At a time when the entire real estate sector felt the heat of demonetisation last year, Housing.com saw an opportunity when others were predicting doomsday for the realty market. The company sensed where the growth was and re-entered the renting space.
"Demonetisation led to a deferring of demand for buy and sell. The deferment meant that rent traffic increased and was a much higher share of real estate seekers. We took the opportunity to re-introduce rentals in the platform and since then our total traffic has now touched about 7 million total monthly sessions "said Neeraj Chaturvedi, CMO, Housing.com.
Rental was one of its key focus areas for the company when it was founded in 2012. Later in November 2015, Housing.com closed its rental business to focus on home-buying and selling segment, the largest and the most lucrative category in India. In April 2017, the company decided to re-enter the rental sphere.
Demonetisation, under which the government scrapped the use of old Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, spelled disaster for many industries. But Housing.com managed to dodge the impact with its clever strategy. The company is now planning to capture the mindshare of consumers and break even by 2020.
"Demonetisation aided us when we moved back into rental. We needed a better go-to-market strategy and monetisation strategy. And when the time was opportune, we got back into the rental," he added.
According to the latest data by similarweb, Housing.com garnered 6.5 million impressions, magicbricks.com was at 7 million and 99acres.com was at 8.5 million (per month).
"Achieving the clear No. 1 position may take longer but by 2020, we will definitely become No. 1 or No. 2 player in the online property market. At present, our priority is to capture the mindshare of consumers," Chaturvedi said.
The estimated online properties market is nearly Rs 500 crore which is just online advertising revenue.
In 2015, Housing.com came into the limelight because of a conflict between the company Co-Founder & CEO Rahul Yadav and the investors. Yadav was later sacked by the company's board.
The future of Housing.com seemed dwindling until recently. But with the top management getting stable and funding getting back into the system, the company is back in the game.
Chaturvedi believes that the reputation of the people working in the company does impact its brand image on a B2B platform. On a B2C it doesn’t matter.
In January 2016, Commonfloor.com merged with Quikr in a $200-million all-stock deal stitched by Tiger Global, main investor in both Quikr and CommonFloor.
News Corp backed real estate website PropTiger merged with Housing.com early this year to become full service online-to-offline (O2O) real estate platform. Earlier in April 2015, PropTiger had bought Makaan.com which was a direct competition to Housing.com.
Could there be more consolidation in the online real estate space? Chaturvedi answered, “Consolidation had to happen and has happened. Further consolidation really depends on how quickly the digital advertising market grows. Earlier, a substantial part of real estate advertising was in print and outdoor but the trend is definitely moving towards digital. In 2013, 57 per cent of the people were researching online before buying any property. Today four years hence, with a much greater adoption of digital, with more of millennials coming into the workforce and thus needing real estate, this percentage figure will only grow. And once audience builds so will spend on digital real estate.”
Housing.com's biggest challenge has been to find a foothold in the cluttered online market and offer differentiated experience.
“In this category, 99acres and Magicbricks are the first movers. And first movers typically have a mind share disproportionate to actual adoption share. The biggest challenge for Housing.com is to get this mindshare and while our adoption share, which is growing rapidly, will aid it, the task of marketing is to accelerate it. In near-term we aim to get our proportionate share of mind, and it will be an interesting challenge," Chaturvedi said.
To differentiate itself, the company made strategic acquisitions, including Indian Real Estate Forum (IREF), India’s largest community forum on buying and selling homes; Realty Business Intelligence (RBI), a company focused on doing due diligence of new real estate projects; and HomeBuy360, a popular software for developers to manage and enhance their marketing and sales efforts.
The company is now trying hard to maintain the lead it has managed in the real estate segment and has launched a series of campaigns to reposition itself as the most credible platform.
Talking about the company's media plan, Chaturvedi said, "We will advertise in periods where there is more active interest and festive seasons are one of them. Our whole plan is hugely RoI led and there are some markets where we need to put more efforts. We could do some national campaign around festivals or some seasonal campaigns to boost our brand equity in those markets. To achieve our target, we would advertise as per our need and that depends upon market environment."
Recently, the company launched the TVC campaign “Housing.com par Jo Dikhe wahi Mile”.
With the TVC, the brand aims to inform people that ‘what you see is what you get’ on Housing.com. A key part of this promise is – “Sahi Photos, Sahi Price and Sahi Location.” The TVC is targeted towards home intenders in the 10 biggest cities in India who are looking to buy, sell or rent properties and will be launched on television channels and social media.
The 360-degree campaign will run across print, outdoor, digital, social and radio and is conceptualised by BBH India. The creative agency is also the one that makes Makaan.com’s creatives. Housing.com spends equally on digital and television.
Commenting on the TVC, Subhash Kamath, CEO & Managing Partner, BBH India, said, “The creative idea of ‘Jo Dikhe Wahi Mile’ is a simple yet memorable demonstration of the fact that Housing.com gives its customers the right and relevant information to help them find their dream homes. For consumers, this is a key and critical benefit as the brand delivers on increasing transparency in the sector."
Creative agency: BBH India
Director: Aakash Bhatia
Production House: Storytellers