The online real estate business model is evolving from vanilla digital classifieds to more comprehensive transaction enabling models, with technology and analytics driving property discovery and financing. The revenue models are shifting from pure listing/advertisement led monetization to ones that monetize closer to the transaction. The industry is at an extremely early stage of category growth, with around Rs 500~700 crore of annual revenues, playing in an addressable market which between classifieds, transactions and mortgage broking is anywhere between Rs 30000~35000 crore annually.
Major changes in the offline/online real estate sector
Besides demonetisation, the RERA act and the impact of GST, three other changes which are significant are:
The Governments’ thrust on affordable housing through the PMAY subsidies for buyers and SOPs for developers for affordable housing projects
Notification of rules for issue of REITSs, opening up new avenues for raising capital for developers, and
Consolidation of players in the online real estate tech- from an 8 player field, we now down to 4. Horizontal classifieds players are taking a serious look at online real estate to build their revenue streams
Challenges of engaging the customer online
The real estate search-diligence-transact journey that buyers take is non-linear, with multiple online to offline transitions. The information needs of the consumer also change depending on which stage of the journey he is on. Figuring this out contextually and delivering a seamless, device-agnostic experience to the buyer across this online-offline journey is an interesting challenge and we have been constantly raising the bar for ourselves in this area. We are driving engagement by providing a context relevant experience to buyers using virtual visualization tools, natural language processing and analytics based on rich data sets on real estate transactions.
We have short term challenges that everyone in the industry is facing- on account of demonetization and regulations coming in force in the industry. We are constantly innovating to stay ahead of the product and technology curve and do have our share of hits and misses.
The Indiaproperty platform is used by 6000 builders, 10,000 agents and about 2 million registered users. The platform has over 6.5 lakh property sell listings and around 20,000 projects across the country. We generate around 3000 unique and qualified buyers every day and have partnerships with 20 Banks/NBFCs for paperless home loans/mortgates.
How Artificial Intelligence is gaining traction
We use AI extensively on our platform both for automation of backend validation processes and in user facing processes. For example, we have image recognition algos to identify the best images and to weed out spam, we use prediction algos to identify spam listings automatically. On the user side, we have developed the most advanced Natural Language Processing engine for search - this enables an intuitive search experience eliminating the need for filters and results are served instantly, as the user keys in the text.
We use AI for automated image tagging- this enables rich indexing, enabling searches like “3 bhk with swimming pool facing garden“ etc. We are the only player in the world to offer NLP text search for online real estate other than google. We will continue to make investments in building our tech and will soon launch speech based search. I believe speech recognition today is what was touch in 2009-10 and in todays mobile phone usage context, it is just a matter of time before speech based search becomes mainstream.
The author, Ganesh Vasudevan is CEO India Property.