In an exclusive interview, Mani Rangarajan, Group COO, Housing.com, Makaan.com and Proptiger.com, shares his views on the impact of Coronavirus on real estate and the strategies being adopted by realty and proptech companies to sustain in the market.
The current nationwide lockdown imposed in view of the Covid-19 crisis has adversely impacted the real estate sector, including proptech companies. Sales have been badly impacted in the past one month. As regards to queries, with most of the people remaining confined to their homes, they are searching online, which under the current circumstances is an encouraging sign. Although the chances of any further reduction in prices are very remote, particularly in the affordable housing segment, however, the prices may reduce a bit in the premium/ luxury segment, says Mani Rangarajan, Group COO, Housing.com, Makaan.com and Proptiger.com. In an exclusive interview with Sanjeev Sinha, he shares his views on the impact of Coronavirus on real estate and the strategies being adopted by realty and proptech companies to sustain in the market. Excerpts:
What is the impact of the current lockdown on proptech companies?
This is an unprecedented crisis and in the short run every sector is bound to suffer barring a few like Pharma and FMCG, among others. The real estate sector too is adversely impacted and accordingly all proptech companies are also impacted.
However, in the long run, we believe that once things normalizes, proptech companies like us stand to benefit. The reason being, the crisis is likely to bring about a behavioral change and more and more people would embrace technology in the future. And also, people have somewhere realized the importance of having own house which is nowadays considered as safe heaven to prevent yourself from any trouble.
Such a scenario would certainly help companies like us. In fact, this may be a sheer coincidence that just a couple of months ago, we launched a product DigiTour 2.0, with an intention to provide a new experience to those who search for properties online. The demand and usefulness of such products are likely to increase day by day as it helps in doing away with initial site visit while planning to buy a house, which in turn helps in shortlisting & reduces the duration of home buying journey.
What is the impact on sales and queries as compared to normal days?
It is extremely difficult to give a specific number, but there is little doubt that sales have been badly impacted in the past one month or so. As buying properties can be easily deferred by a few months, people are in a wait and watch mode.
As regards to queries, with most of the people remaining confined to their homes, they are searching online. Though there has been some drop in searches, but it is not drastic. Under the current circumstances, we see this as an encouraging sign and hence we have rolled out multiple schemes for our partner brokers / builders to push the business and also schemes for customers to close deals online.
Do you foresee price correction in the real estate sector?
According to a recent report released by our group company PropTiger.com, property values in a majority of India’s prime residential markets have seen dismal growth in the past five years, indicating that a prolonged demand slowdown has kept value appreciation under check. Amongst the top nine cities, it is Hyderabad with a CAGR of 7% that recorded the highest increase between March 2015 and March 2020. Besides Hyderabad, only Mumbai and Bengaluru saw any noteworthy rise — of 2.8% and 2.1% CAGR, respectively. The Gurugram and Noida markets, on the other hand, reported decline in property value during the same period. Thus, chances of any further reduction in prices are very remote, particularly in the affordable housing segment. If any, the prices may reduce a bit in the premium / luxury segment.
What strategies are being adopted by companies to sustain in the market?
With all the on-ground activities on hold, most of the companies are trying to engage with various stakeholders including customers, channel partners, financial institutions as well as sector and economy experts via videoconferencing and other digital medium.
In line with the trend, we are also focusing on building a lot of content to engage with customers, either by way of creating lots of articles to increasing awareness on how they can plan to buy a home during these times. And also by leveraging its platform, Housing.com delivers high-level engagement for developers by organizing a series of industry webinar, bringing together all real estate stakeholders and key opinion leaders to address industry issues.
Please highlight your planning/ strategies in order to engage customers and overcome the situation? What steps have you take to help your clients?
We are adopting a two-pronged strategy – one for the customers and the other for clients. Amid the pandemic, the transaction may not happen immediately, but searches are happening as people are at home. Accordingly, we are trying to provide information in an innovative manner. For instance, we are extensively using video calls wherein we are connecting with consumers and developers via video calls. We are also sending 360-degree views of sample flat via WhatsApp link to consumers so that even though they can’t visit, but they can easily click on the link to have a 3D view of the house.
A lot of people are enquiring about the localities wherein they should invest or projects which may yield greater returns in the future. And we are trying our best to ensure that we provide informative content on various digital and social media platforms so as to cater to such requirements. We have witnessed some of content going viral and people sharing it in large numbers. It is working for us tremendously and we are exploring all platforms, including Twitter, Insta and Facebook, among others. We are also exploring partnering with some OTT platforms.
On the other hand, we are also trying to do our bit for clients. To reduce the pain and financial burden at the time of pandemic, we have launched an all-in-one Covid relief package for partners, which is aptly named ‘Housing Cares’. Under the package, we are providing huge discounts on all our advertisement packages. Besides, we are also extending the benefits across all ad packages for both new and existing clients. For clients, who were supposed to utilise our platform from April 1, we are providing them ‘Launch Moratorium’ till 31st May 2020 that gives them flexibility of package start date till 31th May 2020. In addition to it, since we are extensively focusing on using our Virtual TechAid, we are providing steep discount on visualisation products, which enables the client to connect with buyers, who are currently confined to their homes.