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Published on: Dec. 12, 2022, 2:08 p.m.
How NoBroker.com changed the course in real estate
  • Gupta, Agarwal and Garg: connecting buyers and sellers

By Arbind Gupta. Assistant Editor, Business India

When, in November last year, NoBroker.com, a tech-based brokerage-free real estate platform raised $210 million (Series E funding round) from marquee investors like General Atlantic, Tiger Global and Moore Strategic Ventures, at a valuation of $1 billion, it became the first unicorn in the domestic proptech sector. The Bengaluru-based start-up, co-founded in 2013 by IIT and IIM alumni Akhil Gupta, Amit Kumar Agarwal and Saurabh Garg, to make real estate transactions seamless and efficient, has so far raised $361 million.

It raised an initial round of funding from SAIF Partners (now Elevation Capital) of $3 million in 2015, followed by a Series B of $17million from Japanese investor Beenext and Korean investor KTB Ventures in 2016. This apart, Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm and Anand Chandrasekaran (former Airtel and Snapdeal CPO, who has backed more than 80 start-ups since 2015) are angel investors in the company.

NoBroker’s this latest valuation was a 2.5x jump from the previous year, when it raised $30 million at a valuation of $400 million. The significant uptick in valuation came on the back of an increase in the purchase and sale of real estate, the company’s offerings that went beyond its listing services, and a drop in interest rates post-Covid-19.

In the last few years, the company, a disruptive real-estate platform that makes it possible to buy/ sell/ rent a house or property, without paying any brokerage, has also started offering value-added services, capturing the entire customer journey from listing a house to hiring packers and movers, securing a home loan, home interior, painting and cleaning services, legal services and rent payments, among other things. Currently, over 7.5 million properties are registered on the platform, while cumulative customer base comprises over 20 million users.

NoBroker.com is today one of India’s largest packer & mover aggregators, facilitating 200,000 truck movements every year. The company’s platform has till date facilitated home loan disbursement of over Rs1,000 crore. It carries out over 3,000 home interior projects (with ticket size of Rs2-40 lakh) every year.

Nobroker’s team of legal experts prepares 120,000 rental agreement documents for its customers. NoBrokerHood, the neighbourhood super app, is a visitor/society/accounting management system for apartments and housing societies and about 15,000 housing societies are using the app to manage their various functions efficiently. The company is looking to sign up about 100,000 societies in the next two-three years. 

Helping customers to save

These value-added services account for almost 60 per cent of the company’s revenue, while its real estate vertical (buying/ selling/ renting) earns revenue through various subscription plans. The company claims to handle around $2 billion worth of transactions on its platform each year and has already helped the Indian real estate customers save over Rs11,000 crore in brokerage to date. The platform which looks to disrupt the Indian $19-billion real estate brokerage business, helped its customer save about Rs1,100 crore worth of brokerage in 2020 itself.

With more than 20 million registered users across six major cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi-NCR, Nobroker has emerged as the world’s largest C2C real estate platform which adds 650,000 new customers every year, even as it is hosting 3.5 million properties every year. 

“Technology has permeated all aspects of real estate and has streamlined many processes in the vastly unorganised sector,” affirms Gupta, co-founder & CTO, NoBroker. “It has transformed the experience of renting, buying and selling properties, apart from addressing deep-seated structural inefficiencies in the sector, such as information asymmetry and unfair pricing. Technology allows access to all the relevant data and insights to buyers and sellers, tenants and landlords including historical pricing trends to help them make the most informed property decisions. Technology is also enabling consumers to access other property-related services such as loan application, home cleaning, packers and movers, etc, on a single platform, thus simplifying their lives and elevating their overall experience”. 

  • Apart from our coreactivity of property transaction, we are today present across the entire user journey starting from the house search to home loans, legal documentation, packers & movers and cleaning, painting and renovation

“In the last few years, our platform has transformed into a `One-stop-shop’ for home buyers, who are also looking for many other services as part of their home buying exercise,” informs Amit Kumar Agarwal, co-founder & CEO, NoBroker.com.

