Start-ups aim to redefine the real estate experience

A look at few fledgling Indian companies that hope to redefine the real estate space


Nilesh Jadhav, Annan Infrastructure. Photo: Sameer Joshi/Mint
Nilesh Jadhav, Annan Infrastructure. Photo: Sameer Joshi/Mint

Nimble start-ups are known for using innovation to identify, and fill, gaps in different sectors. Here are a few fledgling Indian companies that hope to redefine the real estate space.

Building portable living spaces

Entrepreneur: Nilesh Jadhav
Firm: Annan Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd
Set up in: August 2011

Nilesh Jadhav came from a family of architects even as he dabbled in ballet dancing, carpentry, beer-making and exploring the possibility of creating new kinds of construction material. After graduating in London, Jadhav spent many years practising for leading architectural firms like Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.

“At the architecture college, I did a project with bread carts, which I stole from across town. I always thought: Can we make something out of something that is not supposed to do that?” asked Jadhav, who began exploring new possibilities in the construction materials industry.

In 2011, he returned to Mumbai and started research on possible innovations. He launched Annan Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd, which built lifespaces products under the name inpod, in 2013 .

Pods are strong, lightweight and scratch-proof portable structures made of inskin—a unique composite building material produced using German technology and used to build yachts.

The Mumbai-based start-up, which has patented its modular building system, has started accepting orders for residential flats, villas and sample apartments. Each apartment, measuring about 1,800-2,000 sq. ft, costs about Rs.50 lakh, and can be assembled anywhere.

These plug-and-play pods are being used by various Indian builders and developers including the Wadhwa Group and Mahindra Lifespaces, to display their sample flats onsite.

Sharing ownership and benefits

Entrepreneur: Kunal Moktan
Firm: Bricks Property Investment Llp
Set up: May 2014

Hemant Mishra/Mint
Kunal Moktan, who worked for global private equity firm Blackstone Group, gained “almost 60%” by selling his three-year-old house in Bangalore in 2012.

That’s when the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad graduate thought of helping “people who had just about Rs.15-16 lakh to also be able to gain similarly”.

Moktan used the idea of “fractional ownership”, where many owners invest in a single property and benefit when it is sold at a premium later, and set up Bricks Property Investment Llp .

The company’s online portal (www.bricksinvestments.com) lets people browse through available properties and contribute as little as Rs.5 lakh. Bricks Property carries out the sale and prepares the property for tenancy. Dividends are shared by owners every month, while the company takes a 1% processing fee for the service.

In short, it is a rental yield model in homes where investors get part-ownership and gain from the rental yield (the difference between the original purchase price and sale price). “After a few years, say two or three, the property is ready to be sold off,” said Moktan. He charges a 20% fee of the profit, if the property appreciates by at least 8%.

These are initial days and Moktan’s company has raised Rs.1.92 crore for one property in Bangalore till date. He hopes to do the same for at least 7-10 projects by the year-end.

Realty trends for investors

Entrepreneur: Aditya Agarwal
Firm: GSF Realtech Pvt. Ltd
Set up: January 2014

Pradeep Gaur/Mint
When Aditya Agarwal became a consultant with Monitor Company Group Lp after graduating from IIT-Bombay in 2005, he got many opportunities to sit with chief executives of firms and talk about how they should be run.

In 2009, Agarwal left his job to join his father’s natural stones and granite business, but continued doing freelance assignments for the Monitor Group.

One such assignment, which involved studying the situation of “housing for all”, proved to be his eureka moment. “I travelled across small pockets of large cities and small cities, and realized that people struggled to find enough data about real estate trends in India. They made investments based on (the advice of) some chachas or mamas (uncles),” said Agarwal.

This inspired him to create getSquareFeet.com, registered under GSF Realtech Pvt. Ltd, early this year. The online site displays data on real estate projects and prices, and also enables investors to participate in fractional ownership (where many owners invest in a single property and benefit when it is sold at a premium later) deals by making investments of above Rs.2.6 lakh each. The Delhi-based start-up claims to have done analyses for 440 projects in and around the Capital. Its fractional ownership investment service is available for two properties in Raipur.

According to Agarwal, this self-financed company plans to expand to at least 10 cities by the year-end.

Marketplace for building material

Entrepreneur: Kris Nair and Shubh Cheema
Firm: fusedcow Inc.
Set up: January 2013

Shubh Cheema (right) and Kris Nair. Photo: OnlyPix
As students of architecture, Kris Nair and Shubh Cheema always felt that the real estate segment could do with more technology.

“India is one of the last in the use of technology and innovation in the architecture space, and we wanted to create something like a platform that many people would benefit from,” said Nair, who along with Cheema launched fusedcow Inc. in January.

The Mumbai-based start-up built the site to enable owners and developers to “efficiently” communicate with vendors, architects and designers. “Usually there is a junior architect or assistant who does all this work of connecting people and coordinating logistics. That person can be easily replaced,” said Nair, claiming the site helps users save almost 60-70% on time and efficiency.

Currently, fusedcow has 450 vendors and has sourced thousands of crore rupees worth products to owners or builders. Items such as timber, vitrified tiles, bamboo flooring, electrical and plumbing fittings can be sourced using the site.

Over the next year, the company plans to increase the number of vendors to about 2,000, while archiving over 10,000 architectural plans for downloads, added Nair.

Recycling waste into bricks

Entrepreneur: Sourabh Bansal, Puneet Mittal and Sidharth Bansal
Firm: Magicrete Building Solutions Pvt. Ltd
Set up: April 2008

When Sourabh Bansal wanted to start a business after graduating from IIT-Kharagpur in 2007, his first option was real estate because he believed that “all the rich people were part of real estate”.

An undergraduate degree holder in industrial engineering, he founded Magicrete Building Solutions Pvt. Ltd along with Puneet Mittal and Sidharth Bansal in 2008.

“I thought, ‘If not real estate, why not accessory to the field?’ Plus I had knowledge that there were AAC (autoclaved aerated concrete) blocks being manufactured abroad. I wanted to bring it to India,” said Sourabh Bansal, chief executive and co-founder of Magicrete, which manufactures large brick-like blocks made of fly ash and other hazardous industrial wastes—which are either gathered adjacent to power plants, causing nuisance to villagers, or dumped into nearby ponds.

These AAC blocks, usually nine times the size of a normal brick, are priced between Rs.3,500 and Rs.4,000, and have been supplied to more than 1,500 projects across India.

The Surat-based start-up, backed by angel investor Motilal Oswal, also manufactures factory cast concrete. In this method, entire parts of the concrete walls are produced in the factory and fixed onsite using connectors and grooves.

Magicrete is undertaking three villa projects for which it will provide pre-cast concrete systems for over 400 villas.

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