Now, trained managers to look after apartment facilities

When the generator breaks down, when the STP filter needs repair, or housekeeping employees quit, apartments find it tough to manage without a property manager. But what are their needs and challenges and how can they overcome them?

Managing all the facilities in an apartment, from water supply to garbage to electricity, is the job of a facility manager, which requires expertise. File pic.

Picture this. An apartment complex at the heart of Bengaluru, that has 40 units. The Management Committee for the apartment has three members, all of whom have their own day jobs. One fine summer morning, the motor that supplies water to the complex breaks down. There is a need to purchase a replacement motor quickly. Add to it, the members who do not see eye to eye on anything. By the time they have arrived at a consensus, it has been over two days and residents of the apartment are frothing mad.

This is the case with other aspects of the apartment management too, be it changing the elevator, dealing with security or even deciding a date for the general body meeting. True story this!

If you are a resident in an apartment, as long as there is constant water supply, the garbage gets taken care of, there is somebody looking after the garden — all you need to worry about is your apartment and paying your own bills. You do not realise how much time and effort goes into actually keeping the ship running.

Helping hand for management committees

Apart from merely serving as living quarters, larger apartment complexes also come with a multitude of amenities— landscaped premises, swimming pools, water treatment plants, maybe even a club house, all of which involve maintenance, repair and replacement work.

Here is where property managers or facility managers have an important role to play. He or she makes sure that those utilities that you often take for granted are in order. The manager reports to the Management Committee and is assisted by a team of technicians who look after the upkeep of the building and its infrastructure. With apartments adopting management softwares like ApartmentADDA, Apna Complex, Common Floor  etc., the estate manager needs to manage these tools too.

Paromita Guha (name changed) is the member of the Management Committee in a medium-sized apartment complex in Ulsoor, and takes care of most aspects of its management. She says, “Each time there is a problem, I have to drop work and come back to deal with it. While I follow up to make sure everything is alright, there are little things that get missed, something as simple as making sure the plants are watered or the tank is cleaned from time to time. If there was someone whose primary job was to manage the upkeep of the apartment, it would certainly come in handy.”

What is the work carried out by a property manager?

Off late the role of the Multi Dwelling Unit (MDU) manager, or estate or property manager has become significant. While managers in smaller apartments are likely to be seen as mere executors of a task list that the MC assigns to them, in larger complexes they are allowed to make decisions on their own, so long as they abide by law and operate within the budget. Vijeth Som (name changed), an MC member says : “As apartments grow, the functions involved in the management too are getting more technical and complex.”

  • Property managers have to be involved in managing all aspects of the apartment complex.
  • Property managers need to be up-to-date with the technical aspects of apartment management, considering the rapid changes in engineering, operations and administrative demands.
  • They also need to be aware of compliances, as well as the impact of their building on the sustainability of the locality.
  • Managers need to be in touch with representatives from local authorities.

Revanth (name changed), the property manager of an 800 flat complex near Marathahalli, with close to a decade of experience in the field, says that apart from the technical know-how that is required of a manager, other necessary traits include patience, the ability to think on their feet and to stay cool-headed and not panic. They need to be able to foresee problems that could happen and plan in advance.

There are times when residents inevitably approach managers for petty complaints. While many of the bigger apartments assign ticket numbers for complaints, many residents approach managers directly in the hope that their issues will be sorted out quickly. This can sometimes take away the focus from looking at things that are important from an overall perspective.

Som adds: “The hierarchy in an apartment is almost like an inverted pyramid. The residents of the apartment act as clients and the property manager needs to ensure that work is done according to their requirements. This calls for the managers to be extremely patient.”

All about managing facilities

AIMM’s courses cover Building Operations, Resource and Waste Management, Administration, Accounting, Compliances and People Skills. The institute plans to interact with local civic agencies, in order to provide hands-on training for initiatives like waste management, rainwater harvesting and waste water management.