“Apart from our core activity of property transaction, we are today present across the entire user journey starting from the house search to home loans, legal documentation, packers & movers and cleaning, painting and renovation. Over the years, we have built up a pretty large data base of customers and now we are building up capabilities to serve our customers across multiple sectors. Having revolutionised house hunting not just by eliminating brokerage but also by making it convenient and hassle-free with the use of cutting edge technology and innovations, we now are looking to provide our customers a holistic experience”.

“NoBroker is India’s largest C2C real estate marketplace for residential and commercial properties across rental and sale transactions,” Elevation Capital, a Gurugram-based venture capital firm, reveals.

“The platform eliminates brokers or agents from real estate transactions by connecting transacting parties directly. It also provides related services like rental agreements, packers & movers, rent-pay, insurance, etc. We believed in their vision of using technology to eliminate middlemen from real estate transactions, who charge a commission of up to 20 per cent primarily due to information asymmetry and invested in NoBroker.com, when they were operating in only 15 neighbourhoods of Mumbai, with less than 50 new listings per day”.

In April this year, Elevation Capital launched a $670 million Fund VIII. The fund primarily focusses on early-stage and growth-stage start-ups. Founded in 2002, Elevation Capital has invested about $2 billion in more than 150 companies, including NoBroker, FirstCry, Makemytrip, Meesho, Paytm, Sharechat, Spinny, Swiggy, Unacademy, Urban Company and Xpressbees. Interestingly, 13 of its portfolio  companies have joined the unicorn club, achieving a valuation of more than $1 billion.

Eliminating middlemen

NoBroker, which connects owners & tenants, as also buyers & sellers directly with each other by eliminating the middleman, is using its raised funds in scaling the business across verticals, such as real estate, financial services and home services. The company plans to use the money to penetrate deeper into six cities where it has presence and expand operations to 50 cities, as well as to significantly expand its society management app NoBrokerHood.

Experts feel that the company which closes 50,000 rental transactions and 4,000-5,000 buy/sell transactions every month, is likely to gain significantly since in the last few quarters, the real estate sector (both residential and commercial) has witnessed massive traction and the trend is likely to continue going ahead as things are fast falling in place post Covid.

“Real estate activity in India has been slow over the last few years, due to negligible capital appreciation,” reveals Garg, co-founder & CBO, NoBroker. “However, ironically, due to Covid, people realised the importance of owning a home. This coupled with attractive builder discounts and government initiatives, and most importantly due to historic low-interest rates gave the sector a much-needed impetus. Property purchase activity has gone up drastically. With the reopening of offices driving professionals back to key urban geographies, houses are being rented within a few hours of being listed on top proptech platforms such as NoBroker. As a result, investors are flocking to invest in real estate, which has demonstrated itself to be more stable and delivering better returns than other investment options currently”.  

  • Real estate asset classes have been on the recovery path over the past few quarters

According to Knight Frank India, despite being a year marked by a repo rate hike through various rate cycles, the residential market has remained resilient in the leading eight residential markets of India with 232,396 home unit sales during the nine-month period in 2022 -- a 40 per cent increase over 163,426 residential volume sales in a stable repo rate environment of the nine-month period of 2021.

“All real estate asset classes have been on the recovery path over the past few quarters,” observes Shishir Baijal, chairman & managing director, Knight Frank India. “However, the recovery in the residential segment was the swiftest and most substantial. While the increasing interest rates will impact affordability, underlying need for home-ownership remains strong. We do not believe that home loan rates approaching 2019 levels will be enough to subdue market momentum significantly. The performance of the broader economy and homebuyer sentiment will have a greater bearing on market traction for the remainder of the year as it dictates homebuyer income levels and demand much more directly”.

The last two years per se has also been quite remarkable for Nobroker, as it has seen its topline growing by 2x y-o-y from about R64 crore in 2019-20. This momentum has come in the wake of an extra-ordinary surge in demand for its services. “The next 2-3 years will be quite eventful for us, as we look to not only break even, but also turn profitable,” contends Agarwal.

