“We are in serious talks and a deal is nearing closure. Most of the funds will be used primarily for marketing. A portion will also be used to build the brand besides educating and creating awareness among the consumers in the cities we are planning to launch. Some part of the capital will also be used to strengthen our technology and data play,” Sunder P, co-founder and CEO, HomeShikari.com, told Techcircle.in.
The startup was founded in November 2011 by Sunder and TT Venkatesh (CIO). Sunder, who holds a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA from Bharathiar University (Tamil Nadu), had also co-founded Bharatmail service in 1999 (now YourManInIndia). His partner Venkatesh holds a BA degree in Theatre and Mathematics from Cornell University in New York. A real-estate marketplace, HomeShikari claims it provides a viable alternative for sellers and renters to list their properties on its portal without getting cannibalised by a flood of broker posts. It is focused on end consumers and aims to empower all kinds of searchers people who want to buy, resale or rent properties.
The firm claims it follows a verified listing model where its team goes and visits the property for sale/rental, takes pictures and videos, measures the property, does an accurate floor plan and uploads all the information on the portal. These listings go with a verified symbol which is an assurance to the searcher that what he is seeing on the website is what he will get, if he physically visits the property.
According to the co-founder, this will allow consumers to pre-screen properties and then visit only those that meet their requirements. “We also give refund to our customers when they delist their properties. This is to ensure our site has only pertinent and fresh listings all the time,” noted Sunder, who is also managing director at TTK Services.
According to him, HomeShikari.com has around 800 active listings on its site from individual consumers and 30,000 units available for sale from builders. Currently, it has more than 125 paid builders on its portal. Last year alone, around 3,000 customers used its listing and VAS services on a paid basis. The firm is now looking to be present in all major cities soon, with Mumbai and Delhi getting first priority.
“We see massive opportunities in the real estate information and services space, because there is far greater potential for disruptive models in an opaque market like India. A Zillow or a Trulia in a very developed and mature market like the US commands valuations that are 10x or 20x higher than a traditional real estate firm there,” explained Sunder.
Talking about the revenue model, Sunder said,“We generate revenue through listings from individuals and builders as well as through services such as property tax payment and rental agreement assistance etc. We believe that to be a significant player, you need to leverage the online presence to reach out to your consumers more efficiently while at the same at the lowest cost. You will also need to leverage technology to scale up and offline strength to be able to make transactions easy and more trustworthy. That’s the only way you can be there for a consumer at all times when it comes to real estate matters.”
HomeShikari generated very small revenues last year, said Sunder. “We are aiming for much higher revenues for this fiscal, and aiming for a 400-500 per cent increase in FY15. Our long-term vision is to reach a top-line in the range of Rs 200-250 core in five years. We are operationally breaking even in Bangalore and we should be completely profitable in the city in a year’s time,” Sunder noted.
With a strong 60-member team, the company is directly competing primarily with Housing.com, a Nexus Venture Partners-backed real estate portal which is already present in eight major cities. “Housing is probably the closest to our model. While we are in direct competition in the listing space and in terms of using technology for better analytics, we are vastly different in terms of the on-ground expertise. We are a complete one-stop shop or marketplace for real estate, not merely a portal,” he said.
In India, real estate listing is a highly competitive market. There are different kinds of sites, such as advertising (real estate classifieds) portals and brokerage portals, which don’t charge consumers but get their commission from builders, while the former acts as a marketing platform for builders and brokers.
Some of the other players in this segment are Tiger Global and Accel Partners-backed CommonFloor.com, Canaan partners and Mayfield Fund-backed IndiaProperty.com, and InfoEdge’s 99acres.com. This space is poised for further growth in the coming years, as major cities including Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai are already witnessing a huge migration of job seekers, especially in the IT sector, from other parts of the country.