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Indian portals must focus on consumers

International portals face similar problems

The trickle of investments into Indian online real estate space has become a flood over the past few quarters, with significant money pouring in from Softbank Group, News Corp, NEA, Tiger Global and others. Flush with investment dollars, the leading online real estate players are trying to do everything possible to attract eyeballs – running expensive pay-per-click campaigns, releasing full-page ads in newspapers and planning television ad blitzes. However, in this marketing war for gaining traction, all players need to focus on the most important driver of their success – the consumer holding the purse strings.

Classified listing portals are mostly being used by intermediaries for setting traps and tossing up smokescreens, while other transaction-oriented portals in the market are being used by builders to push the latest launch projects. In a market gripped with uncertainty and sky-high property prices, the consumer needs a lot more from online real estate businesses. And there are three clear places where the portals can focus.

First, consumers need lot more information – complete, reliable and fresh, delivered in an easy-to-use way at an appropriate stage of decision-making. Drone views of the property and 3D walkthroughs are fine, but customers also need much more usable information, such as property indices and details about how well a project is connected, how livable it is and whether a consumer will get good value for their money at the current prevailing price.

Consumers also want on-the-ground information like the legal status of project, government clearances, the builder’s reputation, past project delivery, civic infrastructure and construction quality – and no player is currently able to provide this information in transparent and usable manner.

Second, there is deep need for quality services – advisory, financial, legal, post-deal services and more. This is one area where there is significant lag, especially on the digital front, in the Indian real estate market. Only two services exist, classifieds and new launch booking. The consumer is left in the lurch for vast parts of the decision-making journey as the service mindset is missing. There is a huge scope of innovative services across that journey, including helping consumers define their needs, identifying the best properties based on those needs, performing smarter searches, evaluating finances and comparing projects or units at different levels.

Third, deal-making needs to undergo a tectonic shift, and pseudo-advisors must give way to genuine last-leg decision-making and transaction support. Purchasing property can be a vital and expensive decision fraught with risks, and it is clear that digital products and services cannot entirely replace physical counterparts. However, in an Indian context, digital platforms take away a lot of the unnecessary pain and unnerving experiences that buyers and sellers have to go through before things get to money negotiations.

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Given improving technology adoption curves and best-in-class digital experiences emerging in other industries, online real estate businesses must focus on eliminating a big chunk of pain in industry using digital technologies and services, including ones that help brokers and advisors create a much stronger, more positive impact by helping the customer.

Rohit Raghav is co-founder of Realizing.in, a real estate startup in India focused on deploying innovative solutions that deliver delightful and rewarding property decisions.