Those moving into a new city will know how hard it could get to zero in on a perfect rental property hassle-free. And, it could get far more difficult if you are a singleton looking for shared accommodation. Well, most people rely on online classifieds like Sulekha, Just Dial and likewise, which help discover and connect you to property owners. However, Bengaluru startup goes beyond that for an end-to-end service that will help you discover a property that ticks all your criteria to settling into it, sans the need to deal with a broker.
In the past one and half year, the company has helped 11 lakh people find houses and currently claims 4.5 million monthly traffic.
We visited their plush office in Koramangala to meet the co-founder Pankhuri Shrivastava. In fact, Pankhuri tells us that GrabHouse is an idea emerged out of her own quest to search a good house for over two years. While the classified helped discover properties, it eventually boiled down to a tedious process related to middle-men and factors that you are unaware while renting a property. “When I would visit the broker I wouldn’t have the visibility about the house and most of the time, they don’t match my requirements. Even if I like the house there would be brokerage amount involved in it. There were lot of compromises the people were making in finding the right house,” she said.
GrabHouse is a full fledged rental platform and the direct connect between the owners and the tenants, with all the information about the house and the neighbourhood under one roof. One of the prime verticals of GrabHouse is Shared accommodation. If you’ve ever moved to a city like Bangalore (and not limited to it), you will realise how important this vertical could get. So, we weren’t surprised when Pankhuri said about 60 percent queries were looking for shared accommodation. “We have the vertical where we convert houses into shared accommodation, and manage the tenant in that. We manage the occupancy level, who comes in, who is leaving and the owner gets the rent every month,” she explains.
The company has built an in-house software, a proprietary technology that handles these recommendations made to users. So, once you key in all the details on the site, some property recommendations will populate on your device’s display. The software has been updated over the time and has gone from matching five date pointers to over 100 data pointers. These include the kind of room mates you prefer, type of house or locality, amenities and so on.
“Our recommendation engine also takes into consideration the lifestyle habits of people. And then we recommend the best kind of people. So they meet like minded people, stay connected with them through different kinds of content that we create and finally the deal is sealed, ” she adds.
The startup then takes the feedback post your visit. A lot of organic information is captured from feedback about the property such as some may find the by lane unsafe for women. If you reject a set of recommendations, another set will be displayed. “So we are on discovery, we are in transactions; we are in helping people take the right decision. We are in time holding from a person start searching till they settle. So that entire experience is managed by us,” she adds.
Last year in October,GrabHouse raised $ 10 million Series B Funding. All’s never always well in paradise as we heard about numerous job cuts in the startup space, and Grabhouse was one such startup. It went through a complete restructuring.
The startup grabbed a lot of attention for restructuring in late December which also included handing over pink slips to over 100 employees. Currently, the company has 150 employees. Pankhuri explains that they are also in the learning process and GrabHouse is beyond discovery and what they do involve tracking every property from scratch to fulfillment on a day to day basis. This involved a lot of ground work. However, soon they realised that technology could handle these parameters, making a part of the work force redundant.
“All this happened because we have got lot of on ground information and intelligence formed by the people who were working with us and now we are able to create, and automate the technologies around it which replaced that. We did not need too many people to be doing that actively, manually, on ground, on field, so that is the reason all the restructuring happened,” she said. In fact, she also adds that the recommendation earlier was not of that great level but today it has because extremely refined.
GrabHouse offers a brokerage free model, and makes money by charging users a minimal sum of about Rs 49 to Rs 99. However, it is limited to sharing the contact number. Explaining further, she adds, “Then we have a shared accommodation model where, the rent is routed through us and we take our monthly commission on per bed basis. Then we work with commercially run PGs also where for every transaction we have a certain percentage of closing that we take from owners end. So whatever service we take for getting a person to start living in a house is paid by the owner and this not a form of brokerage which is paid by the seeker of the property.”
The company is a web service and has an efficient mobile site. It still hasn’t planned on developing a mobile app. However, Pankhuri says that the roadmap for 2016 includes working on a mobile app along with refining recommendation engine and strengthening the tech team.