Maestro Harmonizing the realms of Real Estate and Technology

Chirag Boonlia - Chief Technology Officer, Embassy Group

The Challenge: Embassy Group has a strong presence in the commercial and residential segments of the real estate market, with many high-profile projects to its name. With rapid digital transformation impacting nearly every aspect of the real estate industry, CTO Chirag Boonlia and his IT team at Embassy Group, India, face unique challenges such as an ever-evolving technology landscape, limited skill sets, siloed teams, and tech adoption by empowering the organization's employees.


From the first steps to digital transformation

My journey began in 2003 when I first stepped foot into the corporate world at Intelligroup. Over the next few years, I honed my skills at Infosys and then Oracle India, pouring my heart and soul into every CRM implementation project that came my way. It wasn't until I joined JSW, a conglomerate, that I truly felt like I had found my calling. I was responsible for leading their order-to-cash business applications, and the sense of satisfaction I felt when I saw how my work directly impacted the company's bottom line was indescribable.

During my stint at Aditya Birla Retail, I was tasked with rolling out next-generation technology solutions for 500 stores and 15 distribution centers. The most exciting part of my journey was when I joined a real estate startup backed by Xander Group. As the third employee and first IT employee, I was tasked with building the entire IT organization from scratch. It was a daunting task, but when I saw the business grow to four malls, two hotels, and two coworking centers, I felt a sense of pride that is hard to put into words.

I've been with Embassy Group for 4+ years now, leading and accelerating the group's digital transformation across a wide range of business functions. And while the road ahead may be long and winding, my team and I know that we have the passion, determination, and resilience to tackle anything that comes our way.

Battling limited skill sets, siloed teams, and slow tech adoption

From my perspective, the real estate industry plays a significant role in the challenges we face, and my team and I are aware of them. Firstly, the real estate industry is interconnected with almost every other industry. As we look into the future, two critical functions emerge: innovation and marketing. Since innovation is linked to technology and its rapid evolution, every business aims to capitalize on it. However, despite the availability of numerous technologies, limited skill sets remain a problem, as evidenced by the industry's great resignation saga.

Change management is the second issue. As a technologist cum change agent, I've noticed that the tech team can get stuck working in silos. I believe that, in order to solve these problems, technologists need to step into the shoes of business stakeholders.

Thirdly, the real estate industry has lagged in technology adoption compared to others. Even though location was crucial in the past, things have evolved with the arrival of Gen Z and millennials, who have different expectations. In summary, our challenges encompass an ever-evolving technology landscape, limited skill sets, siloed technology teams, and a lack of technology adoption in the industry.

Prioritizing employee experience in the age of digital transformation

At the Embassy Group, employee experience is not just a box to check; it's a way of life. Led by the compassionate and visionary chairman, Jitendra Virwani, the organization understands that employees are its most valuable asset, and it takes care of them with a sense of purpose.

When the pandemic hit, the Embassy Group didn't just try to preserve cash; it doubled down on its commitment to digital transformation, recognizing that this was a crucial time to show its employees that they mattered. By unifying services and experiences from recruitment to separation and creating a hyper-personalized system, the Embassy Group made sure that its employees had everything they needed when they needed it.

This wasn't just about convenience or efficiency; it was about showing empathy in action. By reducing the number of SaaS applications and making everything available on a platter, the Embassy Group demonstrated that it was there for its employees in every way, even during a crisis. And in doing so, it created a culture of trust and respect that will endure long after the pandemic is over.

Crystal clear predictions for the future

As an evolving organization, we are here to make our mark in the world of real estate at Embassy Group, so we keep trying out new things, including mergers and acquisitions. However, our current focus remains on digital transformation for all businesses. For example, we have digitized the customer experience journey, from the time a customer approaches us for a property to the time they get possession. We want to continue evolving and add concierge services, as well as the option to buy pre-paid furniture.

We believe that agility is crucial to staying ahead in today's tech-driven world, and we want to empower our employees with AI tools to improve their efficiency. Our goal is to create synergies from past and future mergers and acquisitions and take the organization to the next level. We will also continue leveraging the latest technology to ever green core solutions to continuously improve our processes.

Small lessons, big wins

From my years of experience in the industry, my leadership role in IT is much like being a soldier on the border. Every day brings new challenges that keep me on my toes, and it's an experience that's unique and different each time.

With my extensive experience in the industry, I can liken my leadership role in IT to that of a soldier stationed on the border. Each day presents new challenges that keep me on my toes. It's an ever-evolving and dynamic experience that is both unique and different every time.

One thing I can tell you is that failures are a part of the job. For instance, we planned ten transformations but only succeeded in a handful. One of my favorite projects was creating a super app by unifying the experience for our B2B2C customers. This meant providing employees from all of our marquee tenants with the same kind of experience when working from our infrastructure, such as commercial business parks.

As one of the leaders in the industry, our job is to curate the best experiences for our customers, much like how a government curates the infrastructure of a city. My business counterparts saw the value in what we aspire to do, and we're moving forward again. Though they may seem like small wins, these are the sparks that will ignite bigger ones down the road.

In a nutshell, working in the real estate industry is both challenging and rewarding. It requires us to be adaptable and flexible but also to keep pushing forward and striving for success.

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