Global Economics

Indian Property Developers Turn to Foreign Architects


Developers are reaching out to international architecture firms, hoping to bring more global perspective and a broader expertise to their projects

In their bid to score over their rivals, many developers are now going abroad to hire noted architects who can design their new projects. Not withstanding the fact that currently the realty sector is seeing downward trend, still some of the noted design companies from other countries are opening their Indian offices to cater the real estate market.

The likes of Godrej Properties, Unitech, Omaxe, Hiranandani and many more are hiring foreign architect firms. As recently as last year, Godrej hired DP Architects of Singapore to design their 50-storey residential project in Mahalaxmi area of Mumbai. US-based Hellmuth Obata Kassabaum Inc (HOK), has already worked with Indian builders such as Unitech, Hiranandani and many other big firms. Will Roes, programme manager of HOK India says that they bring a global perspective and diverse expertise to a project.

It is true that hiring foreign designers and planners have many advantages. But, the negative side of hiring them is that in some cases they do not understand the complexities of doing business in India, including tax laws and also cultural consideration, feels Devinder Gupta of realty advisory Century 21 India.

In an interview, Niranjan Hiranandani, the managing director of the Hiranandani group says that there is a big difference in approach between Indian and foreign firms that undertake design jobs. He feels that international firms are more empathetic to developers' needs and aspirations. "They find a solution which is required for a particular site, location and land. They are also more in tune with the land use demand," says Hiranandani. "They are more open to new ideas. On the other hand, Indian firms have a trial and error approach to design and planning. They also try to impose their ideas on the developers."

Singapore based firms like RSP Architects Planners and Architects 61 Ltd are also designing projects in many big cities in India and are serious of winning more projects here. RSP has reportedly opened their offices in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. It designed the international Tech Park in Bangalore.

It has also designed offices for IT giants like Wipro, Satyam and Microsoft. Devinder Gupta informs that legendry Unitech group has taken the services of great golfer Greg Norman to design the lush green golf course for their prestigious Unitech Grande project in Greater Noida. Clearly, the Indian realty firms are taking the services of foreign firms and experts to make their projects attractive.

Meanwhile, some Indian architects feel that global firms are definitely good when it comes to designing projects. But, they are critical of some of the mismatch. On many occasions, the initial designs done by them don't make any sense. Finally, Indian architects have to enter the scene to undo the damage. CMD of Omaxe group, Rohtas Goyal says that with money starting to flow into Indian realty sector, it has become necessary to bring global architectural practices and expertise.

Moreover, customers fancy projects designed by overseas firms. From the developers' point of view, it becomes a good marketing and sales proposition. It may be mentioned here that Omaxe has recently hired Indian Davis cup Star Leander Paes company to help them design the tennis courts in their residential projects. Those who follow the realty market of India feel that as competition hots up and properties get bigger, developers going to hire global architects to design their projects will become more frequent.

Moreover, builders are entrusting the design work for commercial projects and master planning of a mixeduse developments to foreign firms.

It is also learnt that several developers choose foreign architects only for their large projects. "It is affordable to hire an international firm to master planning if there is a big volume of work. Time is never an issue with them. They keep their words," says Anil Sharma of Amrapali group.

Meanwhile, there are some people in realty sector who feel that foreign firms will continue to win projects here, but they will be hired for a limited purpose. They would design the master plans of the projects, while the execution part would continue to be taken care by the Indian firms.


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