Hacking the Urban Land Market: How developers in Mumbai overcome uncertainties to (not) produce new real estate
Dr Suzi Hall (Department of Sociology) and Dr Leon Wansleben.
Sociology of Markets; Economic Sociology; Urban Sociology; Urban Development; Global South
In this research I investigate how the market for land in Mumbai is organised, and what role developers play in shaping the market. Given the uncertainties in real estate development, particularly in a context like Mumbai wherein project delays and cost escalation are commonplace, it is intriguing that developers continue to participate in real estate development- an endeavour that not only requires significant upfront investment, but is also oriented far into the future. A popular postulation among economic sociologists is that ‘future imaginaries’ or ‘fictional expectations’ serve as the principal tools for coping with uncertainties, and when these imaginaries are embodied in narratives and models, they become determinate enough to structure economic action. However, in the case of Mumbai developers, I find that economic decisions are guided not by imaginations of future price behaviour, but by temporally closer concerns related to the complications of land acquisition and government approvals. Embodied in narratives of developmental hurdles, and the requirement of an entrepreneurial, albeit opportunistic, developer to overcome these hurdles, uncertainties of the present, I argue, serve as the orienting schema that guides action in Mumbai’s land market. Such a market is organised not around social structures, and institutionalised action, but rather by market practices that are creative solutions to context-specific, complex problems.