The new normals in a world where Covid-19 unfortunately is becoming a part of our life will bring about many changes in the way businesses will be conducted, and more importantly the way we live our life.
The tourism and hospitality industry is one of the worst-hit sectors because of the pandemic. Businesses in the sector have bled for more than four months now and the way forward also doesn’t look so rosy as leisure travel will be reduced to absolutely nothing.
In this supremely challenging business environment and a cloud of complete uncertainty, the road ahead seems to be very foggy. And to demystify the uncertainties of this important sector we spoke to Lindsay Bernard Rodrigues, Co-Founder and Director, Bennet & Bernard Group which is known for its unique and exclusive holiday homes in Goa to understand their post-lockdown comeback strategies and the way forward.
How are you coping with the impact of Covid-19 on Bennet& Bernard Group? How effectively have you used the lockdown period?
Health, Hygiene and Wellness has have always taken a centre stage at Bennet& Bernard. The pandemic has only urged us to further enhance our commitment to wellness and we advanced to introspect and improvise on our offerings to our customers. With the government announcing a partial easing of the lockdown, the tourism space is expected to resume its momentum gradually. A large section of Indian travellers will now seek to unwind from the lockdown by living at holiday homes with their closest few. These stays are as safe at your own home, and a wiser choice at a time like this. As health, hygiene and privacy will take prominence among our consumers, we have also ensured that all our properties become self-sustainable. While we have always delivered some exclusive holiday homes that are highly appreciated for their uniqueness, design, quality & high standards, the current lockdown prompted us to rethink and come up with absolutely fantastic design solutions as we aim to make an unforgettable impression with every home.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometimes leads to a revision of existing business models … What sort of innovation has or will the Covid-19 pandemic bring to your brand/industry/category?
We are a leading luxury real estate developer known for our unique and exclusive holiday homes in Goa.Our group has always been at the forefront of respecting nature and all our home designs have always been functional, allowing nature and development to be maximized.We have already set a benchmark in sustainable practices for over a decade now and have always made an effort to strike a balance between the technology and ecology.
Bennet& Bernard have created award-winning projects that are all certified by Indian Green Building Council and also have multiple accreditations ranging from CRISIL, Developer of the Year 2020 (Goa) amongst others. However, it is important now to customize relevant technologies in homes that would incorporate modern habitat design with traditional practices as the new situation of COVID-19 expects us to enhance our holistic approach. We have used this opportunity to redesign our luxury homes where in we have incorporated in new builds from layout, design & structural modification like re-distribution of airflow and oxygen supply as well as on implanting elements for quick absorption of carbon dioxide in their homes to enhance hygiene and health. The design flow of the selection of light, placement and paint schemes are enhanced to add to the existing eco-friendly technology approaches at its properties.
Furthermore, the enhanced designs will also incorporate aspects like versatile workspaces, community vegetation, contactless delivery and self-sustenance.Other traditional healthy practices like keeping footwear outside, hygiene norms for sanitizing hands and feet before entering homes will co-exist with these initiatives. The company is also ensuring that working from home is also ergonomically most efficient. Keeping this in mind, Bennet& Bernard is creating an exclusive space which will impart an “office-like feel”. The designs are being executed to help maintain privacy and offer a noise-free ambience in certain sections of the homes to ensure minimal distractions. Usage of copper will be a regular feature and the company is working in multiple ways to enhance the wellness of their esteemed clientele.
As a natural progression from building aesthetically beautiful and cozy homes, we are now introducing our new vertical – Victory Gardens, launch of hydroponic farms in all our new projects. The path to hydroponic farming is paved with good intentions: Sustainable farming and the desire to eat fresh, organic, zero-carbon food. Hydroponic farming, in times of crisis such as these, with the COVID-19 like situations and mass lockdowns, is the best way to provide healthy and nutrient-rich food.
At Bennet& Bernard, we have mastered the fine art of maintaining a balance between design and purpose. We offer the highest levels of comfort, down to every last detail. Our enviable clientele list stands as testament to our promise of offering only the best. It is going to be exciting times ahead and only the bold and innovative will be frontrunners.
