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Want big salaries? Try the realty sector

By Urmila Rao, Outlook Money
September 07, 2007 06:09 IST
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A player from this sector recently raised India's biggest IPO. The Bombay Stock Exchange has introduced an index for it. Foreign investment of $10 billion is expected to flow into the sector over the next 12-18 months. And it is estimated to  clock 30-plus per cent growth in the next few years.

This is India's resurgent real estate sector. Though it continues to be largely fragmented and opaque, the once lackadaisical, stringently red-taped sector is resolutely on its way towards consolidation and transparency.

The growth potential of real estate is immense, not only for end users and investors, but also for people looking to make a career in it. Among college students, graduates and working professionals -- especially those with management, engineering and architecture backgrounds -- realty studies are fast becoming a favourite.

"The boom in real estate has motivated me to enroll for a Master's degree in Planning, with a specialisation in Housing," says Priyanka Gera, a student of the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi. Employed with leading real estate consultants Jones LangLa Salle Meghraj (JLLM) in Delhi for the past two months, Gera is also pursuing a weekends-only course in real estate management.

Enrolments are increasing in institutes offering short-term diploma courses as well as in colleges offering real estate specialisation in their Master's programme. P.S.N. Rao, professor at the SPA, says that on an average 20 of the 75 students from the Masters in Planning program choose to do a thesis on real estate. "This figure was negligible when the course was introduced as an elective 10 years ago," he adds.

Dedicated institutes have sprung up and management schools have introduced specialised courses on the subject to cater to the increasing demand. Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, launched a course titled 'Property Finance and Investment' last year.

The Pune-based Indian Institute of Real Estate (IIRE), affiliated with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a leading association of realtors in the US, had 10 students when it was launched in 2001. "Today, we get more than 3,000 enquiries per month for our online course," says Suresh Malkani, founder and academic dean, IIRE.

Why should you enrol? Instead of hard-to-spot jobs and low wages, the sector can now spoil the qualified person for choices. Not all the courses on offer are new, but the context is. A number of real estate MNCs have already set up shop in India; more are following suit. Home-grown firms, too, are joining the fray, pushing up the demand for qualified personnel.

"There is an immense dearth of trained manpower in this sector," says Nirmal Purushottam, principal, Yajnas Academy of Real Estate Management, Hyderabad. His views are backed by Haresh Motirale, senior manager, marketing and sales, G:Corp Properties, Mumbai, who completed a course from the IIRE in 2002. "A specialised course definitely gives you an edge over those who haven't done it," he says.

Job functions on offer. The scope of jobs in the sector is widening. "Openings have definitely increased over the past three years," says Kanika Vaswani, associate partner, Elixir Web Solutions, a placement agency.

"Now we get 10-12 requests for candidates in a month from well-known developers, largely for the positions of site supervisors, quality surveyors, billing professionals, materials procurement personnel and project managers."

Besides the technical essentials, realty education focuses on management studies. "Realty management courses give students a managerial perspective and help them understand finance and marketing," says Purushottam.

Industry watchers say the day is not far when campus recruitments will become the norm in the real estate sector. "Our students are posted in companies like Tischman Speyer, JLLM and Macquarie Group," says Bhuvana Ramalingam, director (communications), ISB.

"They are offered positions like general manager and senior manager." Consider Delhi-based Anu Punj, 23, a graduate from the SPA with specialisation in Housing. She was snapped up immediately after her course by Emmar-MGF, a leading realty MNC. She is working as an assistant manager (planning) in the firm now.

Accreditation and eligibility. Eligibility criteria vary across institutes and accreditation ranges from the Centre to the state level. For instance, while the IIRE is affiliated to the Maharashtra State Board of Technical Education, the Master's programme at the Centre of Environment Planning and Technology (CEPT), Ahmedabad, is approved by the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

Typically, enrolling in long-duration courses requires a Master's degree; diploma courses will accept a regular graduate or even a Class XII pass. PG courses generally last two years, while short-term courses can vary from eight months to a year (see Building Blocks).

Master's courses are generally comprehensive, covering several aspects related to housing and real estate.

Says Madhu Bharti Sharma, head of the Department of Housing at CEPT, "The Programme of Planning, with Housing as a specialisation, covers housing policy, housing requirement, housing finance, land economics, real estate development and various methods of development (commercial, residential, resorts and leisure)."

Returns and prospects. Expect five-figure salaries at the entry level. Gera, for instance, earns Rs 3 lakh a year. As the property market gets more organised and competition intensifies, the figures are bound to get better.

The sector has covered good ground so far, but what if it hits a downward spiral? Says Malkani: "A slump will impact the rates per sq ft, not employability. There will still be demand for qualified professionals in allied fields like property financing, estate management and property upkeep." But the sector is not foreseeing a downswing in demand. Rather, it is looking forward to institutes offering students relevant courses through correspondence or online, besides classrooms.

As the sector consolidates and matures, education material, too, is expected to improve. While the IIRE sources course material from the NAR, several institutes are exploring partnerships with universities in countries with mature property markets.

The SPA, for instance, is forging a tie-up with a UK-based institute. The ISB, in partnership with two London-based schools, has instituted the country's first Research Chair in Real Estate and Urban Studies, besides forming a Real Estate Club to promote realty education.

It's time to get real.

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Urmila Rao, Outlook Money

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