Further consolidation likely in online home buying space: Manish Sinha, head, Quikr Homes

How is the residential real estate market in general at present? Various reports have suggested recovery in home sales in the March quarter. Do you see this trend picking up over the next few quarters?

The economy is showing signs of revival, things are looking up now. Just to throw a number, in the fiscal 2015-16, Indian economy became the fastest-growing in the world with a GDP growth of 7.6%.

Revival in the economy coupled with better regulatory environment are already beginning to have a positive influence in the market. Real Estate Regulatory Act (RERA) will ensure time-bound delivery of projects and more transparent dealings with developers, which in turn will restore consumers’ trust in the market. Additionally, RBI has slashed interest rates by 1.5% since January 2015. All this combined will definitely improve real estate market conditions, which gradually will reflect on the number of transactions.

According to QuikrHomes data, Table 1 indicates the approximate number of units launched across cities in 2016 till date and the number of projects across segments – affordable, mid and luxury.

New-Launched Projects Across Cities in 2016

Cities Approx. No. of Units Affordable Mid Luxury
Bangalore 15800 40 48 22
Chennai 2100 15 18 19
NCR 7200 21 7 8
Hyderabad 9750 1 8 12
Kolkata 3000 4 5 5
MMR 11800 12 14 27
Pune 9000 34 20 17

We are seeing consolidation starting to happen in the real estate startup space. While one has happened, others are in the pipeline. What is the reason for the same? Where do you see the real estate startup market five years from now?
The online real estate space is one where the consumer is seeking one major trustworthy source of information. As consumers find mature solutions they tend to stick to a few trustworthy and informative brands. We believe that comprehensive solutions will emerge when multiple good ideas merge with each other to come up with end-to-end value propositions. More competition in the industry is a good sign that many different aspects of the consumer’s need are being addressed. Given that the online home-buying sector is currently still at a nascent stage, further consolidation is likely.

Which new revenue models are you tapping to decrease dependency on the brokerage business?
QuikrHomes is an all-inclusive market place for builders, brokers and home-seekers. While some say no to brokers, we in fact celebrate them and have recently partnered with Realty Redefined to commemorate World Broker’s Day on June 9th. Our platform has the largest number of property listings and unique visits from property seekers in India. We see firs thand how brokers drive a significant part of the transactions on our platform and how instrumental they are to help connect builders and sellers to potential home owners.

Late last year, we also acquired Indian Realty Exchange-IRX, a mobile-first aggregator of real estate broker community. IRX features agent reviews, rankings whilst serving as a platform for agents to exchange inventory and requirements with users and other agents.

Recognizing brokers as important stakeholders in the real-estate industry, we will continue to engage with them and hope to create more opportunities for everyone to work together. We intend to generate revenues by serving the marketing interests of the Real Estate professionals, including brokers, consultants and builders, while enhancing the value added offerings to property seekers

How is innovation playing a part in improving the buying experience of consumers?
Our real estate vertical QuikrHomes allows us to go deeper into the category to offer our consumers a rich and fulfilling experience. It also allows us to focus on industry specific innovations that are technology driven and help revolutionize a home seeker’s experience with us.

We currently have the largest feature set for consumers to make informed decisions easily. With Retina, Live-In tours, Street Vision and Facilities Mapping features we offer 360 degree views both inside and outside homes. Our innovations have helped pave the way for a more convenient and transparent way to close real estate transactions online.

What are you doing to increase on-ground support for home buyers? Is tying up with international consultants and brokerages the wiser route than developing an in-house team for the same?
Home buying is still largely a two-step process, one involves the search and shortlisting done via portals like ours and the next step involves handholding with the help of professionals like brokers or consultants.

In that context, we make significant on-ground effort for our consumers and work with large network of consultants and brokers. We offer them leads and help them by offering insights to what consumers are looking for. As mentioned earlier, we recognize the crucial role brokers play in this industry and will continue to work with them closely.

Consumers were really skeptical about buying homes online in the initial days due to homes being a high-value commodity. Has the scenario changed now? What are you doing to gain their trust?
With increasing internet penetration across the country, there has been a growing number of property searches online and the online home-buying trend has seen an upward trajectory over the last two years. According to data, there has been a 30-35% increase in the number of prospective buyers (seeking property online) in Q1 2016 as compared to Q1 2015.

A combination of things has helped gain consumer trust over time. Platforms like ours are constantly pushing the envelope to make more information available to consumers which increases transparency and ease for home buyers and sellers.

How do you see the new real estate regulatory Act changing the real estate market in general?
With the Real Estate Regulatory Act becoming a reality, market is already showing signs of improvement. According to a recent consumer survey conducted by QuikrHomes, with RERA in place, about 45% respondents are looking to invest in property over the next six months, while another 26% are considering to take the plunge within a year.

On the other hand, according to a recent Realty Experts survey, the new Act would lead to price appreciation over the next six months. Nearly 50% of the experts cited that property prices are likely to increase, while 30% predicts that there will be no impact on prices.

RERA, with some needed simplifications and stabilizations, is likely to restore the confidence of buyers in the sector. About half the experts believe that sales activity will pick up by 20-30% over the next six months, while 20% believe that it might increase by more than 40% over the same period.

What are the bottlenecks still remaining in the Indian market for seamless growth of online businesses like yours?
With the RERA bill we can expect more transparency which will translate to increased consumer confidence. This will help overcome trust-building issues plus the lack of verifiable data on projects and properties contributing to more home buying and selling. While online trends are catching on, this is just a start and the momentum will depend on a host of factors including smartphone penetration, internet connectivity and even regional language adoption across the internet.

Online real estate home listing business has matured with time. What are the learnings for you guys in doing business in this space? One major learning is that we have to share information a step at a time and keep building trust based on the feedback we receive. As is the case with any business, the learning never ends. Laws change, technologies advance and consumers evolve. We do our part by staying ahead, staying relevant and keeping things simple for our consumers.