Arjun Basu, Co-Founder and CEO, DoorKeys

Anil Mascarenhas, Editor, IIFL | Mumbai | October 20, 2016 11:31 IST

"Innovators have failed to migrate other aspects of property buying online. DoorKeys has already created an online negotiation platform where buyers can negotiate with multiple sellers online without getting spammed and proceed with the seller who is able match his or her pricing expectations.”

Arjun Basu, Co-Founder and CEO, DoorKeys
Arjun Basu, Co-Founder and CEO, DoorKeys, is a serial entrepreneur. Prior to DoorKeys, Arjun co-founded mydala.com, a top tier venture capital backed dotcom which is India’s largest local services marketing platform.

Today, Mydala’s platform enables 150,000+ advertiser/merchants to target 300 million consumers across 209 cities in India. His prior experience includes being the Director at Capital Fusion Partners where he focused on promoting new businesses and raising capital; working at Capital One Bank where he managed a multi-billion, multi-strategy investments portfolio and led funding initiatives; co-founding a South Asia centric financial services business, banks2.biz.com; Director, BAPL, an engineering consulting, and infrastructure/real estate development firm and technology equity research at Merrill Lynch.

Arjun has an MBA in Finance from Northeastern University and completed his Bachelors in Engineering from Mangalore University.
 
Doorkeys.com is India’s first buyer-centric real estate platform with several product innovations, which are global firsts. A technology enabled platform, Doorkeys democratizes the home buying process by giving buyers the power to choose, negotiate and transact online in a spam-free environment. This is a first for the Indian market, which is dominated by seller centric classified portals adding no value to the buying process except for discovery. Doorkeys aims at building a serious community of buyers and sellers by introducing credit ratings for the buyer (tie up with Experian) & consumer rating mechanism for sellers to bring in the much-needed transparency in the home buying process. This is backed by a large database of brokers/agents basis expertise and actual consumer reviews and ratings.
 
Replying to Anil Mascarenhas of IIFL, Arjun Basu says, "Innovators have failed to migrate other aspects of property buying online. DoorKeys has already created an online negotiation platform where buyers can negotiate with multiple sellers online without getting spammed and proceed with the seller who is able match his or her pricing expectations.”
 
What are some of the innovative products that are changing the dynamics of the real estate industry?
A recent report has stated that the Indian real estate sector would be around US$ 180 billion by 2020 contributing approx. 5-6 per cent to the country's GDP. Though the sector has been facing some ups and downs leading to a negative sentiment in the market for some time now, we feel that this current market worth 7-8 billion USD is all set to accelerate soon. Retail, hospitality and commercial real estate are also growing significantly, providing the much-needed infrastructure for India's growing needs supported by the increase in PE investments from foreign funds, increasing deal sizes and residential projects both luxury and affordable, attracting a substantial amount of capital. Cities like Mumbai followed by Bengaluru and Delhi-NCR are currently the best in terms of RE investment, both residential and commercial.
 
Most innovations/products in the recent times have focused on the property search aspect which though important, constitutes only a small part of the property buying process. The only difference in the way property is bought and sold between today and 10 years back is the search part which has completely moved online. But the innovators in this space have failed to migrate other aspects of property buying online. DoorKeys is doing exactly that. We have already created an online negotiation platform where buyers can negotiate with multiple sellers online without getting spammed and proceed with the seller who is able match his or her pricing expectations. Next in line will be online agent selection and property shortlisting, all from the comfort of the buyer’s home. We believe that internet should be seen as a transaction enabler and facilitator rather than just a search tool.
 
Disruption seems to be the norm in most industries? Do you expect Automation and technology to play a major role in the real estate segment?
We are working towards creating tools for our seller community, so that it can enable them to do the last mile fulfillment as well as match buyer expectations in a better manner. On the buyer side, we will continuously improvising and building on to the platform to enable better credit profiling, so that both buyers and sellers are confident of dealing with each other.
 
The sector has not received enough attention, as prices remain elevated. How do you view the situation?
Yes the prices remain elevated, but the interesting thing is that it has stabilized with zero upward movement from the last 2-3 years. But the income levels have gone up bringing in more affordability. So the actual end user absorption has increased though pure short term investors are no longer around.
 
Explain to us your business model.
DoorKeys is India’s first buyer-focused real estate platform. It has been conceptualized by real estate and technology veterans and funded by top developers and investors. Our aim is to make home buying simple and enjoyable, the way it should be! Everyone loves looking at houses online but when it comes to buying and selling, it’s often described as something to “get through” or “survive.” It’s actually very stressful.
 
If you’ve bought or sold a home you can relate to the headaches and anxiety that come from the existing real estate process in India. When we created DoorKeys, the founders began by asking the question “how can we use technology to improve the experience for buyers so that they are not lost in this complicated maze of property sites?”
 
