly improve the candidate pool.

A robust onboarding campaign for new recruits entering CRE roles would pay dividends as most have very little knowledge of how portfolios operate or of financial management of assets. Offering continuing education and industry exposure through IFMA, CoreNet Global and other certification to talented staff that are rapid-learners and have aptitude should be considered. In a high-turnover Indian labor market this may be a hard sell, but professional education and identifying career paths for employees could be a key tool in employee retention.

Who drives this evolution? We need a stronger partnership of companies, universities and professional groups to solve the talent challenge. With a healthy GDP growth projected at 6.2% in 2014 and 13 million new graduates entering the workplace each year, will the CRE industry in India be ready to deliver?