hile artificial intelligence (AI) has certainly reached the peak of its hype cycle, actual mainstream adoption seems inevitable. It is amply established that whether in science or business, machines will represent the greatest collaborators for human beings. Some of the early wins that have been witnessed across sectors is almost complete disintermediation, but, will AI ever be cognitive to customer needs?

A click away from your next decision: The Indian e-commerce players were some of the natural early adopters of AI in India, with not just bots taking over from humans, but also building in an experience that the customer now expects and appreciates. They were followed by brick-and-mortar retailers to gather stock keeping unit (SKU)-performance and customer preferences to personalise their product promotions. Today, it is no longer restricted to e-commerce; a lot of other sectors, especially traditionally inclined ones like real estate and even B2B (business to business) firms are seeing the value of an online experience that counsels customers into making informed decisions, while still keeping it human.

Bots at play: From virtual tours of a place to understanding your carbon-footprint based on where you choose to stay, to farmers getting AI assistants to predict weather patterns and when to sow next, these bots have clearly taken over much of the mundane tasks with very little human intervention. This wave of digitization has brought down dependency on intermediaries, be it ticket booking, shopping, renting accommodation, house services, taxi services, you name it. Do you remember the last time you went to a travel agent to book a ticket, or called in for a web check-in? Probably not.

Disintermediation of real estate: The IT industry has spurred a massive jump in the house rental market in India, which in turn has created a huge opportunity for startups to address: the potential of organising the sector.

Indians collectively pay upwards of 50,000 crore as brokerage fee for finding a house on rent every year. The potential for this to grow to other areas like furniture, electronics, and the like is huge.

The dependency on the traditional middlemen and his ability to sell to desperate customers, a rental accommodation that doesn’t really suit them, at a hefty fee has started to seem avoidable.

While the organization of the sector would take away the brokers’ lucrative business, most customers are happy to do away with that handicap and deal directly with the owner of the property.

Today, the market is ready for AI and machine learning (ML) to enable this very disintermediation and organisation of a large marketplace, creating a lucrative C2C (customer to customer) model that is driven by technology and a nicer experience.

Technologies like ML and AI have made life much simpler by replacing human heuristics with algorithms. AI has enabled the transition of a sector as huge as real estate on the back of algorithms that restrict brokers from infiltrating the communication.

Also Read: 2018, the year real estate died

Online real estate companies are also able to use this data to figure out the freshness of a property, which is to say how many times it has been viewed, selected, etc., ultimately helping them delist the ones that are not available anymore.

There has been a discernible shift in the pattern of buying and renting accommodation. The new-age consumer needs transparency and the ability to reach out directly for information, without depending on a human enabler.

AI also picks out the best place for a customer to stay given parameters like office location and distance from your kids’ school. It helps measure distance with time instead of miles. It can help you find suitable localities, and also suggests the rent that you should be paying for a given house.

The idea of a personal assistant, that you don’t have to negotiate with and is unbiased—with time for you and your best interests in mind while keeping it human—suddenly seems most appealing. What’s better is that these virtual people can only get smarter.

The author is co-founder and chief business officer, NoBroker.com

Close