NoBroker offers a peer-to-peer platform for home-seekers and home-owners to connect without having to deal with brokers. With the help of cutting-edge technology, NoBroker issolving the problem of information-asymmetry by recognizing customers’ need and acceptance of a brokerage-free real estate platform. Akhil Gupta, CTO and Co-Founder of NoBrokersharesthe motivation behind starting NoBroker, and the challenges he faced in turning it into a profit venture.
What motivated you to kick-start No-Broker?
It was more of a personal experience. When I got married and was looking for a house, I went through all the existing property sites like Magicbricks, and etc. First of all, whichever house I selected turned out to be non-existent, and I would always get connected to a broker; and that broker would say, that particular house is not available, and it just got rented out. But he claimed that he could show you some alternative options, and those options would have higher price than what has been put on the website. Actually, brokers were falsifying information and these portals were, and still are, acting as lead-generation tool for these brokers.
At that time, I started looking for a platform where I can look for a house without a broker, but nothing was available. With the passage of time, I found out, there are many people facing similar problem. It was at that moment Saurabh, Amit, and I decided to do something about this, and remove brokers from the whole equation.
If we look back, whenever we had to book our train or flight tickets we used to go to travel agents, they would ask for 200 rupees. But, slowly with evolution of internet and mobile companies, few players came into the market to remove these intermediaries as they started giving these services; like for movie tickets we started opting for BookMyShow, for trains, IRCTC was stealing the limelight, then MakeMyTrip started, and this way all intermediaries were removed, unlike real estate where we still pay about 18 percent as brokerage. And what are we paying this hefty brokerage for? Only to get the phone number of the owner!
If not this, what else would you have been doing?
Well, surely something of my own. After being in corporate spectrum for 10 years or so I had realized that when you are in a big corporate you are definitely doing something but it’s usually small. Whatever you are doing will take time to make an impact. When I was in Oracle, and I was heading one of the teams in India, I noticed those small changes; small ideations you are doing for the product would never be seen when you are part of a big organization, as you are not in a driving position.
I wanted to do something around this intermediary problem so that it will benefit the community.
Could you please walk us through the business model of NoBroker?
So, when we started out, it was about connecting one consumer with another. We would take care of both supply and demand, unlike other players. NoBroker is a consumer-to-consumer platform where if you don’t have a usual difference between supply and demand, it won’t work. So, for the initial couple of years we kept it simple, and we wanted the network to play out. We gave people what we promised as this is the only way you will sell yourself. You will tell someone, and they will tell others about it. Gradually, people started speaking about us, and that was about two years ago.
Recently, we have started charging the tenant wherein we have a subscription plan. Then there’s another plan called ‘1999 plan’. So, if we come across a house matching your requirements then you will be the first one to know about it. You can tell our relationship manager to schedule a meeting.
We make sure to slot a convenient time for customers. It becomes like an open house for the owner where certain people are coming to see the house. After that we negotiate and work on the rental agreement. We will make your house-hunting, even moving to another house a pleasurable experience.And it is irrespective of the fact whether you are picking a 20,000 rupees’ house or 1 lakh;because we are not brokers, we work on subscription basis.
What were the biggest challenges you ‘ve faced during the initial growth-stage of your company, and how did you overcome them?
As you will see, most of our startups are something that have already been started in the west, and we merely copy it, but NoBroker is a ‘made in India’ startup.One of the biggest challenges was making people believe that something that is not done in the west could actually work here. You have to explain your model to people and investors and make them believe.Then there’s this struggle with supply and demand. It’s highly probable that you have ample of supplies, but there’s no demand. Those were the two biggest challenges for us.
Although we were not earning money, but we kept it running for 11 month or so because we believed in our idea, and were quite certain that we would overcome these challenges.
What kind of marketing hacks have you employed so far to distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Supply and demand are the key elements for us. We reached out to individual owners to crowd-source our suppliers. It is often seen whenever a tenant moves out, the owner puts out a ‘to-let’ board with their phone number. So, in our initial days, we did a lot of surveys. We went around and clicked photographs of all the ‘to-let’ boards we could find, and then we called the owners to explain them our concept and tell them that we could list their house on our platform.
Once we got funded, we hired people to go around looking for houses with ‘to-let’ board, indicating that it is available for renting out. We also did a marketing campaign, in which if you downloaded the NoBroker app you would see a ‘click-n-earn’ feature that allows anybody to click and post photo of a ‘to-let’ board in their locality on the app. This amazing marketing strategy did very well for us. It turned out to be so successful that 30-35 percent of our listings came via crowdsourcing.
The person who posts the photograph would get 100 rupees in their Paytm wallet or bank account for every verified listing.