It has taken the Indian property market quite a while to realize the immense potential of our very own Punya Nagari – or Pune, in short – but its eyes have finally opened. No longer can this little city be ignored or dismissed as a ‘Pensioner’s Paradise.’ One tends to wonder why it took so long for its star to rise, considering the many advantages it has to offer.
If location is the lodestone in real estate, Pune is truly blessed. Nestled in the Western ghats of the Sahyadri mountains, it features climactic conditions that are the envy of most other cities in the state of Maharashtra and beyond. In fact, the weather and natural ambience come so close to actual ‘hill station’ conditions for most of the year that Pune is becoming quite a tourist destination in its own right.
What really matters, however, is the fact that there is a steady influx of home-buyers from all over India. This is evident by its growing population, which includes many that have made Pune their home only in recent years. In real estate terms, this is what defines a ‘boom’, and Pune is certainly experiencing one.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
There are various other reasons, apart from location, for Pune’s sudden rise in real estate fortunes. The ‘Oxford of the East’, as it is also known, is home to a number of prestigious educational and training institutions that cover every aspect of academics – including astrophysics, advanced computation, medicine in every discipline, journalism, film making, law, every aspect of engineering, sociology and so on.
By any standards, it is quite unusual to find such a diverse treasure of knowledge and learning within the borders of a single city – and a pretty small one at that. With the increasing accent on educational excellence for the past couple of generations, this makes Pune a natural choice for people who want their offspring to benefit from the city’s academic infrastructure. It is not by accident that Pune is home to an astronomical number of foreign and out-of-state students.
Pune also boasts of other attractions to non-city people. For instance, it offers a full-fledged horseracing infrastructure that intercity gamblers and racing enthusiasts find impossible to resist. The annual racing season is a major event and attracts big spenders from all over the country. Serious enthusiasts invariably opt to settle down in Pune rather than travel long distances every year. The real estate avenues that this phenomenon has opened up on the real estate market are considerable and far-reaching.
However, educational facilities and horse races alone would probably not have sufficed to make Pune’s stars rise and shine so brightly in the real estate skies. The icing on the cake was yet to follow…
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY – THE EDGE
Ironically, it was not the city of Pune itself but its outlying localities that are attracting major attention. Areas like Hinjewadi, Kharadi, Hadapsar, Aundh and Wakad are very much under the spotlight since the first multinational IT giants began expressing serious interest in them.
To understand this interest, one must first understand the specific needs of such companies and their employees. A large-scale, high-tech software facility requires self-contained infrastructures wherein development of intricate and highly specialized products can take place without hitches caused by the ‘outside world’. This calls for considerable spaces of land away from day-to-day civilization. At the same time, such a company is still dependent on supplies of basic materials, so the location cannot be entirely secluded. Success in large scale IT activities calls for fluidity of people and supplies.
If the company’s actual location is an isolated one, these must be imported from other, more developed areas. At the same time, appropriate housing for company employees has to be made available as close to the workplace as possible. Since IT professionals generally fall in a high-income bracket, such residential facilities must be a cut above the commonplace. In other words, they must offer a high level of luxury, comfort, security and privacy.
Considered collectively, these conditions are extremely hard to meet in a developing city. However, the ‘discovery’ of Pune’s above-mentioned localities caused IT giants like Wipro, Satyam, Msource and others to wake up to the potential inherent in Pune’s outskirts. Everything fit the basic needs of an Infotech development infrastructure – including the proximity of Mumbai via the Expressway and the Silicon Valley of India – Bangalore – via the Bangalore-Pune Highway.
The areas were uncluttered and ideal for undisturbed research and development, land rates were cheap, and there was plenty available. The necessities of manufacture and daily living were readily available from central Pune, with more specific supplies easily procurable from out of town.
THE IT FALLOUT EFFECT
It did not take long for this potential to be exploited. Builders and developers who had gone to sleep with the notion that the property market in Pune had reached terminal stagnation point suddenly woke up to the promise of international megabucks. However, it soon became apparent that contemporary ideas of what constitutes a luxury home would have to be drastically revised.
The new breed of affluent and discerning IT professionals was settling for nothing less than topnotch amenities, the very best of location, and expedience in viewing and purchase. As a result, the old norms on which Pune’s real estate market operated went out of the window. New architectural techniques and concepts evolved. In addition, home loan availability became an easy and hassle-free process.
The trends that such builders were setting forced others to upgrade their act, as well. The development that was taking place in the above-mentioned areas increased their worth on the market exponentially and soon almost every builder worth his salt was scrambling to get a piece of the action. Owning a residential project in or around the Hinjewadi Infotech Park or Magarpatta Cybercity became an issue of prestige and assured prosperity.
The Expansion Effect spread, causing the revival of further and further localities and putting them on the developer’s drawing board. Chief among these was the Pradhikaran area of the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation. In fact, Pradhikaran real estate in general and the township properties there in particular became a term that spelled ultimate convenience for home buyers and assured returns on investment for Pune property investors. Along with an increasing number of industries and the ultra-modern residential complexes and residential townships in Pimpri Chinchwad, the commercial retail sector naturally also got a significant shot in the arm.
Today, the erstwhile ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’ of Pune is a transformed and revitalized entity. The demand for homes in this city has risen astronomically, and continues to climb steadily. Considering that Pune still has immense tracts of prime locality land to offer to major industries, retail magnates and home seekers alike, it is safe to state that this century will assuredly see the city’s name in the Real Estate Hall of Fame.
Anil Pharande is Vice President of CREDAI Pune Metro and Chairman of Pharande Spaces, a leading construction and development firm that develops township properties in the PCMC area of Pune, India.
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