The November 2016 demonetisation of two high-value currency notes by India dealt a body blow to, among others, the real estate sector. House purchases fell to a seven-year low in 2017, despite falling prices.
But Quikr kept raking in profits from the business.
In fact, over the last 12 months, the Indian startup’s realty revenues have tripled, COO Atul Tewari told Quartz. In financial year 2017-18, its overall business was generating revenue at an annualized run rate of $50 million, with realty accounting for 35%.
In an email interview, Tewari spoke about how Quikr also benefited from its many acquisitions in the sector: HDFC Realty, Grabhouse, CommonFloor. He explained why co-living or the model of sharing a residential space with roommates is the future. Edited excerpts:
The real estate sector has had a lot of macro challenges over the past year. How did Quikr manage to do well?
We believe that managed rentals (where fully-furnished apartments are managed by an agent on behalf of the owner), coupled with property listings for rent and sale, and our brokerage business have helped in offering a complete real estate solution to our consumers. Right from the start, we have (maintained) deep knowledge on the country’s real estate market and adopted the best business model for each segment. This way, we were able to address the different market dynamics which helped us realise phenomenal growth…we expect it to continue.
What were the main hurdles you faced in achieving profitability?
The industry is still fairly early in its use of technology, plus other aspects like validity of data and giving consumers as real an experience as possible. However, our five acquisitions have helped us. The fact that we realised steep growth…is an illustration of the power of our strategy.
How has technology played a role in the growth of your real estate vertical?
Artificial intelligence and data analytics have helped us understand the different trends. We’re able to see what homebuyers are looking for, what kind of property launches are in high demand, and the kind of developments in the micro markets, among others.
Which of your two divisions—brokerage and co-living—have delivered better revenues and why?
We have scaled our co-living platform from about 800 tenants at the time of acquiring Grabhouse in November 2016 to 45,000. This makes us the largest player in the industry. It also made the cost of customer acquisition zero, making Quikr the only profitable player in this segment.
Since the acquisition of HDFC’s brokerage business (now QuikrRealty) in December 2017, Quikr has started expanding the transactional services it offers. Realty business is growing at more than 25% month-on-month. While consumers take time to make their decisions, the number of deal closures are already growing at 10% month-on-month.
As both these businesses grow their supply and demand from our classified customers in QuikrHomes and Commonfloor, they are witnessing rapid growth in transactions. While deal sizes in brokerage businesses are higher, the number of transactions are fewer and payment cycles longer compared to the co-living business.
What are the unique challenges in the co-living segment?
With the expansion of cities, sale and rental of houses are becoming expensive, especially for students and professionals who shift cities for work. The concept of co-living is growing in India, especially in metros where young people are looking for a more amicable and social lifestyle. When people have the option to move into a space that’s easy to rent and aesthetically pleasing, what’s not to like in it? Moreover, they get the opportunity to live with like-minded people. With millennials seeking experiences over property possession, the co-living segment is here to stay.