From their office in Powai, a suburb in Mumbai, a bunch of engineers are literally plotting world domination. Sample this:
“In the Land section, our goal is very simple – Cut the entire Google Maps into pieces and put price tags on all of them!” says Rahul Yadav, CEO & co-founder, #housing.com.
That’s just a glimpse of how Housing.com deals with the complex Indian realty market. From map-based viewing, broker profiles, price heat maps to lifestyle ratings and finding PGs, the realty portal has made the Housing way of looking for rentals a norm.
Launched in 2012, Housing.com’s phenomenal growth is not only changing the way people look for rental spaces, but also giving older, more established players, a run for their money. Since its launch, Housing has spread to 11 cities from just 1, grown its team from 12 to 850 people and has collected and verified over 1 lakh properties manually.
Rounding Up The Founders
Their journey began in 2011, when 12 IITians came together to form a venture with just one simple idea in mind – there’s much to be made of Google maps.
Rahul Yadav had just dropped out of IIT Bombay to work on this map related project. Before that, he brought on-board 11 others who were pros at their work to help him with the venture.
“I had a strong social network in IIT. I knew that a particular guy was solid at back-end, a particular guy was solid at design and so on. I knew all the famous people in each segment in IIT, so I contacted them and they agreed,” explains Rahul.
Housing still lacked a clear direction on the path their venture should take, yet, they went ahead with all the formalities of the company. Rahul says that the 12 believed that no matter what the path, they would ensure the company succeeded.
“First we registered the company. We wanted to bring all locations online, so that was the aim. Then we started exploring as to what we can do next. We were looking for a space also at the same time, we had done some looking around with a broker,” says Rahul.
This was when the direction of their map-related venture took shape. During their hunt for the office space, they had realised that they would have to pay the real estate agent showing them spaces a month and a half’s rent as brokerage.
“For a 50k apartment in Mumbai, we had to pay 75K as brokerage. It’s a very large amount. That’s when we decided that there’s very good money to be made in this business,” explains Rahul.
Scaling the Business
It took them about one month since ideation to set up the website. The portal was officially launched on June 7 2012, and they soon pivoted their business model.
“We had a broker with the website initially, but the model was not scaling, because to show houses in Bandra, you need expertise in Bandra. So you need to have local people to do this, local experts,” says Rahul.
Housing had initially began with listings generated from the founders’ own network. Later, to solve the issue of scale, the company decided to bring on board both real estate agents and landlords to supply them with inventory and thereby, revenues.
“We don’t look at landlords and brokers differently. For us, both of them are ‘inventory providers’,” says Rahul who believes that they had tapped into one of the key moneymakers for their business.
The decision to bring on real estate agents, while key to revenue, may not always prove to be best for the users.
Once their local presence was felt, the company decided to take the first step in going global. They changed their domain name from Housing.co.in, to Housing.com. They acquired the domain for $500k.
“Google maps was initially a private application for Google, and then one guy used Google maps to make a site called housingmaps.com. Google really liked the application, and then they decided to open this up for other developers,” narrates Rahul, “We wanted to acquire housingmaps.com, but we could not. So we decided to go ahead with housing.co.in but with time we found out that .co.in does not match our global ambitions,” he adds.
They eventually acquired the .com domain in September 2013, and added a fancy number 03-333-333-333 to make the plan a reality. The company is currently in talks with players in other countries to forge a partnership.
Team-building & Hiring
A large part of Housing.com’s success Rahul believes is owed to the his team. The team has grown from the initial 12 to 70 odd members at the Headquarters alone.
“We have a very strong belief that whatever we decide to do, we’ll win. Our team is very,very strong and the DNA of the company is – just do it. And do it very fast,” says Rahul.
Housing.com’s team is dominated by IITians and over 60 of the team at the Headquarters are below age 24, adding weight to Housing’s bid to hire young.
However, it isn’t easy for a person to come aboard Housing, says Rahul.
“The bar is very high, we have taken 300 interviews for product managers alone. We didn’t like anybody so till date we have zero product managers. We look for whether they are winners or losers, that’s it,” explains Rahul who says that a fifteen minute chat is all it takes to see if a candidate has what it takes to join Housing.
The company which is currently present in 11 cities wants to take the complex Indian realty market head on. It soon plans to expand into 40 tier-II and 200 tier-III cities within 6-8 months.
Housing also plans on revamping their existing website and mobile applications. The company’s big plan is to scale their product into other developing nations, which they seek to do by the end of 2014.