CommonFloor took seven years to build the right foundation: Vinayak Warke
Sumit Jain, Co-Founder & CEO, CommonFloor.com, studied computer science at IIT Roorkee. But after just about a year with Oracle, he decided to dive into the world of entrepreneurship. In 2007, he started CommonFloor.com along with Lalit Mangal and Vikas Malpani.
Jain built CommonFloor.com from the ground up – conceptualising, building the business, raising funds, managing cash flow, and diversifying into listings.
Vinayak Warke, Vice President, Marketing, CommonFloor.com, has over 16 years of experience in marketing, sales and business management.
Jain and Warke spoke to exchange4media about the emergence of the one-stop real estate shop, their first national 360-degree campaign, and more.
What are the changes you have seen in the ways the property buyer has utilised the online space to address his property needs over the years?
Jain: Earlier, property buyers used to come online to get information about properties. Today, a full-fledged service is what a buyer is looking for... Buyers are looking to gain qualitative information in order to crack the best deal.
As we are not here only to provide information, but also provide good ecosystem, tools, suggestions and many other factors, it drags people to CommonFloor.com. We also have more builders, brokers and fellow buyers logging into our site for their property needs. In addition to all this, we give site visits and help the buyer to not just find property, but provide end-to-end services.
How has your business grown?
Jain: We have been growing 100 per cent quarterly since the last two-and-a-half years in terms of any business metric -- be it revenue, traffic -- or requirements. All these are associated with the emergence of digital media in a big way. Today, India has two million internet users and the growing income levels have contributed for the growth in the real estate online portal.
More than half of the traffic comes from urban India, especially metros such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai. Around 10 per cent traffic also comes from outside India. Tier II cities are followed by tier I cities in terms of property buying pattern.
More than 25 per cent of traffic is coming via mobile for CommonFloor.com, and in the next couple of months it will cross the 30 per cent mark. We have a mobile app with five lakh downloads, and we have got close to 1.4 lakh people 'liking' our page on Facebook.
How different are you from your competitors?
Jain: We are the only portal in India providing complete, end-to-end services in the real estate business. We are not just a property classifieds company. We offer a unique product at CommonFloor.com called ‘CommonFloor groups’, where we engage with people even after they have brought the property, and also help them manage the property.
We have the largest number of listings from owners. Quality information, good property deals and owners have made CommonFloor.com the most preferred choice for any property owner, developer or an individual looking to buy a property. We are having 100,000-plus apartment communities, and 10-million-plus plus home owners.
The real estate business is a highly disorganised market. How do you see the emergence of one-stop-shops?
Jain: Yes, the industry is yet to get organised. But we are trying to bring in some discipline in the way the industry works by providing better system and by disseminating qualitative information on property dealings. There is still a long way to go for a one-stop shop to be successful in the Indian market.
What is the revenue model for CommonFloor.com?
Jain: At CommonFloor.com, we follow the pre-fold users and greet fold business model. Whoever is having business interest at CommonFloor.com will pay money, and the property developers or individual owners who are looking to sell their property have an option of listing their property for free and there is also a premium level. It’s a subscription-based model.
Return on investment is the biggest question when it comes to digital or web portals. Do you get better returns on digital?
Warke: The best part of being an online portal is that you can track it. Currently, more than 90 per cent of property developers in Bangalore are advertising at CommonFloor.com. So, their cost of convergence is much cheaper when compared to other medium or channels. A study from Google revealed that more than 50 per cent property buyers feel that online influences buyers decision in a large way. Digital is a very strong medium, and this is evident more in the western countries.
MaxHeap Technologies, your parent company, recently acquired real estate listings site Flat.to. Any more acquisition plans in the near future?
Jain: As of now no such plans for acquisition.
You started CommonFloor in 2007. Why a 360-degree campaign (TV, radio, print) only now?
Warke: We took almost seven years in building the right business model, setting a strong foundation, investing in technology, and to make sure that we are available across countries. We were waiting for the right time because when we do come out with a national campaign, we need to be sure that we reach out to the smaller towns as well in a big way.
We have been using digital for tactical marketing all these years. A large share of our spend goes into digital. But a campaign on television is to position ourselves, and is definitely a brand push.
Why did you select TV as a major medium? What is the media mix?
Warke: In India, TV still has a far wider reach and penetration and is also preferred as the best medium to position your brand. So, selecting TV was necessary for our first brand push. As a marketer, I feel TV provides a lot more trust and credibility especially for a new brand that is trying to establish itself. Though ours is a 360-degree campaign, majority of the share goes in TV.
Our typical marketing budget is usually 10 per cent of the topline spend
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