PROPTECH STANDING TALL IN 2021
WHAT STARTED AS JUST THE ONLINE MARKETPLACE FOR PROPERTY BUYING, SALE AND RENTING, IN LAST 6-7 YEARS HAS EVOLVED IN A FULL SERVICE SEGMENT OFFERING DATA ANALYTICS AND INFORMATION IN THE OPAQUE AND FRAGMENTED INDIAN REAL ESTATE. YEAR 2021 HOLDS MUCH PROMISE WITH GREATER ADOPTION OF TECHNOLOGIES BY ALL INDUSTRY STAKEHOLDERS.
2020 has been a landmark year for proptech in India, as technologies shifted from the periphery to the core with numerous innovations in the property transaction space. In the face of the COVID crisis, the focus was on business continuity, virtual property viewing, easier transaction cycle, shorter liquidation time alongside customer comfort. The proptech segment enabled developers to get a deep understanding of customer’s sentiments and preferences which helped them to continue the momentum of sales despite the roadblocks.
This was also the year which truly accelerated the digital transformation across organisations. With collaboration tools, technology to enable work from home and other related technologies coming to the forefront. In a way, the world of real estate changed significantly accelerating further improvisation and usage of technology and several players adapting to this change swiftly.
BREAKING TECH BARRIERS IN 2021
As the consumer behaviour has already evolved, year 2021 is being foreseen as the most significant year for innovation in proptech. Notwithstanding the discovery of new vaccines, the cautious approach of businesses and customers means that the technology tools will continue to occupy centre-stage in the minds of players in the eco-system.
Ramesh Nair, CEO & Country Head, JLL India firmly believes that an increasingly digital world of the future will be driven in equal measures, not just by technology, but by digital skills as well.
“Business leaders will have to unlearn and relearn a lot to continue to stay relevant in this new world. Deploying cutting edge technologies would be meaningless without the right people to implement, use and draw insights from these. The top competencies for business leaders would be flexibility and agility to cross skill/ upskill themselves, being data savvy & treating data as an asset and utilise the insights to chart the course. In the current, non-linear world, no leader can claim to be able to predict the future, especially with technology.”
“Adaptation to technology will be the key for Indian real estate in the future. Companies that will adapt to artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) will be better prepared for any future disruptions.
Investment in technology upgrade will not only help companies tide during such crisis but will yield rich dividends in the long term,” stated Anuj Puri, Chairman – ANAROCK Property Consultants.
The advent of technologies like AI, ML, Big Data, IoT & VR is helping to put purpose, culture shift, and customer experience at the heart of the property sector.
“Knowing that the huge amounts of data generated by the real estate industry can be leveraged to its advantage even further going forward as new technology, the business leaders would themselves require making a conscious effort during the adoption of technology. It’s crucial to put the future in perspective and build ingenious proptech solutions or products that are scalable, highly available, and have an evident deeper understanding of existing consumers, added Prakash Tejwani, CEO & Co-Founder, Careersocially.
Ankit Kansal, Founder & MD, 360 Realtors was of the view that leaders will have to don the hat of advocates and champions of digital innovation and embrace new technologies. “They need to chalk out the path to digitization for their organization. This may require relooking their business models and strategies at times.”
Vikram Kotnis,Managing Director – Sell.Do & Amura Marketing Technologies commented, “One of the key competencies that needs to be adopted is a mobile first approach. Perceive everything from a consumer behaviour standpoint; also, modify processes so as to align with consumer behaviour in the best possible way. Understand what tools and processes are right for them, how to control cost and the storytelling needs to be done very critically now.”
“Business leaders need to be extremely agile in a digital-driven world. For one, they need to be ahead of the curve and anticipate changes that would impact their industries in the short-term, medium-term and the longer term. Secondly, business leaders need to be risk-taking and innovate across almost everything – ideas, products, processes and go-to-market while balancing long-term growth plans with short-term results. Lastly, leaders need to make sure that they target their products correctly so as to ensure that the early adopters jump onto the adoption curve,” stated Mani Rangarajan, Group COO, Housing.com, Makaan.com and Proptiger.com
KEY PROPTECH INNOVATIONS
The proptech space is bustling with energy and ideas and the opportunities are limitless. The question is not about ‘should we’ but on ‘how soon’ before organisations start adopting these solutions and make the space mainstream, and this shift is happening as we speak.
Leveraging technology like AI /ML and social profiling, the new property buyer leads can help to build accurate predictive models which can give insights that how the audience is going to behave ahead and how their sentiments are going to be towards real estate products in the coming time. Also, segmentation of leads and prioritizing them based on social profiling is equally crucial to prevent redundant efforts and drive more ROI.
Cross-sales using digital mediums can also be considered one of the leading-edge approaches that very fewer players have adopted but this practice can maximize the impact of a company’s marketing efforts and can be rewarding as well. Building connections with more local agents across micro-markets can scale up businesses at a rapid pace using platforms that can expand their agents’ network digitally and maintain the momentum of their project sales.
