Housing.com – Your Way Back Home

This article was being shared by Anmol Sharma, SPJIMR first runner up in Evolve 1.o!!

Backdrop

Housing, a Mumbai based start-up founded by 12 IIT Bombay graduates, allows customers to search their dream home at the power of a click. The portal allows the customers to search for their dream homes based on the location, size, locality and price range. The current network of Housing is estimated to consist of 6000 brokers, covering 50 cities pan India. Backed up by the Series A funding from Nexus Ventures Partners, the company has added a Decision Sciences Lab, which serves to drive the insights from the collected data on the application of Big data analytics. Housing went to revamp its Brand image in the first quarter of 2015 and launched a new logo with a brand new tagline “Look Up”.

Context

The Indian Real estate market is pegged at 121 Million $ (residential at 100 Million USD) and will continue to grow at a rate of 14% CAGR to 853 Billion USD by the end to 2028. Key factors fuelling this growth will be:

1. 10 Million Indians will move to the cities; urban population will reach 600 Million by 2030
2. Rise in urban per capita income; expected to grow 3x ($2.8k in 12’ to $8.3k by 28’)
3. Change in consumer behaviours; markets are shifting to market oriented phase and convenience becoming a priority

With the unprecedented growth in e-tail sector, it is a matter of time before the shift happens in home buying behaviour and the major players will command a major share of the market. Housing does not position itself as an online classified portal. Rather its brand positioning is to create value for the customers to book the homes online.
Presently, Housing.com offers following services across the real estate value chain –
Rent, PG & Hostels, Buy (New projects and Resale flats), Home Loans, Serviced Apartments, Online Rental Agreement and Online Home Buying.But the future is online real estate purchases.

Competition

Housing competes in the space of Real estate, one of the hottest sectors online which has attracted a lot of attention in recent years. The space is pre-occupied by the likes of MagicBricks and 99 Acres followed by India Property and Makaan, which have acquired a larger market share owing to first mover advantage. Common Floor competes tete-e-tete on the technology forefront with Housing.com.
Housing’s value proposition is to provide the customers accurate listings which are verified and increase accountability of online real estate as an option. Housing leveraged its usage of Google maps to showcase the actual property locations and detailed listing of the amenities in the areas. To bring in more transparency, the housing representative vets the photos uploaded for the rental purposes. But this feature is yet to be extended to buying online, which is still in its nascent stage.

Product Differentiation

Housing has launched Slice View which aims to help the customers visualise their dream home, even when the project is on paper and ideology phases. The illustrative figures can be used by the buyers to explore the project and browse through the specific sections to book an apartment. The value creation for the customers is to explore the 3D rendering of every project and every floor. The portal gives the customers options to book the homes at a low down payment.
Slice view helps the customers to easily inspect the 3D master plan of the project. As soon as the customers locks in which project and the type of apartment to look at, several details regarding the built-up area, price, possession dates and a detailed payment plan appears alongside to enhance the user experience.
The rationale behind such a product is to allow the users to make an informed choice. Considering the purchase of homes, as a high involvement product, users are sceptical to make the decisions online.
The major impediments identified in online real estate purchasing are lack of credibility and lack of trust. The users perceive the details about the projects to be fictitious and often misleading which acts as a barrier to adoption of such online real estate portals. This demands the user to have a site visit before even considering the idea to pursue the project. Housing aims to create a knowledgeable user base by providing them the support of Indian Real Estate Portal (IREF) where they can be in touch with several other users and interact with expert for advices on projects, localities, vaastu etc.
Other such innovative product is Data Sciences Lab (DSL) which aims to bring insights which drive the real estate market. DSL continuously churns data and algorithms to map out the trends, new features and tools of future to ease the process for the consumers. Several such features are explained below:
1. Traffic Flux – it shows the most preferred destination i.e cities searched by the customers for their future living. Inbound shows which cities are attracting the traffic while the outbound shows the number of urban dwellers choice of cities.
2. Heat Maps – shows the demand trends for buy and rent in specific areas of the cities. The red areas are demarcated as high on demand and green areas as low on demand.
3. Child Friendly Index – demarcates the areas based on the friendliness of the society with respect to the children

Promotion

Housing engaged itself in Brand Building so as to emerge as a trustworthy option in the online real estate sector. In the early 2015, “Look Up” campaign was launched with a budget of 250 crores so as to improve the Brand Visibility across channels and increase Brand Recall. The campaign effectiveness can be adjudged from the fact that the traffic increased from 1.1 Million to 11 Million in 4 months from January to April. The similar phase also witnessed Housing.com expand the market footprint to more than 50 cities.
Several Mergers & Acquisitions followed to set the stage for Housing .com. Housing acquired Indian Real Estate Forum(IREF) – an online real estate forum to help the consumers explore the choices and the other strategic M&A was of Reality Business Intelligence – to strengthen its analytics branch. Reality Business Intelligence helped Housing.com to set up its Data Sciences Lab and derive key insights from the market build-up.

Challenge

In an essence, Housing has set the stage to host its consumers on the online platform for booking their dream homes. But the challenge lies ahead, in building a credibility to bring about a change in consumer behaviour to shift from offline to online. Housing.com has to become the most preferred option of active home buyers to survive in challenging real estate sector. Not only the customer acquisition is critical to emerge as a market leader but also it has to sustain long term viability. Short term discounts on the base prices and additional gifts on booking via online portals is a common practice. But it won’t be effective in the long run as the customer needs and preferences eclipse the short term gains. The key areas for the Housing.com would be to focus on building credibility in the long run and connect to the right target audience across geographies.

CUSTOMER LIFE CYCLE – EXHIBIT 1

housing

References:-
1. http://www.livemint.com/Consumer/zMqqS4sfMVAXEKLVKFWKCI/Add-to-cart-Indians-spend-millions-to-purchase-homes-online.html
2. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/online-home-purchase-reputation-holds-the-key/4
3. https://www.irfs.in/
4. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/startups/housing-com-wants-to-focus-on-home-buying-and-selling-business-more-lay-offs-can-be-expected/articleshow/49852180.cms
5. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/startups/developers-brand-push-now-gets-a-housing-com-lift/articleshow/49321620.cms
6. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/startups/Housingcoms-list-of-verified-properties-crosses-1-million/articleshow/48458530.cms

– Anmol Sharma , SPJIMR

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