Homegrown Real Estate Player Clicbrics Focuses On Providing Price Transparency
"It is of utmost importance to us that our consumer gets it in one click by just inserting their requirements. Our focus at present is to be able to offer price transparency on residential real estate across the country," Rohit Malik, Founder and CEO, Clicbrics asserts
Clicbrics is India’s advanced digital residential real estate platform. It is a platform that utilizes AI and ML algorithms to provide price trends and accurate transactional pricing to every stakeholder in the real estate market. With over 10 million proprietary data points, Clicbrics is potentially building the MLS (Multiple Listing Service of India), which doesn't exist in the country due to the diversity in languages and no access to real-time transaction data.
Tell us about the inception. Especially the journey that led you to Clicbrics?
I come with a background in investing. I used to work for HSBC, in equity research and then moved to the US, where I started working with a hedge fund, as an analyst, covering stocks. After a couple of years, I became a portfolio manager for a larger hedge fund, based out of California, in Palo Alto.
In early 2007-2008, I joined a friend of mine who was starting a real estate fund for India. Our arrangement was that he was more focused on the real estate side of things, and I brought in my expertise on the capital market side. After I quit, I started investing with a friend of mine from JPMorgan in the US, in my personal capacity. This was when I kind of understood that the crux of entrepreneurship is problem solving. So, then I decided I should do something on my own beyond just investing and got into real estate.
Our initial focus was on solving the problem for the Indian consumer in a secondary city. We built a website, an app where we could actually generate leads for agents/brokers on a platform, who could close these homes for the first-time homebuyer in the affordable segment. The reason we were successful, was because it was a tier two market.
The biggest problem we saw from the consumer was getting a fair price. And because they never knew what they were getting into, there was a lot of back and forth between brokers, family members, friends and more, trying to get answers to the persistent question regarding the ‘right price’. We saw this problem in a big way across the cities we were involved in. And because, I kind of understand real estate a little bit on the investing side as well, my take was to build a platform offering price transparency for the new consumer. That’s how Clicbrics came into being! Furthermore, we also developed a proprietary price estimation tool Clicworth, which is on the lines of Zillow for the Indian market.
What was the driving force that made you get into the world of investing?
It’s actually a funny story. When I was doing Chemical Engineering, I got together with friends of mine, and we decided to play the stock market with the 1000 Rs that we had. I just got fascinated, you know, with the stock market. And my biggest fascination about the stock market was the price changes every day, every minute, every second. If you can figure out what factors should rise and whether trend is on the upside or the downside, you will make money. So that's how I started investing in college, you know, we did pretty well for six months, and then I lost everything. After I went to business school in the US, I started getting even more fascinated by the movement of prices on a daily basis. That's why I'm doing this now.
If you hadn’t built this platform, how do you think the Indian consumer today would be purchasing real estate? What separates you from others operating in the market?
I think if the companies you hear about today did not exist, another one with a different name would have existed. So, if I don't solve the problem, somebody else would have.
The Indian consumer needs intelligence to make the right decision, especially when it is the biggest purchase of their life. We understand this better than other people for sure. We are the only team in India who's invested a billion dollars in Indian real estate. We built and sold close to 16,000 homes in India. That's one important factor, that brings value to our team versus anyone else. Moreover, one of our board members was the chairman of the second-largest prop tech company in the world, he took it from zero to $8 billion company, a market cap today in the UK.
I think there'll be other players for sure. No problem with that, India is a big market, it is not a winner take all.
What is your Motto for the company?
That would be price transparency for the Indian consumer. Our customers should not have to overpay for a house, its that simple.
What are your expansion plans for Clicbrics?
So right now, in terms of the transaction pricing, the way people can see what home is sold at what price, where you can actually estimate the value of homes (through our tool Clicworth), is live in Mumbai. We will be live in the top seven cities of India including the metros in the next few months. We will be going to three other cities probably in the next 12 months.
Talk about your USPs. How do you stand different and unique from your peer competitors in the market?
I would say we, we will work with them, then compete with them, given that they have been around for a long time, and also because our USP is a little bit different. The ecosystem in India is still very small and in its nascent stages. There is a lot of potential that comes with understanding audience needs given the diversity of the market. Similarly, investments in the top tech space in India is also minimal. But it’s great, you know, because it keeps us awake at night, pushes us to do something that's different and innovative. I'm not saying better, because we have to be innovative all the time.
What are the key challenges that you are facing? How are they helpful for the development of Clicbrics?
The challenge that we largely have is on the data side. Every state has a different language. So, we have to get data from multiple sources, a lot of the time it is government data and then map them together and cross-check accuracy. It is of utmost importance to us that the consumer gets it in one click by just inserting their requirements. Our focus at present is to be able to offer price transparency on residential real estate across the country.
How did the Pandemic affect your business? Is it bouncing back?
It definitely hurt us and slowed us down. Homes didn’t sell for a while and our revenues were down. But this year our revenue is going to be six times of 2019. So, even though the pandemic hurt us in 2020 and 2021, it encouraged us to go back to the drawing board, understand the needs of the consumer, innovate, and figure out a new way to fulfil the need gap. We persevered!
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