The DLF insignia embellishes the skyline on identifiable urban landmarks across India and it stands tall and elegant in the world of real estate. It symbolises a legacy of 75 years of sustained growth, customer satisfaction, and innovation. Karun Varma, Sr. Executive Director, DLF Office Business - North, shares with Business Today, the ambitious and upcoming projects of the realtor.
As companies are gearing to call their employees back, what measures has DLF taken for their safety and well-being?
The safety, security and wellness of our tenant employees are of prime importance and is embedded in the core of all our endeavours.
The vaccination drive by the Government of India achieved a significant milestone of 100 crore which has brought down the infection rate and boosted the confidence. Companies have gradually started calling their employees back to work.
Our Research and Engineering teams collaborated with leading consultants and agencies globally to look for safety solutions. American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the global leaders in air quality, recommended installation of MERV 13 air filters.
We have gone a step higher and have completed installation of MERV 14 Air Filters across our entire portfolio of 33 million sq. feet in the country. The SARS CoV 2 virus is trapped in droplets which are of 1 micron or larger. MERV 14 filters are capable of capturing 75% of particulate matter in the air with a diameter of 0.31 micron and 90% of those are bigger.
The air quality in our buildings was tested by SGS India - the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, and they confirmed that the indoor air quality exceeds the American standards and showed 90% reduction in harmful pollutants.
Besides, we are following all protocols as prescribed by the WHO and Ministry of Health. We have pro-actively implemented measures like contactless building entry/exits, pedal based/step up door openers, automatic dispensers, regular fumigation and fogging of common areas to enhance employee safety.
We have also received the COVID-19 Assurance statement from the British Safety Council and certification from the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) on safety of our workplace which is a testament of our efforts.
When do you see the full workforce returning to work?
Companies are evaluating multiple scenarios in the new normal, call everyone back to the office, adopt a hybrid model, or provide more fully remote opportunities. As most of our clients are MNC's, they will follow their corporate guidelines.
We anticipate that return to work will happen in phased way and the momentum will pick up over the next few months. Some IT companies have called their employees back to work and, these numbers will increase gradually.
What is the outlook for demand for office space?
India has emerged as a leading outsourcing destination for services and IT/ITES services because of its working dividend and increasing availability of mass skilled manpower every year. It also enjoys advantages in terms of talent, real estate and overall cost.
As a country we churn out over 1 million Engineers a year and they are getting absorbed every year. The country has rentals varying from less than 1$ a sq. feet, which is the lowest rental cost globally.
Most IT / ITES companies have reported strong growth during the pandemic and are hiring in large numbers. We expect that this will drive the momentum for new and additional office space in the coming few quarters. There is a substantial increase in the site visit as well as inquiries over the last few months and we are in advanced stages of discussions and closures with multiple clients which is very encouraging
Besides some companies are looking at de densification of their existing workspaces to offer additional safety to their employees. From the earlier norm of 80 - 100 sq. feet per employee they are reverting to 130 - 150 sq. feet per employee which means that they will need additional space in existing campuses or new upcoming locations.
During COVID-19, most real estate companies put new commercial projects on hold. But DLF launched several new projects, what was the rationale behind it and what is the status of these projects?
All our projects are located in prime locations in established business districts. There is always demand for office space in such location because of its quality, affordability, social infrastructure and connectivity, which is important for tenants to attract talent for their companies.
We knew all along that the disruption due to the pandemic is temporary. We wanted to build new projects in these locations to meet the pent-up demand. Today, as corporates get ready to return to office and are looking for additional space, we are ready with solutions in prime locations.
Our three projects in Gurugram, Noida and Chennai are on track, Phase-1 of DLF Downtown, Gurugram is nearing completion and is already 95% pre-leased. In fact, we have started construction of a new tower of 2 msf in this project.
In Noida, we are constructing a Data Centre which is nearing completion and it is already pre-leased to a leading telecom player.
At DLF Downtown Chennai, Phase-I construction of approx. 2.2 mn. sq. feet progressing swiftly and would be ready for fit-outs by Q3 of 2022.
We have also started construction of our new project Atrium Place in Gurugram.
The company has the largest portfolio of LEED Platinum Certified buildings in the country, how important is ESG?
DLF has a track record of 75 years and is known to be one of most compliant companies in the realty sector. As industry leaders we understand the importance of building responsibly and we have imbibed ESG practices in our normal work routine.
GRESB, an international organisation considered a global standard for ESG benchmarking and reporting, has recognised DLF Limited and DCCDL as Regional Sector Leaders for their developments across the office space. Both entities have achieved the highest ranking of 5 Star rating.
With these recognitions DLF Limited has been Ranked # 1 in India and as the Overall Regional Sector Leader for its development across the listed office space by GRESB.
DLF Cyber City Developers Limited (DCCDL) has been Ranked # 2 in Asia as the Regional Sector Leader for its development across the unlisted office space by GRESB.
The company is poised for growth and as we scale and leverage this growth opportunity. We will do it with utmost care by ensuring consistent, profitable and responsible growth while adhering to the best governance practices.
DLF carries a reputation for creating large business districts in the country. What are the new plans for North India?
DLF Cybercity in Gurugram has emerged as North India's largest "Knowledge City", it has the distinct architectural skyline which is comparable to any city globally. It has now become one of the most important business districts in the country.
Our marquee projects in Gurugram, DLF Downtown has a development potential of 11 million sq. feet. Atrium Place is another 4 million sq. feet, these developments will be integrated into Cybercity which will make it one of the largest Business Districts in the country with 30 million sq. feet.
We have entered a new segment of Data Centers with the launch of our project DLF Tech Park Noida in Sector 143 A. This project has a build potential of 4 million sq. feet.
All our existing development is LEED Platinum Certified and our new projects will set global benchmarks for this part of the world.
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