Renu Karnad on how HDFC waded through Covid challenge

World-over, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented humanitarian and economic hardship. At HDFC, we were fortunate to recognise the magnitude of the unfolding crisis and the potential disruption it was causing. We quickly enhanced our Digital Plus model and focused on easing the way we delivered and communicated with our stakeholders. For most people, buying a house is the biggest investment. The process of buying a house requires physical site visits and meetings with developers and lenders. Given the nature of our business and a company of our size, it has not been an easy task. Against this backdrop, we were able deliver healthy growth due to faster adoption of technology and sheer dedication of our employees.

Customers

In HDFC’s scheme of things, customers come first. And to ensure that their home buying journey was not interrupted, we enabled them to access our full range of services digitally. We were the first to focus on online loan processing in the Indian housing finance space. Both, our digital sourcing and appraisal models have enhanced loan approvals online. Further, to stay connected with the customers and service their requests, we launched ‘HDFC Customer Connect’, a one-stop convergence platform. We also took the initiative of educating and providing confidence to our customers on various digital initiatives to ease the process of buying a home.

In addition, digital services were made available to lakhs of our depositors through an online deposit platform and we also trained our deposit agents. We organised global online property exhibitions which facilitated homebuyers across the globe to shortlist properties of their choice without having to physically visit the Projects.

Employees

At HDFC, the most valuable resource are our employees. All the success are the result of their dedication and motivation. We did not have any layoffs and there were no salary cuts. Employee’s safety remains our priority. We hosted vaccination camps for all our employees and their immediate family members. Our staff worked from office on a rotational basis in accordance with extant regulations. In certain locations, we organsied transportation for employees.

To safeguard our employees, an internal app was designed to have an update of the health and well-being of all our employees and their families on a daily basis.

Our IT team played a very important role in ensuring everyone stays connected from wherever they are. We ensured that adequate awareness and training programmes were conducted for employees on customer privacy and cyber security. Leveraging on technology, many of the physical training programmes went online. We ensured employees were trained in functional and behavioral skills to ensure that they maintain the same high standards of service even while working remotely.

We ensured that all our suppliers were also paid on time. We even provided help beyond the general supplier relationship. After all they are not just vendors for us, but partners.

Being a Responsible Lender

As part of our CSR activities for Covid-19, we supported long-term health infrastructure across India by procurement and distribution of high quality ICU ventilators, providing frontline healthcare workers with food and rations and supporting the education of children whose families have been impacted by Covid-19.

With a strong emphasis on ESG, we enhanced our environment & social (E&S) due diligence for various loans and are working towards deepening our footprint in financing more affordable, smart and green homes. Though the second wave and localised lockdowns brought new challenges, given the scale up of our digital platforms, coupled with the learnings of the past year, we stood in a ready state to tackle the extant challenges.

This is evident in that fact that our disbursements for March 2021 were the highest ever in our history. We remain confident that the inherent demand for housing is strong and the pandemic has re-affirmed that there can be no greater security in life than a home.

Today, 81% of our borrowers are on-boarded digitally, which is manifold times more than in the pre-Covid era. Wet signatures, however, are still mandated to execute property related documents. If this were to change by permitting digital signatures, it would facilitate a complete end-to-end digital home buying process. This small step would go a long way in increasing homeownership in the country

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