Housing has been founded by a group of graduates from IIT Bombay. And the one thing that most of us founders have in common is that we all come from small towns and villages of the country. I myself am from Jammu and, all my life, I’ve either stayed at home or in the hostel at IIT. So I’ve never really had to worry about searching for accommodation.
I remember clearly. It was February of last year- my final semester. We suddenly realized that, for the first time in our lives, we needed to search for a place to stay for the next few years. So, we started our home search process pretty early. But within the first few days, we realized that it was going to be a nightmare.
After around 30 frustrating days of roaming all over the city, we finally found something that barely met our requirements. But the only thought that kept coming back to us again and again and again was that this problem has existed for many years now and, if nothing is done about it, it’ll simply continue to exist. I mean, our seniors had faced this problem, we faced this problem and even our juniors would.
And at that moment, we had a realization that, maybe; we could come up with a solution for this problem.
It is this small idea, that 5-6 of us could solve the problem that has now become Housing.com.
Now all this was really fantastic, but at that time we didn’t have any idea about what a start-up was and what we had to do! So, it was really important that we were completely clear about the values on which this company was going to be built- what approach we would take going forward. And I’d like to take you through them.
The first value that we have at Housing is ‘Empathy’. You have to empathize with the user. If you look at it, we were trying to solve a problem which we ourselves had faced. So we were the users! And it’s always about people. So we did a lot groundwork, a lot research for a month or so, took all those learnings, and started building on the product.
The second and the most important value I think for any start up is ‘Focus’ . See, the thing is, you’ve just graduated from I.I.T., you’re a first time entrepreneur and most of all, you’re very easily distracted. But the only way that Housing was able to grow really fast was by focusing on the top questions that needed to be answered, fast. Every day, we would pick up 3 questions that were urgent and important and just went ahead and solved them. And this is very crucial.
The third and the final value at Housing is ‘Great Presentation’. You can have the best product in the world or the best service in the world, but if you present it in a bad way, people will perceive it as worthless. But if you present it in an awesome way, people will love it. And that’s why we’ve given so much emphasis on the UI/UX of our product. I mean, browsing the website is like having fun on the net. That’s the amount of consideration that we’ve put into designing this.
And while we’ve carried forward these values with us even today, they were admittedly the most strong when we were developing the product. We spent a good one month working on the product and, I still remember, we launched it on the 7th of June last year. Trust me, the moment you get into business, things become really exciting. Let me give you all a little background of the industry we’re operating in. The real estate classified industry started shaping up around 8-10 years ago, and the initial players felt that they’re converting a process that’s completely offline and making it partially online. And that they’re bringing convenience into the system. And, for this, people should love them, right? Wrong! The real problem plaguing real estate for years and years is lack of authentic information. People want information that they can trust, that helps them in making a buying or selling decision. That’s why Flipkart or Google is so valuable. And that is why we have an in-house data collection team. These guys are trained for 3-4 weeks before they’re sent to the field and they visit the houses of our partner brokers and landlords, take high quality photos, note down details, punch it in the backend and then it’s pushed live.
So, data collection is a process that is really unique to Housing in this industry. But the funny thing is that making a new process is really easy. Give me a pen and paper and I’ll make you a process. However implementing a new processes is really tough. Why is that? Because it’s really tough to change people’s psychology! It’s really tough to make people feel at ease with a radically new process. In the early days of Housing , brokers and landlords would be very skeptical about a random guy coming from an unfamiliar company and saying, “I want to take photos of your house!”Who wouldn’tThis was one of the first challenges that we faced. And we’ve faced challenges every single day in this journey.
Sometimes, when you start-up, you tend to believe that there’s no support out there, that you’re alone. But an amazing thing happens once you take a step forward in the right direction. There are many people out there wanting to help.
Sometimes, when you start-up, you tend to believe that there’s no support out there, that you’re alone. But an amazing thing happens once you take a step forward in the right direction. There are many people out there wanting to help. And Housing has been fortunate enough to have found great partners, and great mentors. We’ve received 3 rounds of funding in less than 1 year now. The first was by Mr. Zishaan Hayath and his friends, all alumni of I.I.T. And it’s great to get support from your group. They put close to INR 50lakh into the company. The 2nd round funding was by Mr. Haresh Chawla, the ex-CEO of Network 18 (CNBC News, Burrp.com, etc.). He put in approximately INR 1.5 crore. And I’m really happy to announce that, recently, we received our first round of venture funding by Nexus Venture Partners. They’ve pumped in $ 2.5 million into the company. It’s really great! It’s overwhelming at times.
As a result of this support, I’ve seen the company grow from 5-6 of us to over 600 people in just 1 year. It feels great to be responsible for the employment and growth of 600 people. We’re now live in 10 cities. And, I believe, it is our continued focus towards doing great work for the people that will take us forward.