The 5 Essentials with Chirag Boonlia

The gap between the real estate industry and the tech industry is narrowing. In this 5 Essentials, CTO Chirag Boonlia of Embassy Group speaks to this closer union between the two sectors.

Your move into retail entailed the next jump for a young IT leader. What qualities do you think were necessary to make that leap?

I feel that the key quality was probably that an IT head shouldn’t carry around a baggage of legacy systems. Traditionally, even though I come from an ERP background at Oracle, I was the one who opted out of these legacy systems and opted for a cloud/based solution which was not readily available. Writing a blueprint for information without having a baggage was an added advantage for me. I also had management support who bought my vision and actually rolled it out across for the next five years.

I must give credit to the management for buying in these things and actually giving me a chance for doing things that became a game changing experience. Not having any legacy or existing baggage and getting a blank slate to start with was crucial. 

Since then you’ve moved into construction with the Embassy Group. Were you now in a situation where you moved away from the cloud towards more legacy-based systems?

I was very happy for the fact that, for the first time in my entire career, I was changing a job in the same domain or industry. Having said that, this company has been there for almost 15-20 years and there have been quite a lot of existing systems solutions, which are called traditional. 

But my role was to accelerate the adoption of digital transformation in the world of real estate and that’s where I felt that and I can actually add value to this automation rather than being a basic treadmill. I’m trying to accelerate the digital transformation in the industry and I’m completely completely focused on bringing a change to an old school industry. 

It has been almost a year as of now as we speak. The app we actually launched, arguably India’s first and first mobile app for residential customers, allowed us to democratize the living experience through a range of services. We are bringing it all together in a single unified platform powering our extended customer base.

How vulnerable is the real estate industry to cyber attacks?

There are only two types of companies: those who know that they have been attacked and those who are not aware of the fact that they’ve already been attacked, right. Cyber threats are for real. They exist, they travel borders and real estate is no different. As an industry, we are equally susceptible to threats. 

We have to be absolutely stringent about the way we roll out our solutions. No reason for us to be left behind in terms of our security game as far as cyber threats are concerned.

What do you build and when do you buy?

If it’s readily available, I’ll just tap onto it right. The SAS based products are all things I’m happy to use and customize and configure for our needs. If it’s not available in the market, I’ll build it and then have it delivered, maintaining it using an outsourced model. 

If the group is large–having a user base of more than 500 or 700 users in SAP alone–it may not be practical for us to outsource. Every aspect of projects and change request to outsource agencies. But onsite right we have project managers on our roles who drive these projects across the length and breadth of the company. 

The answer is very hybrid in nature: anything which is new age or next generation, it’s very difficult to get the resources and groom them and retain them and so will completely completely outsource it. Anything which is traditional, high volume and something which we need on a daily basis, we’ll either keep all our resources or keep onsite resources from outsourced parties.

In the generation of WeWork, are all real estate organizations tech companies now?

Two hundred percent. I completely understand and vouch for it. Our co-living platform, which we have just launched, is actually more of a tech company and less of a real estate company because everything is driven by our own tech. This is ground up. I have a clean slate so I can have my vision the way I did for my previous company six years. Millennials and Gen Z are going to be part of this co-living experience today and blueprinting it will be completely different because it will be completely revolve around tech.

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