– By Ranjana Konatt, Editor – (Brand Positioning)

India is an emerging and complex market in terms of real estate, and the sector can be further accelerated by the progress of Facilities Management (FM) and Building Automation. Abhilekh Verma, Senior Business Development Executive, Ideabytes Software India, says: “The FM and Building Automation sector contributes to nearly 3.2 per cent of the GDP. It is worth INR 5 lakh crore and the annual growth rate can be estimated to 20-25 per cent CAGR annually.” On the other hand, Prabhu Ramachandran, Founder and CEO, Facilio, estimates the FM market in India to be valued between INR 50,000 to 55,000 crore, and he says that the Building Automation segment is witnessing a 12 per cent growth by the year 2024. Ramachandran asserts that there is a global consensus forming regarding the convergence of profitability, sustainability and delightful occupant experiences. He says: “Building owners and managers are realising that adopting the system-wide centralisation and control that digital solutions deliver can make their business models far more competitive. The industry has witnessed an annual growth rate of 15 per cent to 18 per cent and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20 per cent to 25 per cent.”

Growth and drivers within an evolving industry.

However, even though industry representatives suggest the market is steady, the sheer scale of urbanisation underway will demand both energy and resource inputs that create a fiscal drain, unless buildings are optimally efficient. Ramachandran adds: “As the India FM and Building Automation sector responds to challenges, data-driven and digitally optimised operations are being recognised as the effective solutions to address concerns.” He believes that an expansion in building stock and urban regeneration is expected in the next two decades within the Indian market. “FM solutions play a major role. On the other hand, for existing infrastructures to retain relevance in a changing market, upgrades and retrofits that modern FM delivers can add value,” he said. The steady increase in demand for FM services in the Indian market can help speed up the process in the next few years will lead to growth in the future.

Applications and use

To cite an example of how IoT is leveraged across industries for the sake of automation, Verma says: “We are into the Internet of Things (IoT), where we cater to multiple industries that look for temperature and energy monitoring solutions. Our solutions are to help a customer reduce food wastage. Predictive maintenance also helps in HVACR, where if efficiently carried out, it can help equipment survive for a long period of time.” With the right mix of hardware sensors and software, we can take care of end-to-end automation inclusive of hardware procurement from vendors who help assemble things in our dedicated IoT labs, adds Verma. Ramachandran also highlights the scope of application by Facilio. He says: “Facilio offers a Data-driven Operations and Maintenance software platform that delivers portfolio scale real-estate optimisation.” The platform offers applications that optimise workforce, energy and sustainability management.” The focus on R&D has always been our strength and we enhance our technology to leverage the data available in existing building systems more effectively to achieve predictive building management in optimal operations.

Challenges with retrofit and customisations

Sighting a few challenges, Verma says: “There are a lot of challenges when it comes to retrofit and customisations in FM & Building Automation. While Machine to Machine (M2M) or IoT makes sure that there is minimal use of humans, enabling downtime to be reduced to zero, logically speaking at present, we don’t depend on machines more for automation, we still prefer doing things manually.” Also, he says that other important issues include understanding the fact that machines don’t monitor human activities, rather it helps in making better decisions, so machines are not meant for checking the accuracy, rather it eliminates issues and works on making better authentic decisions in a minimum period. On the other hand, Ramachandran says: “The sheer volume of the existing building stock in the Indian market will naturally need a retrofitted solution for it to be upgraded to achieve ‘smart’ performance. While the options were once limited to cost-prohibitive hardware retrofits, the arrival of digital retrofitting has enabled system enhancement at much more affordable cost, while also achieving unprecedented efficiencies and outcomes.” Downtime, he adds, is certainly one aspect of inefficiency that negatively impacts all stakeholders, from building owners to occupants. However, the benefits extend to the complete reimagining of the efficiencies that can be achieved in operations, even when all assets are ostensibly online and functional.

Food for thought

Verma suggests that the FM and building automation industry can progress with the quick inclusion of technology and its know-how with vendors who have advanced technology. Having trained & qualified technical teams to help industry adapt to global engineering standards & best prices also contributes to the scope of things. Ramachandran says: “Trends in the commercial real estate industry, whether in India or other major markets also have a heavy tech bias currently, with Proptech leading the charge in innovation as well as entrepreneurship.” He adds that the real opportunity is to deliver on outstanding services while optimising profitability and also ensuring that operations are sustainable. He says: “In the past, these priorities were often at loggerheads, competing for the attention of decision-makers, who were then forced to strategize around some of these priorities, while trying their best to not let the rest suffer too much.” The latest generation of digital technologies is enabling the entire array of outcomes to be addressed and at the same time, this is the reason why they emerge as the solution of choice. “Within the Indian context, the massive scale of urbanization, as well as urban regeneration, makes the tech and data-driven approach the ideal solution. The larger, more complex and diversified, the market in which these solutions are being deployed, the greater the benefits on offer,” he says.

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