Though India improved its overall World Bank Ease of Doing Business rank (77th in 2019), on the ease of registering property we are very low at 166th place. Property rights are one of the biggest challenges, but a problem hidden below the surface.
How will setting up of this research consortium help?
If you feel more secure in your home, you are likely to spend more or invest more. If people have secured assets and titles, then it could be faster way out of poverty, than even education. A secured title is a source for augmenting one’s income. Typically, when we think about poverty alleviation, the first things that come to mind are education, healthcare, sanitation, but not property rights.
However, we find very little data, research on property rights related issues. So we decided to get India’s best think-tanks together, give them a grant to work together as a research network to produce evidence and research about property rights. We want to make property rights the centre stage of economic discussion and development.
Could you give a sense of research that is expected to emanate from this initiative?
Each of the organisations will work on specific areas of research. It could relate to issues such as property rights in tribal areas, social mobility and property rights, gender and property rights, linkages between other social indicators and property rights or transaction costs. The economic case for property rights is so compelling. Unfortunately in India, it has been seen through a very limited lens so far.
What have been the lessons learnt from Omidyar’s investments in this space?
As the value of this area is not well recognised, there are very few funders in this space. We have invested around $15 million in the property rights space in India. Research is expected to play an important role in kicking off entrepreneurship. There is opportunity for creation of public digital infrastructure in property rights. For instance, we could have technology platforms for easy access to property related information or make registering of property easy.
The Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) is a new force that will push out lot of data in public domain. A combination of RERA, data costs coming down and research could help spur entrepreneurship. We see proptech (or property tech) as an emerging area going forward. The research will open people’s mind to the opportunities in this space..