“Despite challenges, we have grown 2-3x every year and the revenue earned has been invested in growing the business further. However, now we are in a position that we can monetise our developed capabilities to make profit. Having done so, we will also be preparing for our listing on the bourses in the next three years”.

A banking & finance veteran with over 13 years of experience in management consulting and strategy, Agarwal is responsible for defining and guiding the overall vision and direction at NoBroker.com and spearheads the company’s corporate strategies. An alumnus of the IIT Kanpur and IIM Ahmedabad, he was previously associated with the management consulting division, banking & financial services vertical, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

He worked with many leading Indian and foreign banks during his eight years at PwC, leading consulting teams and working directly with top CXOs on critical aspects such as formulating business strategy and enhancing on-ground profitability. Prior to taking the entrepreneurial leap with NoBroker.com, he was working with ANZ Bank, leading its strategy function in India and formulating its countrywide strategy. 

Also an alumnus of IIT Bombay and IIM Ahmedabad, co-founder Garg is CBO at NoBroker, spear-heading the company’s marketing vertical and business strategy. He is responsible for devising and implementing innovative marketing strategies to make people aware about NoBroker’s unique proposition and has been instrumental in achieving the lowest customer acquisition costs in the competitive Indian real estate sector. Prior to founding NoBroker, he spent almost three years with the sales & marketing team of at Hindustan Unilever. 

  • NoBroker.com is today one of India’s largest packer & mover aggregators, facilitating 200,000 truck movements every year

A veteran holding over a decade’s worth of experience in the technology domain, Gupta is CTO, NoBroker. In addition to spear-heading the tech vertical, he is responsible for building, scaling and managing teams, as well as driving overall business growth at the company. Gupta also oversees the product and is continually improving processes to further heighten the customer experience.

NoBroker.com was one of the first C2C platform to launch AMP solution for faster loading on slower mobile internet connections and this saw a jump of 77 per cent in the interactions on the platform. He holds a dual degree (BTech and MTech) from the IIT, Bombay and has previously worked with Oracle and PeopleFluent. 

Backed by a strong core team, NoBroker is certainly leaving its mark in domestic real estate sector which in the last decade or so has undergone a big transition in the wake of a series of policy initiatives led by RERA. Experts strongly believe that these policy measures, coupled with technology interventions by proptech players like Nobroker (competing with other start-ups like 99acres.com, Square Yards, PropTiger and Magicbricks), will go a long way in infusing transparency into the whole system. 

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology and digitalisation in the domestic real estate sector. Along with these proptech entities, some of the organised brokerage firms like Anarock are also building up their capabilities to explore the domestic residential sales market through tech-driven solutions. Experts are of the opinion that, in the given situation, the domestic real estate market as a whole presents huge opportunities for proptech players, who are using technology to streamline the various functions across the value chain.

“All these years, residential sales and rental space in particular, despite being a big business, has not been dealt in an organised manner,” feels Ambar Maheshwari, CEO, Indiabulls Asset Management Co. “Now, with the entry of organised players like NoBroker, Anarock and other proptech players, we are going so see further transition and that will lead to creation of a much transparent and vibrant market place. As a country, we are definitely following the global trend, but we still have to travel some distance before we are comparable to other organised markets”.

With all these developments in place, NoBroker.com is building up its presence in the domestic real estate market in a big way. The start-up, along with other proptech players, are trying to disrupt an age-old real estate industry which despite some recent progressive changes, has continued to function in a certain manner.

Nobroker’s business model is hugely scalable and the product reach has good potential. In order to maintain its brokerage free transaction model in a sustainable manner, the company has come up with a whole lot of value-added services for home buyers. This will also help company scale up its business in a profitable way. 

The company has built up a massive user base, which provides it with significant insights into the behaviour, demand and consumption patterns of the domestic real estate customer and help it design and come up with newer products and services. But all said and done, it remains to be seen, how NoBroker takes its journey from here onward.

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