Leading Hines and Women in Real Estate.
Divya Pall is General Manager of Innovations at Hines India. Divya leads her team by identifying hot trends in PropTech and pushing forward on those trends. Talking about priorities in real estate, Divya also chatted about how women can accelerate their careers in real estate and the appeal of companies that pay attention to diversity, equality, and inclusion metrics.
FuturePlace: Thanks for taking the time to chat today, Divya! Could you tell us about your role at Hines?
Divya Pall: My role entails analyzing new Proptech ideas to implement solutions for revenue maximization, cost optimization, increased efficiency and service standards for our customers. Prior to Innovations, I was heading Marketing and Communications at Hines India. It’s an exciting journey!
FP: From marketing and communications to leading innovation — how did you decide to make that jump?
DP: Interestingly, I have observed a lot of people in marketing are extending or changing their roles to innovation. I thought it was at first limited to tech but that’s not the case, it seems to be the natural flow. The reason, I believe, is because of the complementary skillsets needed to identify innovative PropTech to solve real business problems, develop business, and run pilots internally. Of course, one needs a great team of subject matter experts to guide you through the entire process.
FP: What’s one of the most interesting areas within PropTech you’re focusing on?
DP: We are always on the look out for opportunities and solutions that will improve processes, build efficiencies or provide a better occupancy experience to our tenants. To identify such solutions, we run a simple process at Hines. We do a dipstick survey from our staff about the areas they think are important. It’s an inside-out approach. Then we also do an outside-in approach where we look at the industry, leading journals, events, discussion groups, and more. We identify hot trends there. I actually make my own list of the hottest trends in PropTech based on both of those approaches as well as my own learnings in the field.
FP: What have you identified as a result of those approaches?
DP: The biggest priority for real estate is a safe experience for tenants when they come back to the office. Covid has accelerated automation and touchless tech. Another that’s upcoming and thriving is the field of dashboards and analytics — data scientists are one of the most highly paid roles in the world. The third is construction technology or ConTech. Improvements like remote monitoring of the progress and quality of work at site is possible by using available PropTech tools that highlight any issues in real time. In a hybrid environment, not everyone is available in the same physical space which necessitates platforms that help digital collaborative working and automation of routine or mundane tasks.
FP: How else has the pandemic impacted PropTech investments?
DP: COVID has accelerated technology adoption and the pace of investments in a lot of areas mainly in touchless tech, remote monitoring, digitization and logistics. The vision for India is to be a $5 trillion economy by 2030 and we are already at $3 trillion. India has moved up in the rankings of the global innovation index (GII) by two spaces compared to last year, we’re now at #46 and #1 in central Asia and south Asia. These are indicative that there is more money being poured into PropTech.
FP: Do you agree that women face challenges in real estate?
DP: Real estate is very entrepreneurial. It gives people an open playing field to explore their creativity. Over the last decade or so, the number of women in the workforce has definitely increased, and it’s the same for real estate. I do agree that there are still some challenges for women in the real estate industry.
FP: What are some of those challenges?
DP: One is that women don’t hold as many executive positions as their male counterparts. However, they’re on their way! In India, Hines has a 42% women-to-total-staff ratio. Many organizations are paying attention to this ratio and are working to improve diversity and the number of women in their workforce, especially executive positions.
The second thing is pay inequality. One way this is going to get better is by having more women sitting at the top table and having their voices heard. I’d suggest to all women that they not be shy when negotiating. By nature, many women feel like they should not have to negotiate but I’d encourage women to state their expectations clearly to their employer and take it from there.
Another thing I find important for women is mentorship, particularly because women go through different stages in their careers and their life cycles. There are important pillars like marriage and having children and these are the times that women need maximum support and mentorship. They also need opportunities to return to the workforce. We’ve seen more opportunities appear in the last few years like companies that specialize in hiring women who want to return to the workforce. Mentorship is important in setting expectations for the candidate and the employer.
FP: Do you have any other advice for women in real estate?
DP: Absolutely! The first step is to get the best education you can. Continue improving your skill set and hunting for opportunities. Take advantage of the fact that there is more time, and also learning opportunities available. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for mentorship. Lastly, don’t be afraid to speak your mind and ask for what you deserve.
FP: What should women be looking for when they’re in search of the next step in their career?
DP: When you’re looking to work for an organization, try to find one that supports women via a healthy DEI ratio. See how many women have worked there. Find role models. Embrace technology — we need more women data scientists! At some point, it was new for everyone who is now an expert in it and there are several courses and programs to help along the journey, both short and long term. I like to think of it as continuous and life-long learning. Finally, as an outcome of COVID, the world has shrunk even further. While social distancing has increased, the world has shrunk and we are suddenly exposed to a plethora of opportunities whether it’s reaching out to resources, people, or online courses. Make the most of what you can and ride the wave forward.
PropTech NEXT Summit
Divya will be speaking at our PropTech NEXT Summit, taking place on 8-9 December 2021. Proptech NEXT is the most important regional event dedicated to built world innovation, technology, funding and matchmaking. Whether you are involved with office, industrial, construction, retail or residential… the Proptech Next Summit has got you covered.