For housing as a product to evolve, we need to connect housing to personal lifestyle and personal finance. Our next big thing is going to be around how we curate moving in experiences for customers of real estate companies. The objective is to make moving in cheaper and more delightful for customers, says Akhil Saraf, Founder and CEO, Reloy.
HDFC-backed PropTech firm Reloy a real estate digital amenities and referral solutions provider founded in 2015. The company focuses on creating customer and channel partner delight on behalf of real estate builders by enabling digital amenities and multiplying real estate sales.
In an exclusive interview with Sanjeev Sinha, Mr Saraf shares his views on how their company is striving hard to make the home buying process smooth and joyful for a customer. Excerpts:
What are the primary shortfalls in customer service and care when it comes to the real estate sector in India?
Traditionally, customer service in real estate didn’t exist. After customers bought a property, they were “stuck” with the builder due to high cancellation charges. Customers would endlessly follow up for construction updates, project updates, invoices and documents.
Meanwhile, good builders were focusing on the product and everything related to delivering it – land, capital, project construction, sales, marketing and even local & state governments. With so much to manage, a good builder will ensure construction and payment updates are available but that’s as high as the benchmark goes.
This inability to focus on customers and what homeowners aspire from their homes is what makes real estate an underutilized asset class. By harnessing our technology, our clients are not only serving all their customer’s core needs but proactively going above and beyond with lifestyle benefits and now entering the era of digital amenities.
What are the services that Reloy is offering to make the home buying process and after buying experience of a homebuyer smooth and joyful?
New homeowners are one of the most vital cogs in the economic machinery. We create customer loyalty through delight. For this, we first address the core challenges homeowners face – live ticket management, construction updates and payment updates. At the point of possession, we source deals on common purchases to make it cheaper for customers to move in.
By tying up with builders, we create digital amenities inside the housing societies that optimise the building for senior citizens, young parents, environmentalists or fitness enthusiasts.
How can the PropTech platform change or improve the image of supply side stakeholders in the real estate business?
The most fundamental rule of referrals in real estate is that only happy homeowners refer. Through our customer loyalty programs, we look to tap into the positivity that exists in the homeowners and channel that to get referrals.
We are already living in a post RERA world where the product has been standardized and builders are working to ensure on-time delivery.
The next leg of growth will come from customer delight and improving the product, that is real estate. A better, more thoughtful product that is being voiced by new homeowners in the form of referrals is what will change the perception of builders.
Do you think data-driven decision making is the future of the real estate sector in India? Are we on the right track or still lagging behind?
The challenge with data-driven decisions in India is still the lack of quality data. A lot of people have started addressing this in different forms but there is no perfect system that exists even today. Our tech is providing some alternate data points around customer satisfaction to improve decision making.
Our data points span the entire lifecycle of the customer from lead generation to post-handover. This gives the builder richer insights into planning buildings in the future better.
How is the PropTech platform like Reloy supposed to change the real estate market?
Our objective is to evolve real estate as a product. The housing sector has not evolved in the last decade. This is seen in the data too – our current volumes in the top 7 cities are still 30% below 2013-14 levels whereas India’s GDP has expanded by 55% in the same period. Post Covid, the need for housing has seen a significant rise. It remains a real asset even as currencies across the world have disappeared. Customers are clear – they want larger spaces, with more amenities and more convenience. Our mission is to use technology to connect homes to personal finance and a customer’s lifestyle.
Real estate is an underutilized asset and by connecting builders, buyers, brokers and third-party companies which are fueling our digital amenities, we want to evolve real estate as a product.
What are the next big things you are working on?
For housing as a product to evolve, we need to connect housing to personal lifestyle and personal finance. Our next big thing is going to be around how we curate moving in experiences for customers of real estate companies. The objective is to make moving in cheaper and more delightful for customers.
Developers and real estate agents have traditionally been slow to embrace technology. Do you think you will be able to solve this challenge and how?
Developers are hesitant to embrace technology as it has not worked for them in the past. Working around sensitivities of homeowner’s data is something that is very challenging. Previously, developers were not really considering putting technology into the system because it was expensive and not easily available. Now they have started adopting technologies incredibly fast because they understand the value of what that can create for them.
The challenge in PropTech adoption was less about intent but more about having relevant technology and the overall slowdown in the industry.
How does the investors’ community view the definition of emergence and growth of PropTech in India?
Investors love large unorganized markets. So far, the challenge has been to align the stakeholders together, the key stakeholder being builders. We have taken the lead, to bring symmetry for the entire housing sector. We believe that the value we’ll unlock for the entire PropTech sector is going to be enormous.
Investors have started recognizing this piece and PropTech investments are expected to touch around 1 billion by 2025.