Monday, January 14, 2013

Identifying a Good Builder!

Believe me, that was a happy age, before the days of architects, before the days of builders... Seneca

I have used this quote quite a number of times at various places & always get fascinated by the sheer reality in it & the way the wise man has put it! Though I wonder as in his times the term builder wasn’t as common as it is today yet it seems that the general feeling about the specie was same! Here many of my fellow colleagues will get offended but wait, its just a famous quote by a wise man not mine! Recently my friend Ravi Karandikar who himself is a well respected critics on real estate was having a chat with me & he asked how to identify a good builder? For a moment I was taken back as it would have been too egoistic to say you are talking with one! Just joking, but I replied, to me a good builder has to be a good person by himself first! Very hypothetical reply, I myself realized that as this logic is applicable to every profession, so again the basic question remains; what are characteristics of a good builder? Here I remember once my school going son shared a joke with me "Baba I will tell you a joke he said, I said go ahead & he said two Sardar were playing chess!"  I said where is the joke? He replied baba, that was the joke! Here I meant no offense for any community, it was just a joke but on similar line most of the people will call this question about indentifying a good builder as a good joke! As for many the term good builder in itself doesn't exist!

It’s a sad scenario for the industry I am in, but however we deny it, the opinion of a common man about real estate wasn't & isn't good is a fact which even the builders will acknowledge. And it’s not just for last few years or in our country, all around the globe this is a common feeling when builders are mentioned. You take USA or any developed country there also builders have never acclaimed to be fairest of the persons & all our movies portrays the same picture of builder i.e. a bad person who is mostly on wrong side of the law or table! Then how to identify a good builder? For that we need to understand why the profession has reached at today's image then we will be able to answer the question. As to find a good person one has to understand what the bad qualities are first. Arya Chankya, the great  administrator from the history has wrote a very famous book "Kautilyache Artha Shastra", where he has specified how to identify many of the professionals right from Gold-smith to even a Horse- dealer & all his recommendations are applicable even today such was his greatness in analyzing the people & their attitude towards their profession. Unfortunate that in his times the term or the specie named Builder wasn't there, as then Ravi's question would have been much easier for me to answer as I would have simply given him a copy of that book!

Time & again allegation has been made against the builder community is that they are very much money minded but then who is not in today's world? Then they are arrogant & hardly cares for customer's satisfaction is another but again in our country customer care wasn't a approach followed by many companies why just builders? Remember the kind of scooters or four wheelers we used to get by waiting period over a year & paying premium for the delivery of the same? They never bothered for any R & D for the product & looked in to the needs of customer’s demands about the product; only until those companies started facing serious competition from the foreign brand! And when the survival become the issue then only our automobile companies have stared improving their products & customer care attitude is known history, so why to blame only builders for that kind of attitude? Another issue is their inaccessibility to the customer; well no industrialist or business man was known that way in our country for this aspect except Tata's but then each rule has exception so was Tata! Then builders are blamed for their nexus with politicians as well thugs of the society; here too there are many examples from various industries of being very close to power circles of politics & getting policies in the favor using those connections. This is nothing new for a country where the top level politicians put their personal agenda above the countries! Why to blame just builders for this? I think the when it’s a product as sensitive as home in our country the most important aspect is the builders commitment towards the product. This is the factor which has played in damaging the image of the developer. If you take out all the complaints of a customer against his builder then you find 90% are for not following the commitments. And in this category we have like there may be not following commitments regarding possession date, regarding not specifications committed, not providing facilities committed, not honoring payment terms committed ,not obeying committed terms & conditions with the sanctioning authorities & the list goes on. Nature of complaints may be any but the core of the complaint is same & that is failing the commitments & not even regretting about the same even when the failure is brought to attention of the developer!

So is it that a good builder is the one who follows his commitment? Speaking frankly, to me no good can be expressed in terms of any single characteristic but good is something combination of many fronts but surely to me the main criteria by me is he has to be a man of commitment! This doesn't mean that all other aspects of his business right from his investors to attitude towards the customer doesn’t count but if a person is committed to the cause then there are very less chance that he will do wrong things. Long back one of my elder friends has asked me another interesting question, "In a village they need a school & seeking for donations, a gangster involved in extortion & smuggling, who is native from the village & operates his bad deeds in a far away Metro decides to give big donation for school building whether the villagers should accept it?" Very difficult question to answer as what is important here the cause getting fulfilled or the source behind the fulfillment? I think when we say commitment is important then the supporting things like the company builder is keeping as well his attitude towards the customer care & product improvement also comes in lime light. What if a builder is delivering good quality homes in time but his finance is from underworld or corrupt people? Many will say why the customer has to bother about it; isn’t he getting what has been committed to him? Here I will say the call has to be taken by the customer as whether he wants to sleep in the four walls which he call home, knowing that the walls have been build on somebody's blood & sweat!

Another aspect which is neglected my most of the customer is look at the other characteristics like the group or the person’s social contribution as well their attitude towards this aspect of life. Making money has to be prime aim of any business but the way they spend is also equally important as that shows the character of the group or the person. No bad person will think for needy ones in the society & do good things for them or spend for the cause like environment conservation or public health or education for poor o even conserving culture as that's backbone of any healthy society. If you can think for others then definitely you are going to care for those whom you have committed is a simple logic. So any builder what he or his group doing for the society is something I will look in while finding a good builder.

Checking the pay-degree of the builder is equally necessary as your past is the best mirror of your present as well key to your future, is what our fore-fathers have said. Instead of rating someone just by news in media or large advertises or some famous brand ambassador; I will say just go & meet his existing customers residing in the projects the builder has build & share their experiences during the entire process right from booking to possession & the truth will reflect like a mirror! See that how much efforts he has taken to make the life of residents more comfortable by his planning of the project, construction as well after sales service! If the firm is new then visit ongoing projects, speak to the staff & judge them by the way of their communication i.e. promptness in replying your quarries as well transparency in doing so. As the staff is face of the builder or the organization, they will behave the way their boss treats them & you will be able to know about the main person then in better way.

So go ahead & start your search for one such good builder & let me tell you there are many around. Before that, lastly most important thing, do remember identifying a good builder needs you to be a good customer too! As goodness can only be acknowledged by being good & some where we need to remind this to our own self on our journey to search a good builder!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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