Priya Maheshwari, Co-founder and CEO of Properji, which just got acquired by magicbricks, tells e27 that real estate is a really tough nut to crack
Real estate has traditionally been a male-dominated domain, especially in India where over a dozen players are competing each other— most of who are VCs-backed. The industry in India has been going through a sticky patch for the past six months, thanks to a decline in global real estate space — forcing leading companies such as Housing to lay off hundreds of employees. However, during the same period, the industry also saw some consolidations happening, the latest being magicbricks’s acquisition of Properji.
e27 speaks to Properji Co-founder and CEO Priya Maheshwari to know more about the deal, realty industry in India and her future plans.
What is the synergy between magicbricks and Properji?
magicbricks has 80,000 projects and over 1.2 million listings. Consumers are asking magicbricks less about inventory availability, they are asking to help them with information that would help them choose between properties. Properji has a proven research-analytics driven model to score projects and builders and provide customised recommendations on which project to buy, at what price and when. Together with magicbricks, we can inject confidence and extend strong decision support to buyers at scale across India.
The Indian realty space has been going through some tough patch of late. How do you view this crisis?
I won’t call it crisis. Winning business models are emerging and they are partnering with complementary players to deliver better value to customers at lower cost. For example, Properji’s research is so valued for it objectivity, depth and relevance that home buyers pay to use it. Combining it with magicbricks listings can provide scale and even greater value to millions of home buyers.
Housing and some other realty portals recently let go of hundreds of employees. Is it an indication of imminent consolidation?
This is a natural progression for technology innovation. A lot of new ideas get tested. Then they get recombined with one another to deliver better value at lower cost. In the tech innovation parlance, it is called “from broad to narrow”. That is, broadly testing many new ideas and then narrowing and doubling down on what works.
It has now become a crowded space. Do you think too many players are affecting the scalability of existing players?
Real estate is not so much crowded as other spaces such as e-commerce, on-demand services or payments. The real problem with real estate is that it is a really tough problem to crack, given information asymmetry between the buyer and the builder and very limited objective data to make sound decision, despite the fact that home buying is life’s biggest financial decision. We have built technology-driven and user-paid model that is working in Bangalore and by working with magicbricks, we can scale it across India.
Did you have multiple terms sheets before magicbricks approached you?
Yes. magicbricks is the largest player today. We found best fit with magicbricks because of the millions of listings they already have. Also, we liked their team.
While large players are facing the heat, niche players like NoBroker are gaining traction? Is it time for players to pivot?
Conceptually, there can be three types of players in the real estate sectors. (a) marketplaces/listing sites such as Magicbricks, Housing, NoBroker, (b) online brokers like Proptiger, IndiaHomes, and (c) independent research platforms. It depends on who wants to play which game and play it well to win. If someone cannot win, they should pivot.
We are the only independent pro-buyer research platform in India and we are being valued for our crisp value proposition and the traction we have achieved.
Is there room for more innovation in this space?
Yes. There are still many unsolved problems in the real estate such as credible due diligence, post-buying support, re-sale, tax optimisation etc.
What have been your key learnings?
The biggest learning has been that if you focus on a real pain point (objective and credible help for home buying in our case), people will use your product and also pay for it. And you would be valued as an entity for enriching the ecosystem in that industry.
Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Just wanted to share that in the real estate domain, which has traditionally been a man’s forte, I am probably the only woman entrepreneur. So it has been quite a learning experience for me to make an inroad and run this venture in India. Initial days had been tough from working with builders to working with government agencies to get data and establish my credibility in this industry. But things are certainly improving for the better in India.
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