“If you have the knowledge, let others light their candles in it”, a popular quote by Margaret Fuller is simply an example to put forward the importance of knowledge sharing. Realising the fact, Elets Technomedia Pvt. Ltd. has been organising Knowledge Exchange Summit annually for nine years. The 10th Elets Knowledge Exchange Summit saw the light of the day on December 10. Highlighting the affordable housing scenario in Rajasthan, Pawan Arora, Commissioner, Rajasthan Housing Board (RHB) addressed the summit.
The summit opens a platform for government leaders, senior policymakers, renowned industry leaders, and other intelligentsia to share the best practices they adopted year-long and that fetched them desired growth and development. Contributing his share of knowledge, Pawan Arora, Commissioner, Rajasthan Housing Board (RHB), addressed the 10th Knowledge Exchange Summit.
He commenced by highlighting a few challenges that the Housing Board was facing when he joined in 2019. He said, “The Board was in a dire condition and talks were going around to get it either merged with some other government organisation or dissolve it. RHB owned 20,000 unsold housing units and this was a major reason for the situation.” Following his joining he said that to clear off this inventory of 20,000 residential units, e-auctions method was adopted. The officials from the Board mapped all the unsold houses, got their floor maps done, numbered them as per their location and colonies they were in, photographed all the housing units, and finally, they were placed on the RHB website for selling. All of this was done in just 25 days.
Further, he discussed internal challenges, saying, “In RHB, the operations were being carried with one-third of the total sanctioned and the average age of the employee in the Board was 56 years. This clearly showed that there were no recruits in the past few years. Therefore, it was needed to motivate the employees towards their duties. For this, I wrote a personal letter to every single employee to boost their morale and get them back in action.”
“To break the fallacy around the use of technology and e-services for selling houses, we adopted the e-auction model. Moreover, to make it a sure success, we ran advertising campaigns, announced on television and radio shows, placed banners, etc. Further, we created a new marketing cell and equipped its employees with the task to market our houses in talk shows, conferences, and other occasions of mass gatherings”, told Arora. Besides, he mentioned that the Board stationed a couple of its employees at the sites of unsold houses to set up helpdesks. These were meant to make the bidding process easier for interested buyers.
Speaking of the fruits of all the hard work the Board did to keep it afloat in troubled waters, Arora said, “In the first phase of the auction, we sold a many as 1010 houses in just 35 days earning a revenue of Rs 162 crore. This was also recorded in the Book of World Records. And, the second phase of the auction broke our record wherein we sold 1213 houses in just 12 days through e-auctions.”
The next big innovative initiative he mentioned was “Budhwar Nilami Utsav”. Arora said that the ‘Budhwar Nilami Utsav’ was another beneficial move that helped us in selling over 4500 houses. With this, we targetted the Indian sentiments as Wednesday or ‘Budhwar’ is considered a providential day in most parts of north India. So, people in Rajasthan were well aware that from Monday to Wednesday they can bid on properties available and after four in the evening on Wednesday the bids were enlisted.
Another important aspect that resulted in the successful selling of houses by the RHB was revising the costs. “Earlier, there was a norm in the Board about that the houses that have not been sold, the prices of these properties increase annually at a certain rate of interest. So, I tabled a proposal to Chief Minister and the Housing Minister of state of Rajasthan that rather than increasing prices we need to consider the depreciation on the properties caused with every passing year. Hence, instead of increasing the prices we should decrease the prices or offer discounts or schemes.” The proposal saw a positive response from the Ministry and the prices of the properties were brought down by 25 per cent and for those houses which were very old and were not in good shape, the prices were slashed by 50 per cent, he added.
“I take pride in saying that with our recurring hard work and innovative approaches, we were able to sell over 7000 houses in just one year and generated revenue worth Rs 1400 crore. Moreover, considering the commercial properties, lease, EMIs on the sold properties, and other miscellaneous areas of work, we were able to generate Rs 400 crore revenue additionally, therefore, Rs 1800 crore in a year. All of this, despite the COVID crisis and a few months of the complete lockdown.”
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Recently, the Rajasthan Housing Board came out with a scheme for the poor ‘Apni Dukan, Apna Vyavsay’. “For this, we considered untaken plots allotted to shopping complexes in residential areas. We categorised these as plots less than 27 meters in length and plots longer than 27 meters. We had around 1650 commercial plots of which around 400 were constructed shops. These were posted for e-bid submissions under the scheme of ‘Apni Dukan, Apna Vyavsay’.” Many people were laid off due to COVID crisis and this scheme was launched keeping such people in mind as this might provide many with a new opportunity to work. Of the total 1650 shops, 900 have been sold. The shops were priced from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 12 lakh, and this allowed even a commoner to own his/her shop. Also, people were helped to get loans easier, he added.
In an effort to take a multidimensional approach, the Rajasthan Housing Board ventured into various projects to bring in positive changes and provide people of Rajasthan more convenience. One such project is a Coaching Hub.
“The work on Coaching Hub has already started and all the clearances and administrative formalities have been completed. We aim to create a place where as many as 60,000 students can study in a day in two-shifts. We have created a university-like complex on 6500 sqm of land area in Pratapnagar. The complex will house eight towers. The towers will not only house classroom for tuitions but will also have a health and wellness centre for students, a library, recreational space, consultants will be hired to ensure mental wellness and stress-free environment for students. The Hub will also feature sports facilities for students”, told the Commissioner.
The next such project is ‘Fountain Square’. RHB had land in Mansarovar area where the Board is working to develop an open public space with a large fountain in the middle. The open space will house food outlets, space for cultural programmes, street entertainers, and for people to hang out with friends, spend quality time with their families, etc. “The concept is similar to what we see in large cities like London, Singapore, Dubai, etc. We are working to create such a happening public place for the people in the Rajasthan.”
Further, he said, “RHB is making Chaupatis or Food Courts near all its residential societies to get more footfall at their sites. These spaces will serve almost every kind of food, it will have areas for photography, and all essential components to make people happy on their day out.”
Adding on Arora mentioned that RHB has created All India Service Residency in Pratapnagar for IAS officers of Rajasthan cadre or those from Rajasthan but serving in other cadres. This move was well-appreciated not only in the state but all across the country. “Earlier, the properties in the Residency were for Rajasthan cadre officers only, however, after getting huge demands from across India, we opened it for all the officers in Rajasthan.”
While concluding his address he mentioned that a prestigious project for building around 160 houses for MLAs was given to RHB. “We aim to complete the project soon and deliver the best of us”, he concluded.