In fact, there are quite a few prop-tech innovations that can address major challenges faced by sellers and buyers in real estate such as online verification of title document, automated valuation models to assess the value of rental/resale property, mechanisms to improve quality of images, listings on platforms and to detect fake listings. Self-create listings videos for listings, schedule and host site visits virtually, apply for home loans digitally, online tenant verification, design and furnish home online and ultimately property management online.
The consumer wants more convenience so smart homes, smart societies with better security, IOT based infrastructure will be the norm in the future. Technology will also play an integral role in home designing going forward.
What will hold realty professionals in good stead is a willingness to experiment. Unlike the millennials and Gen ‘Z’, not all business leaders are ‘Digital Natives’, however, we have to be ‘Digital Ready’ in order to succeed.”
Ramakant Sharma, Co-founder and COO of Livspace elaborated, “The real estate and design segment is ripe for digital disruption. Whether buying a home or buying an interior solution, consumers are spending increased time online researching, estimating budgets, getting inspired and visualizing their home. Once they become a paying customer for a brand, they prefer to get updates online. Thus, we have the opportunity to use technology to create interactive experiences, personalised content, fast and realistic 3D visualizations, share real-time updates and tracking and much more. For businesses, the pandemic has proven to be an opportunity to leapfrog and build sticky digital behaviour among its users.”
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE FUTURE
According to Anuj Puri, going forward, we will continue to see the momentum in tech adoption. “Given that no one knows how long this virus will actually play out, realtors are now completely relying on technological advances. They are increasingly relying on virtual tours and the use of drones (in countries like US) to evaluate properties for prospective buyers in order to limit physical activity. Usage of technology in real estate may not give realtors the same volume of business but it will definitely not lead to total disruption of business.”
Drones: The use of drones can help manage and inspect sites. Developers can map a site and create 2D as well as 3D images. Most of the advanced drones use a coordinate-based system which helps achieve absolute accuracy in measurements.
Robotics: Being a highly labour-intensive industry, construction activities that are repetitive and labour-intensive may use robotics to not only reduce costs, but also maintain quality and precision. For instance, the semi-automated mason — ‘SAM’ — a bricklaying robot designed and engineered by Construction Robotics is the first bricklaying robot commercially available that works in collaboration with a mason and thereby increases their productivity five-fold.
3D Printing (large-scale printing of homes) may also change the way real estate builds over the next decade. Other than reducing waste, cost and labour requirements, it will help to penetrate in inaccessible areas including dense urban centres where it is impossible to set up heavy machinery for construction. It will also enable the eventual printing of internal structures as well as walls, e.g. plumbing, electrical systems, venting and so forth.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) software allows designers to produce 3D mock-ups of planned structures with inclusion of info on its cost and time.
Virtual Reality/Augmented Realty linked to the BIM software via an app allows contractors and developers to do virtual walkthroughs of a structure even before its complete, thereby enabling them to make more informed design decisions earlier in the construction stages, saving both time and cutting costs.
“The proptech space offers limitless opportunities in India, more so in the current environment where companies are grappling with new challenges like creating contactless facilities, portfolio optimisation, employee health and safety etc. Almost all these imperatives can be addressed through technology intervention. A lot is happening in the sector and I am quite excited for what 2021 holds for the Proptech segment in the country. I see a greater adoption of technologies, increased level of funding and lot of newer products and solutions to cater to the ‘next normal’,” shared Ramesh Nair
“2021 will be a year of the rapid adoption of technology in the real estate sector and the Proptech segment will play a key role in boosting the revenues in the real estate market. We have already seen the digital budgets in real estate touching an all-time high in 2020 and leading to increased margins in sales. We expect the momentum to continue in 2021. Digital outreach is expected to grow further in 2021 and real estate developers will rely greatly on Proptech for its convenience, marketability, and ability to provide unique and trusted insights that can help to know their customer better, profiling the customer persona and accelerate the sales with increased profit margins,” stated Prakash Tejwani.
Mani Rangarajan added, “The pace of technology adoption within the sector has accelerated with various participants across the eco-system taking up technological solutions to facilitate the home buying and the home renting process. More than 90% of prospective buyers and tenants have moved online to search, discover, shortlist and in some cases, complete the home buying process. Developers who had traditionally relied on touch screens moved into virtual and augmented reality products backed by offerings such as drone shoots, video connect calls, webinars and virtual site visits to attract users’ interest. Brokers adopted products such as video shoots, live video tours and video profiles to connect with prospective buyers and tenants. In all likelihood, we will see the emergence of new technologies both upstream and downstream in the buyers’ journey (e.g. ability to check documents title to the property and online registration of properties purchased).”
Vikram Kotnis concurred, “Proptech saw the highest adoption in technology, especially in sales and marketing functions. Online buying experienced a major boost; Homebuyers have become more open to zero touch bookings and payments. This level of adoption has never been seen in Real Estate. Going forward, transparency in the home buying process and online transactions will help move inventory faster and better adoption of CRM will play a crucial role.”
Ankit Kansal summarized, “Due to the innumerable advantages that accompany the adoption of tech-enabled models, going forward the adoption of proptech is expected to bring about a transformation in the Indian real estate space. With evolving homebuyer preferences & rising interest among developers to tap into greater markets, innovation in proptech will be a major game changer for the sector.”