Bangladesh's real estate companies are increasingly incorporating new features and solutions to their apartments to cater to the demands of clients who want not just a flat, but a place they can call home.
“We always try to align us with changing market scenarios,” says Toufiq M Seraj, managing director of Sheltech (Pvt.) Ltd, one of the leading real estate companies in Bangladesh.
Md Mahmudul Kabir, executive director for sales and marketing of Building Technology & Ideas Ltd (bti), echoes Toufiq M Seraj. “When new technologies, solutions or practices in the sector emerges, bti involves top experts of the country, consults with them and finds ways to add new ideas to our system,” said Kabir.
Mohammad Abdul Awal, managing director of Structural Engineers Ltd (SEL), another top real estate firm, says commitment is key to SEL's success. “It is important to honour commitment and deliver quality products. There is no alternative to quality.” Since its inception in 1983, the company has handed over around 181 residential projects, comprising about 5,000 apartments. It is currently implementing about 50 projects in different parts of the city. SEL designs projects for middle-income and lower middle-income groups.
Sarwar N Chowdhury, senior assistant vice president for business development and customer care at Bay Developments Ltd, said customisation is the key selling point of the company. “We build tailored apartments. This means, no two apartments in the same building will be similar. Even the apartments on the same floor will be completely different.”
The real estate sector, which began its journey roughly three decades ago, has gone through a lot of changes in recent times. Twenty to 25 years ago, apartments were built for the rich largely in areas such as Eskaton, Siddeshwari, Gulshan and Dhanmondi and the middle income groups had little scope to own an apartment. At that time, there were less than 10 real estate companies selling a few hundred flats a year. However, the sector sold the highest number of flats—18,000 to 20,000—in 2012. The delivery of products, however, came down to 10,000 to 12,000 in recent years because of the slowdown, according to industry people.
But in line with the increasing demand buoyed by people's purchasing capacity, apartments are now being built in all areas of Dhaka city. Small-sized apartments aimed at fixed income groups are being built in areas where the prices of land are relatively cheaper.
“At Sheltech, we have apartments for all sorts of buyers,” says Toufiq M Seraj. He says customers want quality products and on time delivery. He says Sheltech has a large design division which employs engineers and architects, giving the company more flexibility. It has own legal department.
Kabir of bti mentions how they are working towards zero waste in its activities and system. It covers material waste, human resources waste, and time waste. “When waste is reduced, it will raise productivity and the cost of a project may even go down significantly but the quality of the products will remain the same.”
“This may give a superior product at a cheaper price,” he adds.
bti has also adopted a fixed price policy, meaning the price of a product remains the same irrespective of clients. “We don't sell the same product to two different customers at two different prices. We don't negotiate on prices now. All customers are equal to us,” said Kabir.
Earlier this October, bti has introduced high-end features such as smart features in two of its recent projects in Gulshan. “Smart living concept is deeply ingrained in these two projects. The entire house is automated. As a result, you can remotely control light, ACs, fans, all security features, and many other things from outside the house.”
Sarwar N Chowdhury of Bay Developments said when a unit is sold an architect and a customer care executive are assigned for the unit. The two staff members closely work with the client for two to three years and consult with them and take approval about how the apartment will be built and decorated. “We customise 100 to 150 items in an apartment. Clients choose materials from our shop. It is like building your own house.”
Bay Developments introduced double glazed windows in two projects in 2012, the first by any company in Bangladesh. Double glazed windows are an ideal energy-efficient choice with the added benefit of minimising noise. The sealed air gap between the two panes acts as an added layer of insulation. This added thermal resistance reduces the amount of heat escaping in winter and maintains a comfortable home temperature.
Bay Developments has put in place a synchronised generator which supplies power as per the actual demand of a building when the power goes off, instead of running on a full capacity when demand for electricity is very low, according to Chowdhury.