Gera Developments Pvt Ltd.
Gera Developments Pvt Ltd takes women empowerment to the next level by entrsuting a “All Woman” team to lead and build a multi-storied building. Excerpts from an interview with the Managing Director Rohit Gera.
What was the thought behind an “all-women” real estate project?
When one talks about the real estate or construction sector, the abysmally low ratio of women to men is often attributed to the fact that construction sites (or the real estate sector) are not a place for women. At Gera, we believe that this is not true. Not for the real estate sector neither for the construction sites. And so while historically, women civil engineers were relegated to desk jobs with no onsite experience, we decided to put together a team of 7 women civil engineers to lead the construction of our Gera’s Misty Waters project in Pune. Three years back, when we first thought of #womenbuild, it looked challenging.
This team, however, has proven that executing construction projects is something that is not linked to any gender but based on having the requisite skills. It is also important to recognise the fact that eventually, hundreds of construction workers and numerous contractors, mostly men, were ok being led by a team of women. I hope that the success of these women stands out as a beacon and motivates women across fields to take up responsibilities in areas that are considered male-dominated roles.
How challenging was to put together the team? How many of them were there?
We were looking to recruit a group of highly motivated women who were willing to go the extra mile and smash through the glass ceiling. After scouring several platforms, we selected 7 women civil engineers across profiles of Store/ Safety/ Junior engineers/ Senior Engineers & Project Leads. This all-women team was tasked with the responsibility to manage, supervise and deliver Gera’s Misty Waters, our residential project at Keshav Nagar in Pune. The task was challenging because the talent pool of women who had been on construction sites from beginning to end was extremely small.
We needed to recruit them as well as train them for the role.
Elaborate on the project, this team handled how the challenges they faced during the project?
This all-women project team was responsible for everything from contractor management, labour management, project planning, storekeeping, safety, quality, engineering and project leads which are typically male-dominated roles. The team did encounter resistance initially, from smaller contractors and their construction workers. Additionally, the location and soil conditions made the project more challenging. While onboarding this all-women team, we made it clear to each of the members of the team that success in delivering the project as promised would be a huge boost to the cause of women on construction sites and failure would lead to a setback for a long time. The all-women project team took all of the challenges in their stride, with the strong support of their mentors and successfully completed this landmark project.
How receptive were others in the value chain of the project?
The initiative was welcomed within our organisation; however, to our dismay, we found that the mindset of the smaller contractors as well as their construction workers was still stuck in a time warp. There was a fundamental reluctance to accept directions from women in a position of leadership and power. We decided that the only way around this problem was to have a team that comprised only women, thereby eliminating the option to treat the women as inferior completely.
What Is the current strength of woman In the total workforce of Gera group?
We are currently at 46 per cent women in our office but 24 per cent women across the organisation.
Do you intend to increase this percentage?
We plan to increase it to 50 per cent women across the organisation by 2022.
Could you Throw some light on the unique projects that are being implemented by your company?
Each of our projects is conceptualised to build in a unique differentiator hinging on the needs of our customers, for instance, our residential project Gera’s Adara offers 2 bedroom duplexes to help customers optimise space utilisation or the introduction of a new category in the market with Child Centric TM Homes.
Our ChildCentricTM Homes product line introduced in both in Pune and Goa has created a new segment in the market. Gera’s ChildCentricTM Homes has been conceptualised, keeping in mind the needs of the young Indian family and the needs around their children’s development as well as safety in mind. In addition to thoughtful design features within the home which are child-friendly, we have exclusive associations with India’s eminent personalities to offer the best cognitive, physical and vocational training, right on the project campus. Thus providing best-in-class opportunities in sports, intellectual development, arts, music, dramatics and recreation right within their society campus. Shankar Mahadevan, Anil Kumble, Mahesh Bhupathi, Shiamak Davar, Bhaichung Bhutia are the names associated with our ChildCentricTM Homes’ learning academies.
Considering the current economic situation, what Is your outlook for the current year for your company?
While the real estate sector as a whole is facing headwinds, there are a handful of developers who are doing well in this situation.
Those of us who are not over-leveraged, have a track record of delivery, have kept the customer at the core even today have no challenges.
We are therefore confident of our sales for the year being the highest ever.
What is your outlook for real-estate segment till 2022?
We expect that the headwinds will continue through 2020. The government may offer home buyers incentives to purchase homes in the next budget. If this happens, the turn around will be sooner.
Without any demand stimulus, we will see more stories of developer defaults, actions in the NCLT and the negative sentiment will continue to drag the sector down through 2021.
Eventually, we will see a clearing of the distressed developers and the market share of the performing developers will grow. This will take a few years.