EXCLUSIVE | Nihit Kumar, ILC Group: Tech upgradation in store for real estate

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Nihit Kumar, General Manager and Head – Marketing, ILC Group, in an exclusive chat, speaks about the impact of coronavirus on the Indian real estate sector, how ILC Group has been navigating through the tough times, the digital approach it has adopted, how ILC has enhanced its customer experience, and more. He also speaks about industry issues and opportunities, including the role AR and VR will play for the sector.

Nihit has rich marketing and retail development expertise backed by more than 15 years of experience in brand strategy, events, promotions, product launch and digital amplification.

An alumnus of Delhi University, Nihit has worked with DLF for nearly eight years, where he played an instrumental role in the launch of DLF Mall of India in Noida and the re-launch of Cyber Hub in Gurgaon. He was also an active Event and Strategy Lead for all the DLF shopping malls comprising DLF Avenue, DLF CyberHub, DLF Mall of India, DLF Promenade, One Horizon and more.

Tell us about the ILC Group and its projects?

The ILC Group is an emerging leader in Delhi NCR’s real estate space, committed to developing the complete spectrum of multiple institutional investment-grade assets across commercial, retail, IT, residential and mixed-use segments. 

ILC’s projects are known for their elegant styling, value for money offerings, impeccable execution, and on-time delivery. Having served over 1,000 happy customers, today ILC is looking to synergise its varied experience to reimagine real estate in the country.

An experienced, professional management team and promoters with high market credibility enable ILC to innovate while striving to set industry standards on excellence. 

What has been the impact of the second wave of the COVID pandemic on the sector? What factors have helped you sustain, and what will help you grow?

The real estate and retail sectors have been two of the worst-affected sectors due to the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone was clueless during the first wave as no one knew when it was going to end and how people would react once the restrictions ease out. However, most of the brands witnessed a positive graph till March 2021 before the second wave.

The second lockdown came as a major setback for everyone as it completely shattered the backbone of the brick-and-mortar businesses. All the brands dealing in experience-oriented functionalities like shopping malls, hotels, tourism, etc. were under a huge toll. Moreover, things still remain uncertain even when the situation is getting better as this wave is quite devastating and has claimed many people’s lives.

Currently, distress selling is taking place in both residential and commercial projects, which is not at all a healthy practice. So, to counter this, we are currently preparing backup plans and channelising our energies to deliver our projects once the lockdown restrictions are lifted by the government. 

The growth aspect for any organisation completely depends on implementing the right strategies via the right tools factoring in all engaging and variable factors. This includes accommodating technology in our projects which includes touchless experience and making things go phygital, a combination of physical and digital.

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How important has customer service been at a time when new projects are at a standstill? 

At ILC Group, we have ensured that the lockdown hasn’t brought our other divisions to a halt, including customer service. We have been in constant touch with our clients and hand-holding them through these turbulent times.

Since we were anticipating a lockdown amid the surge in COVID cases, we made a timely plan for activations and had a robust plan in place for activities to do during the lockdown for keeping the end-user engagement high by increasing our clientele’s online presence and media presence. This ensured that we are accessible from our homes and helping their ideas and initiatives in all ways. 

Now, as lockdown-like restrictions are slowly being relaxed in many states, we are gearing up and have plans set for implementation as and when the situation allows.

We have simultaneously also been running campaigns to raise awareness amongst our fraternity, clients and the public, in general, to get vaccinated. Sooner than later, hopefully, to safeguard all, we are planning to implement vaccination certificates to enter our malls and also planning to run drive-through vaccination programs for our neighbourhood and our tenants.

What are the comms and marketing strategies ILC Group has adopted to reach a wider audience? And what do you communicate to the wider audience when sales and even interest in real estate has flatlined?

The ILC Group believes in the anthropological approach that deals with the study of origin because you can’t create the right strategies for your audience without understanding consumer behaviour. 

In this highly competitive world, one can’t frame marketing strategies based on assumptions as studying ROIs, investments and reachability is very important. So, we optimize the media tools that are effective and aware the masses about our upcoming projects. The on-air medium has turned out to be the best medium for us when it comes to framing the marketing and publicising strategies.

Along with on-air, we try creating a lyrical campaign that takes a digital route. The digital medium enables the advertiser to create more engaging and adaptable content for the customers. Moreover, with the amalgamation of AR, VR and MR, people get to experience the complete look and feel of the project through an online medium without actually visiting the site.   

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What new trend(s)  do you see in the next couple of years when it comes to engaging with your core TG?

The trends have already begun changing and they’ll continue to evolve in the coming years as well. People are now looking for a touchless experience as much as possible. Apart from this, digitisation has taken place at a manifold speed in the past few months across all sectors. People have started spending more time on social media than ever before.

Now, people are willing to engage more via Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR). These tools are going to bring a revolutionary change when it comes to interacting with your core target audience. This will help in easing out the entire purchase experience, enhance buyer and seller relationship and reduce the stress while undergoing the decision-making process. 

What are the challenges prevalent to real estate digitization, and how can they be overcome?

The arrival of new technologies in the real estate sector, i.e Proptech will push the current players to rethink their offers and their property marketing strategies. The real estate sector is highly dynamic as the users in this fraternity are constantly demanding innovation and new functionalities. Concretely, the digitization of real estate requires the adoption of the latest technological tools that will disrupt the current processes and practices.

However, things will take place gradually in the real estate sector as even in 2020, it is not completely transformed. We are still living in houses and apartments, and property developers are still building properties. But one can imagine that in the near future, the profession of a real estate agent will disappear as online aggregators and third-party platforms will overtake this specific space.

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How, do you suggest, can real estate companies optimize their customer experience?

Currently, everything is shifting towards the online world, so it’s important for real estate companies to enhance their online presence. This means the realtors need to cover all the digital touch-points including their website, social media pages, ads, emails, marketing campaigns, etc.

What’s involved  involved in optimizing the customer behaviours for real estate companies, is, One – Audit your online presence to ensure that all information pertinent to your service offering is up to date and relevant wherever you have an online presence. Two: Add useful tools and functionalities on your website that would be useful to a property buyer. This could include a mortgage calculator, an advanced search feature, or even access to a client portal.

All these would help customers get information quickly and easily. Three: Share you rinsights. Create engaging content on real estate topics that might answer the questions of your potential clients. Moreover, developers must demonstrate their expertise and credibility,  and leverage their position in the real estate industry.

What role does AR, VR play in real estate marketnig?

In this digital world, the way technologies are getting involved within companies is of great interest. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are some of the latest tools to satisfy customers and increase productivity.

The real estate industry is embracing Artificial Intelligence (AI) through the use of AR & VR technologies. With virtual reality technology, new buyers are now able to make an emotional, sensory, and physical connection with homes, touring without actually stepping their foot inside the development.

This technology has added excitement to the marketing aspect of the real estate sector, expediting the purchasing process and giving customers great confidence to make purchases without physically visiting a property.

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What is the future of real estate in India?

Real estate has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in India owing to a constant demand for better residential, commercial, as well as hospitality spaces. Moreover, with the world-changing faster than ever, people’s requirements also continue to grow in terms of housing, businesses, and more.

The real estate sector is headed towards an all-inclusive technological up-gradation in the terms of home automation via the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and other similar innovation techniques and developments in this field.

From the investment point of view as well, real estate will continue to be a lucrative option amongst retail investors. This sector has consistently given great yields to its stakeholders over the past many decades & this pattern is expected to continue to be prevalent in the future as well.