To start with, we spoke with lots of real estate agents, seasoned home buyers and sellers. We learned buyers were anxious during the offer process, feeling like they were submitting an offer to a black box. There is no way to discover market price basis the demand supply ratio guessing at the price and wondering if their offer had even been seen by the seller. Buyers were also worried about putting their contact details on property portals as they were spammed mercilessly.
 
DoorKeys simplifies the home-buying process by giving buyers amongst other tools, the power to negotiate for properties online.
 
The DoorKeys core proposition to the buyers is ‘Buy at your price’ which essentially gives the buyer the power to negotiate online with sellers. Currently in most Indian cities, there is a huge mismatch in pricing expectation between what the buyer is willing to pay and what sellers are asking for. This has created distress in some markets today with minimal transactions, which is resulting in buyers holding off from completing purchases and record unsold inventories.
 
With DoorKeys you can:
  • Discover properties in your budget, what other similar buyers are willing to pay for it and what are other users saying about the location, project and property
  • Negotiate with prospective sellers on the basis of market price, demand and supply for a property
  • If required, you can choose a seller/agent on the basis of peer Buyer ratings and reviews
  • Buy the property of your choice through a top rated agent and save from anywhere between 10-40%
 
What makes your platform unique? How different are you from FangDD.com? How did you conceive the idea about starting this?
What makes DoorKeys a unique platform is that it targets three different pain areas for Indian consumers namely:
 
Pricing (currently prices are quoted without any rationale, at sellers discretion) – At Doorkeys using big data analysis we assess the gap between, ask and demand price, thus assisting the buyer to negotiate a better price.
 
Spamming – Doorkeys is Zero Spam. Buyer has an option to interact with a seller anonymously and avoid being hounded by sellers.
 
Choose an agent basis expertise and consumer ratings: Build a robust rating and review mechanism, which will be the basis for seller visibility on the site unlike other portals where the seller can get higher visibility for a certain fee.
 
To start with, we spoke with lots of real estate agents, seasoned home buyers and sellers. We learned buyers were anxious during the offer process, feeling like they were submitting an offer to a black box. There is no way to discover market price basis the demand supply ratio guessing at the price and wondering if their offer had even been seen by the seller. Buyers were also worried about putting their contact details on property portals as they were spammed mercilessly. DoorKeys simplifies the home-buying process by giving buyers amongst other tools, the power to negotiate for properties online.
 
How did you form your initial team? What was the common thread that got you all together?
My co-founder Subhash and I have been friends for a long time now and a few months ago he was looking at different models to build or invest in India. He did not see any of the existing models solving the pain points that people are facing. We wanted to oversome these hurdles with the help of tech and crowd-sourcing consumer feedback. Later, we ran the idea via the potential user eco-system – consumers, agents/brokers and builders and realized we had a great idea at hand waiting to be realised.
 
You got around 2 million USD as investment. How are you utilising that. How much stake did you give away?
We have received an initial investment of 2 million USD – which will be spent largely in building out the product and technology platform.
Stake/valuation is confidential.
 
You tied-up with Experian for credit rating. Is it helping at a retail level while looking for property?
Credit ratings build up the seller confidence in the prospective buyer, this is something which no platform offers. Listings on established portals get more response from brokers rather than potential buyers which are a put off for both brokers and individual property owners. A credit rating along with LinkedIn profile gives a basic idea about the customer professional and financial profile which means the seller will be more willing to negotiate and bring his ask price down as the chance of closing the deal is higher.
 
What are the opportunities and challenges in this business?
The current industry sentiment has been negative for a while now – yet we have received tremendous amount of positive response from sellers as well as flexibility on the pricing side from the sellers – which has helped us to close more transactions, so we are very optimistic and confident about success in this segment.
 
Brief us on your financials?
Our FY18 estimate is US$12mn.
 
What is your advice to youngsters who wish to become entrepreneurs in the real estate business?
Entrepreneurship is no cakewalk and you have to be willing to really get down in the trenches. If you want to be successful, be prepared to be doubted and tested. Run your start-up like a business and for that it’s very important to have a team that understands and supports your vision. From my own experience – my advice is be humble, be hungry and always be the hardest worker in the room! This applies for anyone trying to start-up in any field.
 
Would you call yourself a tech or real estate company?
We are a technology enabled real estate platform.
 
What is your staff strength?
We are currently a team of 40 and targeting 80 by the end of 2016.  
 
Comment on your geographical spread?
We plan to reach out to 8 cities in India, and are targeting 50,000 DoorKeys affiliated “Neighborhood Experts” in top 8 cities in FY18.
 

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