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Listening to customers helped real estate startup NoBroker build a business around its core offering

Amit Kumar Agarwal had worked with big companies such as Cognizant, PwC, and ANZ Bank when he decided to take a risk and leave his well-paying job to follow his entrepreneurial dreams.

With 10 years of experience under his belt, he, along with Akhil Gupta, and Saurabh Garg, in 2014 founded NoBroker, a real estate search portal that cuts out the broker and connects flat owners and tenants directly with each other. 

Amit Agarwal, CEO and Co-founder, [Image Credit: NoBroker]

In a recent episode of 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, Amit, Founder, and CEO of NoBroker, says he took this decision keeping his own self in mind.

“ANZ bank was such a comfortable job – in terms of very good salary, very posh bank, good working hours…it felt like if I continued, the only thing I would chase would be a bigger designation or more money, and perhaps an overseas posting,” he says. 

Staying on this path meant that one could “rarely come back”, take a risk, and become an entrepreneur. “I felt that if I did not leave a job, then perhaps I would never be able to do it,” he adds.

Amit decided to set a time frame for his entrepreneurial journey, giving himself two years to start up. In case he failed or exhausted his savings, he would still have “90 percent of his work life to get back to the corporate world”.

But that didn’t happen. 

Seven years down the line, NoBroker handles $2 billion worth of transactions on its platform every year and claims to have helped save brokerage worth Rs 1,100 crore last year. It is aimed at leading India’s real estate sector towards an era where real estate transactions are convenient and done in a brokerage-free manner.

Eliminating the broker

Speaking about his journey, Amit reveals that the startup stemmed from personal pain points – all founding team members had bad experiences with brokers while moving. 

“We just couldn’t figure out why people around the world were not trying to eliminate the broker and connect both parties directly with each other. We could never understand why it was not happening,” he says.

NoBroker began as a simple mobile and website, and launched a mobile app a couple of years later. It started operations in two cities – Mumbai and Bengaluru – and saw barely 1,000-1,500 property listings each month. 

Things have changed drastically since then. 

The fact that the proptech startup removed intermediaries, creating a win-win for both buyers and sellers, helped as did the fact that the team built on data insights garnered from the market. 

“Our objective is that we are going to do what customers are telling us. We are going to learn from customers. So, if they want options in Hyderabad, we will launch Hyderabad;  if they ask why only residential, we can go on to launch commercial. We are just basically listening to customers and monetising this,” he says.

In April 2020, the Bengaluru-based real estate rental startup  raised $30 million as part of its Series D funding round led by Singapore-based private equity firm General Atlantic. 

Speaking about the funding, Amit says that the team began approaching VCs very early on. 

“We started approaching VCs very early on owing to our IIT and IIM connections. The effort became more serious a couple of months after launching the website, because we came to know that this is a very competitive. We realised early on that we needed to get funding and just our savings would not be sufficient.”

In this episode of 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, entrepreneur Amit Kumar Agarwal talks about his risky jump into entrepreneurship and the journey of starting up and growing NoBroker.

To know more, listen to the podcast here

Notes – 

01:39 – Family background and childhood, shifting cities too often

06:36 – Challenges while starting up in your 30s

09:54 – Ideating the concept of NoBroker

13:25 – Approaching VCs for initial funding

14:37 – Investors seeking the existence of a US/China counterpart

22:18 – Choosing BTL advertising over ATL; considering ROI at a premature stage

26:02 – Not expanding too fast to multiple cities

37:43 – Listening to what customers want

42:58 – Bringing premium add-on services

47:01 – Changes in his personality as a founder in 0 to 1 and 1 to 100 journey

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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