Home / Companies / Realty sites use drones to gain business edge

Bangalore: Many of you may have noticed a helicopter-like device with four rotors and a camera, commonly known as drone, hovering over and shooting pictures of a new building in your city.

Over the last few months, property listings start-ups like Housing.com, Commonfloor.com and IndiaProperty.com have begun investing in and using technologies such as drones to gain an edge while competing against established companies like Magicbricks.com and 99acres.com.

“As we speak, around 40 quadcopter cameras are hovering across new properties collecting images of aerial views from different levels of the property," said Advitiya Sharma, co-founder, Housing.com. He added his company has gathered data of around 4,500 projects using this technology since March, when they launched their “new projects platform".

Property listing website Housing.com, founded by a group of 12 IIT-Bombay alumni as a map-based home search portal. It has nine co-founders, after three of them—Rishabh Agrawal, Vaibhav Tolia, and Saurabh Goyal—exited over the last one year.

Tolia and Goyal work with two other Mumbai-based start-ups.

IndiaProperty.com is another start-up that began using drones about four months back in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Next month, the portal plans to introduce this feature in Delhi also, said Ganesh Vasudevan, chief executive, IndiaProperty.com.

The Chennai-based firm, with around 600,000 unique property listings across 40 cities and over 7 million registered users, has so far covered 800 projects using this technology and invested around 40-50 lakh in getting 10 drones, hardware, experts and for creating the final videos.

A drone can cost between 25,000 and 2 lakh depending on the height of the project, the expanse of the area that needs to be shot, the shooting time, camera quality and the quality of footage, say experts. Drones are imported from the US and Europe.

The overall influence of the Internet on real estate transaction value of both residential and commercial property including rents amounted to $43 billion, with $31 billion for residential and $12 billion for commercial properties, according to a recent study by Google India Pvt. Ltd. The study was based on data from field research conducted by marketing research firm Zinnov between January and April.

The use of these technology gadgets help online real estate firms to get quality listings, which enhance consumer experience on the website, according to Jaideep Mehta, vice president and general manager, IDC South Asia.

“This leads to more informed decisions, making the space more competitive," he said.

But some realty portals are slow in crying hurrah to technology.

“We are focused on the things that users really want in their property searches, like accurate listings and refined searches. It is taken for granted that technology is required for accuracy of data, but high bandwidth content like videos are less preferred. If we had to choose between a few listings that are very high quality versus many listings that are a little less quality, we would choose the latter," said Sudhir Pai, business head, MagicBricks.com, an online real estate portal from Times Business Solutions Ltd, which claims to have more than 200,000 users accessing over 600,000 listings on its website daily.

MagicBricks.com does not have drones but has done on-the-ground and tele-verifications for almost 80,000 properties listed on their website.

Even 99acres.com, run by Info Edge (India) Ltd, has experimented with drones but is yet to compute the benefits.

“A few months back, we started a pilot project for drones. But we are yet to ascertain how much this technology will work in the Indian landscape. Does it add value to the consumer who is buying the property? Does it help the user take a better decision?" said Vineet Singh, the company’s business head. The site has around 7,00,000 listings.

While 99acres.com is testing new technologies such as drones and 3D images, Singh said there are larger issues in the real estate space such as lack of availability of accurate information, that are more important for the consumer.

“I believe this technology will not define the market in the near future," said Singh.

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