Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Real estate firms back in hiring mode Assetventures

NEW DELHI: Some of the country’s largest real estate developers such as DLF, Unitech and HDIL have started hiring again, as they look to launch new projects and speed up execution of existing ones to cash in on a pickup in home demand.

“We are launching new projects and plan to hire in large numbers,” said a spokesman for DLF, India’s largest real estate firm that fired more than 300 people during the downturn.

He said the company hired people with specific skills such as mall management even during the crisis. DLF on Tuesday launched a project in Delhi and sold the entire stock of 1,250 apartments in two hours, he said.

The companies expect high demand in the coming fiscal quarters with the economy showing clear signs of a revival in the fiscal year started April 2009. The financial year ended March 2009 recorded 6.7% growth after two bad quarters pulled down annual growth rate from 9% plus levels seen in the previous three years.

Unitech, India’s second-largest property firm that struggled for months to avoid bankruptcy, is back in action with two rounds of share sale and a revamped business model.

The company, which has 1,200 people on its rolls, has added 300 employees at different levels in the past few months. Its project sites, where construction had stopped for lack of funds last year, are again humming with activity, a company spokesman said. Unitech had raised $900 million through two rounds of stake sale to qualified institutional buyers to bring down its debt level, which was hovering around Rs 10,000 crore last year. The company also changed its business model and launched homes in the ‘affordable’ category and hired more people to sell directly to customers.

A revival in demand has prompted more firms such as Omaxe, Lodha, Ansal and Gera Developers to launch new projects, while some others like Parsvnath Developers and Prestige group are still playing it safe. Rohtas Goel, chairman of Delhi-based Omaxe, said he hired around 70 people, almost the same number the company had fired last year.

“Much of the hiring will happen at mid-level and in sales and project management. These are the categories where maximum jobs were lost,” said Vivek Gandhi, senior vice-president with Delhi-based Ansal Properties and Infrastructure (API), which plans to hire at least 200 people in three months. He expects salaries to remain at levels marginally lower than those during the peak of boom in 2007.

The years between 2004 and 2007 saw Indian property market booming with hundreds of new projects being launched and property prices going up several fold. The boom and the resultant scramble for talent saw salaries in the sector shooting up.

But a property slump, which started as a result of extremely high property prices and high interest rates early last year, deepened due to the impact of the global recession. This saw companies shelving several projects resulting in mass job losses at several property firms.

“We offered an average 10% salary hike to our staff. The new people too are joining us on a scale similar to our old staff,” said Abhisheck Lodha, director with Lodha group that has hired 80 employees since August. The company, which has a 1300-strong workforce, plans to add 350 more in a year.

Another leading Mumbai-based developer HDIL is also hiring. “We require additional manpower as we are speeding up on execution of existing projects and planning to launch more,” said Sarang Wadhawan, managing director of the company. However, a few other players such as Delhi-based Parsvnath Developers and Bangalore-based Prestige group are still cautious. “We didn’t fire people in the first place and so don’t immediately need to hire new people,” said Prestige group director Uzma Irfan.