Given a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, John Cushman, the 60-something Chairman of real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, would rather choose the latter. “I don’t care if there are subtle changes in the economic growth rates—it’s still better to invest here when the economy’s growing at 8 per cent than back home in the US, where growth rates hover between 1 and 2 per cent,” he contends.Unsurprisingly, then, Cushman is aggressively pushing to get more out of his firm’s Indian operations, which currently accounts for less than 5 per cent of its total revenues of over $2 billion (projected for 2008). “Retail and commercial office space are going to be the growth drivers for the Indian realty market, with an expected 200 million sq. ft of office space to be added in the next three years,” says Cushman. Apart from transactional revenues, Cushman is banking on managing realty, retail and hospitality funds for India’s real estate market. If things go as expected, Cushman sees Asia’s share in total revenues going up from 15 per cent to 33 per cent in another three years.
Currently, he is in the process of finalising a billion-dollar fund for a US-based investor, who apparently is licking his chops at the Indian market’s 40 per cent return compared to US’ 20 per cent. “India is among the most underserved retail markets in the world, with just 50 million sq. ft of retail space,” says Cushman. This, he adds, will rise to 112 million sq. ft in the next three years. He’s right about the lack of modern retail space, but whether supply will actually more than double in another three years is a moot question— at least, in this environment.
— Tejeesh N. S. Behl