While some parts of the country have become Covid-19 free, cities like Mumbai and Delhi are still in a lockdown situation. How are you planning to resume business across cities that are not in the Red?
In the wake of on-going Covid-19 pandemic, we have implemented several measures for our employees who working at our office spaces and construction sites as the lockdown gradually lifts off in Goa. At our construction sites, we have implemented various protocols such as reducing the staff available at each site, maintaining smaller rotational shifts for various types of skilled labour to come and finish their part and move on, increasing number of portable toilets at the sites and ensuring that everyone makes use of face masks and sanitizers at all our projects. We are also conducting frequent temperature scanning of all employees at the sites, when they come in and are taking every possible step to ensure that all our employees are properly taken care of and can work with full efficiency while keeping the corona scare at bay.
Most of the employees will expect their employers to take responsibility to ensure a healthy and safe environment for them. For those who will be working inside our office premises, we have made sure that the entire office has been hygiene cleaned before employees returning to work. Also, in line with the government’s decision, our offices too will be operating with 30% staff and anyone who can effectively work from home has been suggested to continue doing so even after the lockdown has been lifted. We will strictly adhere to social distancing norms at our workplace until the situation normalizes.
What will be your communication strategy post the opening of the lockdown? What will be the objective of the communication/marketing strategy? What are some of the post-lockdown business strategies that you will use to bring the business back on track or at least get it in the right direction and also create demand for yourself?
At Bennet & Bernard, we continue to see traction from potential customers. We cater to an extremely discerning clientele like the next-gen millennials, high-net-worth individuals (HNIs) and Ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNIs) and hence we don’t expect the current situation impacting this section of our target audience in luxury housing. Time and again, the real estate industry has proven to be an attractive asset class with good returns, and with improved affordability in the current scenario, it has gained attention of both locals and NRIs across the world.
With work from home being accepted as part of the ‘new normal,’ many people are seriously considering a shift of residence, away from the crowded cities to holiday homes for obvious reasons. What was once an aspirational ‘want’ is now emerging as a ‘need’ for a safe and secured home and sensible real estate investment. People will buy holiday homes in gated communities with all amenities instead of investing in stand-alone farmhouses or villas.
The earnest desire of the millennials to log out of the choking, polluted and hectic city life and hit refresh in a serene space in the lap of nature is what has made holiday homes or dual homes a hot trend today and will continue to remain strong. Going forward, the core of our communication strategy will be to promote our Gold Badge and Victory Gardens programme which we had launched during the lockdown.And undoubtedly, Goa, India’s tourism capital will continue to be the most sought-after destination for the investors to invest in a holiday home. The rental returns have also been a bonus to many who wanted to be part of holiday homes in Goa.
We intend to continue aiming high and exceeding expectations, one home at a time.
How did you keep the morale of the employees during this lockdown period? On a personal note, what kept you positive?
Employee experience is as critical as a customer experience for us and we truly believe that employee satisfaction is directly related to business productivity. Only when one’s role is fulfilling, aligned with organisational goals, contribution being recognised at regular intervals, will employees feel engaged and happy. Hence, we at Bennet& Bernard are truly aligned to this and ensure utmost care for our valued employees. In the context of the current lockdown, we have supported our team in making a swift transition from offices to remote working across the hierarchy.With new challenges in terms of health and hygiene, companies are expected to consider de-centralisation and de-densification of their operations to protect the health and work-life balance of their employees. The current pandemic has further propelled us to be creative and given us an opportunity to innovate with progressive HR practices that foster greater adaptability and efficiency and also prove critical for employee well-being.
We are also considering a four-day workweek for our employees at office and 5/6th day from home in the near future as work from home during the lockdown brought in a great work-life balance and better sharing of ideas, all of which have contributed to higher productivity. With the rapid digitization of the industries and increasing internet penetration in the country, we can expect the Virtual work centres to become a fast-growing reality in the post-covid-19 era.
Whilst it may take some time to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, we know that this is a temporary situation and won’t be forever and this kept us going. The Covid-19 situation has demonstrated strong possibilities in a very difficult scenario that has challenged us to think and work different. We cannot afford to miss tapping all these opportunities to make ourselves a more humane, sensitive and kinder society.