Real Estate - A Design Thinking Approach

Nilesh Patel, CIO, Brigade Group | Tuesday, 07 March 2017, 09:55 IST

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As information is commoditized, the best returns go to those who can produce non-standard, differentiated insights. Real estate is primarily commoditized so how do we transform? By 2020, we will add 650 million people to the planet, most of them in places which won’t be able to accommodate them. This reality is a challenge as well as an opportunity.

We have been observing widening differences in wealth between and within urban and rural communities which extend the gaps between rich and poor - but they still need to co-exist. As urban migration increases; efficient, densely crowded cities would be the blueprints for more sustainable places to live. In rural and urban environments, the community is a prized value for the upcoming age group of middle classes as they seek to reconnect with people like us.

The role of our life in an increasingly digital, isolated world is to create moments for deeper, richer connections. There’s no way to switch-off in the connected world. Being disconnected in a connected world leads to digital silos at home and physical solitude becomes only an option for the few. Recently, demonetization has proven that systems built on connectivity and flexible means of exchange provide a tipping point in the shift towards digital society and communities. All of the above questions and statements raise further questions – What do we do? As the saying goes – The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. The future of real estate is growing and as it continues to grow, the consumer is the one who will benefit as a result.

Who will be our customer in the next ten years’ time? five years? one year? How do you establish trust and confidence in your brand? Brands aren’t like garments; they live on generation after generation.

Does this mean that we have to uproot the old technology and replace it with new? That’s practically not feasible or viable. Then where is the balance? Now a days we see most of the technology buzz around the terms Digital, Big Data, Internet of Things, etc.  They keep changing to be relevant in current times. There is so much of cluster. But very few have really kept customer at heart and mind.

How do we define, what we do NOT want for the customer?

Almost by its very nature, real estate tries to be predictable. So, applying design while thinking about what a building will be in 50 years when one builds is key to sustainable business model. Our customer’s psyche is ingrained in the concept of “paisa vasool”. This is where Design Thinking meets real estate industry. Behind Design thinking, technology can bolt the foundation.

Our building in its ecosystem tells our story. With time, our building becomes home in which we live our story – either in all happiness or sadness. Our buildings can be places that inspire us, because they are designed with a purpose. We are wary of the fact that building should not become predictable or dull, because then the story can turn other-wise.

High time for transition from a good to great business model

Given the high value of the product and customer interactions, it’s high time that we move from static, predictable or good model to a great business model. We need to create customers by improving customer experience and operational processes along with continuously re-inventing the business model.

Smarter, better connected, self-monitoring homes and offices provide safer and more secure low energy buildings that are able to self-manage utilities.

Innovation and invention can be tricky in real estate and a holistic design approach can set you apart.


Industries are moving at a different pace to implement transformation i.e. business transformation driven by the urgency (business, economic etc.). To take this to the next level, merging of system and design thinking has to happen.

Wiki definition of Systems thinking is a management discipline that concerns an understanding of a system by examining the linkages and interactions between the components that comprise the entirety of that defined system. By some definitions Design Thinking is human-centred approach to integrate the need of people, the possibilities of technology and the success requirement.

One has to understand customers up close and personal using the thinking approaches.

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