Exclusive Interview with Daniele Russolillo, COO and Deputy CEO, Planet Smart City
Planet Smart City was founded by the Italian real estate experts, Giovanni Savio and Susanna Marchionni in 2015 with an aim to create multiple smart, sustainable and socially inclusive communities by embracing digital transformation. The company integrates architectural, digital, environmental as well as social innovation solutions to build the best quality home at a budget-friendly price. It is located in multiple countries to enhance the living standards of residents with advanced Digital Solutions. It is expanding globally with more than 200 solutions that can engage residents with each other through a community manager. Since India is taking a step forward with cutting-edge technologies and advanced internet connectivity such as 5G network, the country is set to build smart cities in different states at an affordable price. It helps to drive economic growth as well as revolutionise the urban landscape. The integration of Digital Solutions into the smart city enables business owners to deliver projects faster with minimal cost.
In an exclusive interview with Daniele Russolillo, COO and Deputy CEO of Planet Smart City, we will take a close look at how the combination of a people-centric approach and digital solutions aims to enhance the quality of life of the residents efficiently in a cost-effective method.
1. Kindly brief us about the company, its specialization, and the services that your company offers.
Planet Smart City is a leading global proptech company that designs and builds neighbourhoods in countries with high housing deficits. We have active projects in India, Brazil, the United States and Italy. Our primary service verticals are real estate, smart infrastructure and property management, community management and advisory services.
Our unique, people-centric approach aims to enhance residents’ quality of life and to reduce their cost of living by applying more than 200 intelligent solutions for infrastructural, technological and social innovation.
The research, development and integration of these solutions are undertaken by Planet Smart City, which operates multidisciplinary competence centres in Pune (India) and Turin (Italy). Planet Smart City has, amongst other projects, created and launched the Planet App—a digital platform providing access to high value-added services and facilitating communication between residents in Planet Smart City’s neighbourhoods.
Residents can engage with each other and the neighbourhood while observing and managing day-to-day utility usage through the app. We combine data provided to residents on their energy, water and heat consumption with our in-house gamification expertise to encourage residents to live greener and save money.
Planet’s key differentiator is in its multi-disciplinary global teams and proprietary end-to-end control of the entire project— from design to building long-term community management. Unlike many developers, Planet does not leave the community once completed. Instead, we employ on-site community managers who help support their local community and aid community cohesion. This is a gamechanger for the real estate industry and supports our ambition to create places that matter for the long term.
2. With what mission and objectives, the company was set up? In short, tell us about your journey since the inception of the company?
We were founded in 2015 by real estate experts Giovanni Savio, our Global CEO, and Susanna Marchionni, CEO in Brazil. The Company is chaired by physicist and entrepreneur Stefano Buono and is headquartered in London, UK with corporate offices in Italy, Brazil and India.
Put simply, our mission is to create inclusive and sustainable communities that empower local people to live better lives. We do this by integrating more than 200 smart solutions. Each smart solution responds directly to the needs and wants of each local community which allows Planet to have entered markets around the world while bringing a unique and local perspective to each community.
The understanding of local communities is incredibly important.
Giovanni and Susanna decided to use their decades in the industry to launch large-scale residential projects that offer a genuine solution for local communities. They wanted projects to empower aspirational homeowners and offer them new opportunities to elevate their quality of living.
This idea became a reality in Brazil, where we launched Smart City Laguna, the world’s first smart city for affordable housing, followed by Smart City Natal, Smart City Aquiraz and Viva! Smart in São Paulo. These projects include both low-rise and high-rise developments and will house more than 50,000 future residents. This is crucial for a market that has one of the largest housing deficits globally.
Like Brazil, India to lacks high-quality affordable housing. To help address this, we entered India in 2020 with our first project— Life Republic’s ‘Universe’ in Pune in partnership with Kolte Patil Developers. Our expertise positions us to meet the needs of burgeoning city populations to empower residents with smarter services for a happier, healthier community experience.
‘Universe’, covers an area of ~10.5 acres (4.164 hectares), is a part of Life Republic, 390+ acres of the township and is strategically located near Hinjewadi, Pune’s bustling IT hub yet with striking peace.
More recently, we have launched our first project in the US in partnership with Palladium Group to develop new, high-quality rental homes in Texas.
3. Please brief us about the products/services/solutions you provide to your customers and how do they get value out of it.
Through the integration of more than 200 smart solutions, our proposition fosters smarter, safer, more sustainable and happier urban environments. Planet Smart City offers a unique combination of smart solutions, the Planet App and a Community Manager to ensure every aspect of its neighbourhoods caters to the local needs of each community.
Within our advisory business, Planet Smart City selects a distinctive combination of smart solutions from our catalogue across four key pillars: technological systems, social innovation, planning and architecture, and environment. We then work in partnership with other developers to support the integration of solutions that best align with the needs of each local community. This is supported by long-term community managers.
Our community management proposition is a unique concept and has been at the forefront of our projects globally. A dedicated community manager within all of our projects helps foster community living by actively engaging with residents and supporting interaction and participation in the wider community.
Our proposition is a people-centric approach— we combine a data-driven approach with on-the-ground insights to integrate the right solutions for our communities. We understand that every neighbourhood is different and requires a tailored approach while recognising the value of pooling insights from our global portfolio of projects.
This is supported by our Digital Innovation pillar that aims to support the day-to-day wellbeing of our residents. For all our digital services, we work collaboratively with residents on ways we can use local data to enhance the quality of life—whether through sharing services or negotiating product discounts for the community.
