With the development of urban infrastructure, rise of affordable housing and modernisation of office spaces, the real estate market in the country is poised for growth. Urban populations are increasing and the built environment of our cities will reflect this change. With growth, however, comes the challenge of maintenance.
The infrastructure built in the country has to be maintained well at all times to ensure that it is long-lasting, safe, and functioning efficiently round-the-clock. Also, with global organisations looking to expand their footprint in India and Indian organisations matching global standards, it is critical to workspaces that match global standards.
This has resulted in the creation of a unique and exciting field in built environment—that of facilities management (along with the related field of corporate real estate). This service is expected to witness tremendous growth in the coming years. The facilities management market in India was valued at annual $3.3 billion (2009); it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17 per cent in 2015-2020 to cross the $19-billion mark.
Rising need for facilities managers
There is a growing need for professional facilities managers who can maintain the bourgeoning number of facilities and infrastructure such as malls, commercial buildings, integrated townships, residential complexes, schools, hospitals and other institutions. A facilities manager is primarily responsible for the running and managing of operations and the maintenance of a facility, including electrical fittings, water resources, lighting, machinery, plumbing, cleaning, housekeeping and security. Other services include transportation, landscaping and front office management. Due to the range of skills required, a facilities manager is not only someone who can handle different kinds of work but also has excellent communication skills.
Real estate forms a large chunk of the cost of any organisation. This includes not just the upfront cost, but also operational costs and costs due to breakdown and damage. Skilled professionals are needed in order to maximize workspace efficiency and ensure that a facility is serving the purpose of the organization in the best possible way. A well-maintained facility offers significant cost savings and has a direct impact on a business’s bottom-line and employee productivity.
Skilled professionals in the fields of corporate real estate and facilities management look at end-to-end solutions—from conception to maintenance—and take care of occupancy, technology, statutory or compliance requirements.
Mr. Bipin Misra, Head - Global Real Estate Procurement India, Honeywell, says, “It is very easy to develop a new space or work place environment but it is very tough if you are not able to maintain it in a proper way. So, there is a need of professionals in facilities management to ensure that not only is real estate maintained on desired levels but it delivers the required efficiency.”
Mr Syed Moinduddin, Director - Global Real Estate & Workplace Enablement, Amex, says, “Corporate real estate professionals are playing a significant role in defining where we should have our operations and how the businesses should grow and diversify in areas which are more cost-effective.
Becoming trusted advisors to organisations
Facilities management presents a great career opportunity for youngsters in real estate and allied areas.
According to Mr M. Hariprasad Hegde MRICS Senior VP & Global Head – Operations, Wipro, the real sector in India is evolving significantly, driving professionalism. “The necessity to construct and deliver with efficiency is creating significant opportunity for the young new generation to come in and have a role in real estate.”
Unlike a few years ago, there are several training programmes available today to prepare oneself for this role. These programmes offer a mix of technical, executive and managerial skills required to handle facilities and operations.
Mr Moinduddin of Amex, says, “As our users are becoming more and more global and intelligent, it is extremely important for our talent force to be even more intelligent and up to date, to support the intelligent needs of people.”
A professional trained in facilities management is equipped with the skills to function at the operational, managerial and strategic levels. Recalling his journey as a facilities management professional, Mr. Arvindh Prakash, Sr. Real Estate Portfolio Manager (S. India), Microsoft, says, “When I started off, we used to be called FMs and we pretty much focused on doing what the business wanted. But during these 20 years, the industry has evolved and now we've become more of trusted advisors to businesses.”
Industry players emphasise that the function has grown over the last couple of decades, from being overseen by the administration department to evolve into a full-fledged department on its own, making significant contributions in management decisions.
Mr. Kumara S. Director - Real Estate & Facilities India, Citrix R&D India, says, “One or two decades ago, there was no concept of facilities at all. But now facilities management is part of boardroom decisions. Today, the corporate real estate head sits with the CEO and CFO in any decision-making because in an organization, after salary the biggest expenses are for facilities.”
Ms. Laila Khalil MRICS Country Property Director, Volvo Group Real Estate, says she is often asked if girls can look at such a career and feels this should not even be posed as a question anymore. “We are living in an age and century where girls are capable of performing in any field and it should not be about trying to prove themselves in any particular field.”’
Growth prospects: what does the future hold?
Despite the real estate industry sometimes getting impacted by global recession, the sector of facilities management is relatively recession-proof. Even in a slump (where little to no new development happens), there will always be a need for existing facilities to be managed, and managed well.
The real estate market in India is estimated to touch $180 billion by 2020, recessionary trends notwithstanding. This only points to the emergence of more facilities and spaces in the years to come. There is thus plenty of opportunity for professionals who can manage them efficiently, thereby improving the quality of life of the occupants and users of such facilities and also enhancing employee productivity.
An individual trained in facilities management can expect operational roles in the areas of hospitality, property consulting, healthcare, education, and IT/ITES—any industry that makes use of building facilities! Today, there are also a number of Indian and international facilities management firms that offer a bouquet of maintenance services to clients.