Vinod KC, the Chief Instructor for the AIMM courses says, “Each course is for a period of one week, and will have practical sessions as well. We have limited the class strength to 20 to bring in a focussed training approach.”

The trainings are be organised by a dedicated team from ApartmentADDA, augmented by guest lecturers who are experts from varied backgrounds. The faculty for the courses too comes with substantial industry experience.

The first of the AIMM courses was held earlier in January 2015 on the engineering track and covered aspects such as landscaping, waste segregation and composting, sewage treatment plants and maintaining pools. The courses on offer in February include a deep-dive into Society Accounting. Finance and Engineering and are slated to begin in mid-February.

For more information on AIMM and to register for the courses, click here.

Training to bridge the gap

According to ApartmentADDA, which runs online portals for managing apartment complexes, there are only 20,000 MDU managers in India, while the estimated need is over 1,20,000. The need for trained property managers is now more than ever before.

It is with the intention of filling this lacuna, that ApartmentADDA ventured into setting up an institute to train aspiring MDU managers as well as those already employed. Launched in November 2014, ApartmentADDA Institute of MDU Management (AIMM) is said to be the first such institute in India, set up solely for the purpose of training independent facility managers.

Sangeeta Banerjee, CEO of ApartmentADDA says, “Having conducted multiple workshops for MDU Managers in Chennai, Bangalore and Pune, and working closely with MDU Managers pan India, we see a huge demand for continuous learning from them. Backed by our highly supportive and discerning customer-base of apartment residents who employ these managers, to start a training facility to train managers was our natural next step.”

Sampath Ramanujam, the ex-President of the MC at Sai Gardens believes that there is a need for a forum where property managers can exchange ideas and share learnings. While there are groups like Bruhat Whitefield Residential Community Association (BWRCA), Bellandur Forum and HSRx Federation with representation from apartment MCs, Ramanujam feels a similar network for property managers will be useful too. He cites an example where the MC of Chaitanya Samarpan shared details of how they executed the mosquito trap with the rest of the group, who in turn executed it at their complexes.

MCs and property managers welcome formal training

MCs and estate managers too are in agreement that an institute like AIMM could prove useful, as the job requires constant updation of knowledge and skills.

Reffi Kurien who manages an apartment in Indira Nagar lists water/sewage treatment plants and diesel generators as the typical problem areas. He adds that there are currently no standard operating procedures for many processes, even basic areas like plumbing or electrical. In the case of emergencies, this lack of knowledge could pose serious problems. Reffi believes trained property managers would prove handy.

Paromita Guha says, “Our apartment is about 20 years old now, so many of our processes too are slightly old-fashioned. The AIMM courses sound like a good forum to be up-to-date on what other apartment complexes are doing with respect to water metering or solid waste management.”  

While most believe that it will be useful for property managers to undergo formal training, there are concerns about who would fund the courses. Revanth likens the AIMM courses to training programs or workshops that employees are given in companies. He says that while there will be concerns about whether the manager will stay back once the training is conducted, it is in the interest of the entire complex for the MC to send property managers for the training.

Sampath adds that there are chances that committees may not be willing to give manager on-duty leave to attend the sessions. Apartment Adda’s courses are held on five weekdays, from 8 am to 12 noon, to facilitate participation of existing managers.

Demand for property managers to rise

Conversations with MC members and property managers have thrown up one common understanding— that property managers play a very key role in how an apartment complex functions. Suhas Nerurkar, President of the Palm Meadows Owners Association and General Secretary of the Nav Bharat Democratic Party, during the launch of AIMM, likened the role of an MDU Manager to that of the IAS Officer (Bureaucrat). He stated: “An MDU manager must manage expectations of the Management Committee, just as a Bureaucrat does that of the minister.”

Som draws parallels to the Managing Director or CEO of a company, while talking about the roles of a property manager. He says that a good facility manager must have an overview of every department. Sridhar Chari, a consultant who has had several years of experience as a MC member, some of them at apartments with over 3,000 families, refers to the managers as the backbone of an apartment and as the liaison between the MC and apartment owners.

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