Elsewhere, our IoT based solutions are algorithm-driven and enable automated decision-making processes that help reduce water and energy consumption and optimise efforts by up to 20%. Automated operations reduce the margin of error considerably and allow effective usage of time and resources.
By combining community management, smart solutions and innovative technology, we are able to improve the quality of life for residents and create places that matter.
4. Tell us how your company is contributing to the IoT industry of the nation and how the company is benefiting the clients.
The IoT industry of the nation has received a tremendous boost with the Smart cities project. At the heart of smart cities is, of course, IoT. We understand the exhaustive role IoT plays in the lives of homeowners or residents and by using technology in the right way, we can reach smarter outcomes in terms of reduced labour costs, more efficient property management, and better insights on how to maximise IoT opportunities. Connectivity and sustainability will be more and more an essential part of efficient community development. This presents great potential for our proptech solutions and our contribution to the nation’s IoT landscape.
One of our product offerings is a smart Infrastructure management SaaS platform that offers a range of features that are very critical for managing the infrastructure in any gated community. Our proprietary platform is fully designed and developed in-house and offers unique services to manage multiple IoT device ecosystems in a completely interoperable and customisable environment to meet the specific needs of any community. It enables the transformation of an ordinary building into a smart building to provide users with the ability to remotely monitor and control all assets of the property and infrastructure. To state an example, the platform enables Building Managers to access much more actionable insights and provides direct control to various critical infrastructure assets such as streetlights and water management systems installed at the property.
From tracking energy consumption to monitoring environmental impact and ensuring effortless routine operations the platform delivers significant economic benefits.
5. What is your biggest USP that diﬀerentiates the company from competitors?
Our approach gives us a unique insight into the needs of local communities that enabling us to not only tackle the affordable housing crisis but offers a quality of life that was previously inaccessible to our residents. When combined with a high-quality local partner such as Kolte-Patil, who also has a comprehensive understanding of local customer needs, together we aim to deliver generational long-term value in terms of real estate and community empowerment for our residents. This is supported by our long-term commitments to community management and underpinned by continued investments in innovation and technology. The combination of all these factors is our differentiators.
6. Kindly mention some of the major challenges the company has faced till now.
Planet Smart City was founded with a mission to tackle the global affordable housing shortage and redefine what it means to live in a community. We put people at the heart of everything we do and tailor our offerings to local needs. One of our initial challenges was ensuring we understood local needs while fully leveraging our global presence. This led our research wing to develop an extensive catalogue of smart solutions that can be flexibly applied to any market instead of a ‘one size fits all approach. Moreover, by combining data from the Planet App and the insights of our on-the-ground community managers, we have built into our business the ability to act with agility to the changing priorities of our communities. This approach ensures that, as local challenges arise, we are able to respond quickly and collaboratively with our communities to create resilient solutions for long-term quality of life.
7. Mention some of the awards, achievements, recognitions and clients’ feedback that you feel are notable and valuable for the company.
In recognition of our aims and approach, Planet Smart City is a Member Organisation of the EIDD-Design for All Europe network. This is the highest category of membership that means Planet is recognised as an organisation that is wholly committed to the network’s wider aims and goals.
EIDD- Design for All Europe is a network of organisations in design-related fields that are committed to the central idea that, for designs to be truly functional, they must be accessible to everyone. The philosophy of Design for All states that environments, products, services, and interfaces work for everyone, regardless of age or ability and in all circumstances.
As a business, we make a conscious effort to integrate these principles into our projects from the ground up. We believe our membership of EIDD – Design for All Europe is a natural fit as we similarly want to make inclusive communities.
Since our inception in 2015, we have had notable associations and partnerships with organisations that are challenging and changing the way people live across the world. Our business model is people-centric. Reflecting this, we have partnered with humanitarian organisations helping to drive global change like the Mandela Mile organisation and the UN-Habitat.
On a project basis, we have also been incredibly pleased by the success of ‘Quartiere Giardino’, a project in Milan, Italy, for which we acted as advisors. The project does an excellent job of showcasing the benefits of integrating smart and sustainable solutions for residents’ quality of life. Prior to the launch of the project, Quartiere Giardino had more than 200 vacant apartments with little community cohesion. Today, it has 100% occupancy with residents enjoying a variety of services and infrastructure such as urban gardens, kinetic energy-powered smart gyms, optimised intelligent LED lighting, smart water management, a ‘Library of Things’ where residents can borrow tools and useful items. All these services can be used from the Planet App.
In Brazil, our Smart City Laguna is our blueprint for smart developments and we believe the global housing crisis can be successfully addressed with this innovative and scientific approach, with the integration of over 65 smart solutions to service an all-inclusive community.
Smart City Laguna delivers superior infrastructure, integrated technologies, digital services and social innovation programmes to improve residents’ quality of life. The project features 620,000 square metres of green space, intelligently planned wide streets and cycle paths running throughout the development. An innovative approach to sustainability and community building is brought to life at Laguna through the inclusion of communal spaces, outdoor fitness areas, shared kitchen, libraries and an Innovation Hub and various community-focused initiatives and services.
We have dedicated community managers at all our projects who actively engage with the residents to stay connected and inform them of all the activities. In India as well, our Community Manager has received a positive response from residents at our project Life Republic. We witnessed a positively growing relationship between the residents and the community manager and since there was an increase in community engagement, residents were more forthcoming for event participation to help co-create a thriving community.
Links to client testimonials –