How has Magicbricks evolved since its inception? What are the milestones achieved by the company?
We began in 2006 with around 5,000 brokers and 25,000 listings with a clear objective to ease the process of buying, selling and renting properties india. We had anticipated that the industry was predicted to grow as high as 30 pc. The opportunity to assist buyers and sellers as a dedicated real estate portal and become a trusted advisor were the key tenets on which the foundation of Magicbricks was built.
One of the things we were clear about is that this is going to be a learning journey and we would have to play the role of an advisor as we go along. Real estate purchases are probably once in a lifetime for most. Very intense in terms of investment, very intense in terms of time and effort. And of course, if you make a mistake, it's something that will stay with you for longer than you would want. That was the blueprint with which we went ahead. In the customer journey, there are some essential phases. There's searching for properties, there's shortlisting, there's finalising, and there's moving in.
When we were setting up the Magicbricks marketplace, the first thing that we felt was key was to have some information with regard to prices. Because all purchases are expensive depending on what category you belong to. And therefore in 2008 we released PropWorth, which was India's first real estate mobile app, which benchmarked residential properties across about eight cities if I remember correctly. That was the first milestone. The whole premise of how we've grown is by asking, ‘How do I find solutions for the customer? How do I give them the right information at the right time?’ And having operated for a good five years, we were sitting on real time data.
In 2011, we decided to go ahead with PropIndex, which is a marquee report now in the marketplace. Every quarter we take out a report that spans 13 cities, where we talk about how the prices have moved, how the under construction and ready to move homes have done in terms of both demand and supply. We started annual reports on how India shops for homes, investment hotspots, etc. So 2011 was a year where we started doing a lot more advisories for customers and stakeholders alike, to give them a sense of how the market is moving and so on.
In line with the same thought, we gave birth to something very close to our hearts, which is MBTV – a YouTube channel and India's first real estate video channel. This was launched in 2018 as a channel where you could research and get authentic property and location reviews and expert advice from across the country. And this journey has been very meaningful because in the last couple of years, we've seen digitisation really accelerate. We've seen more and more people spending time on digital spaces, researching and reviewing choices they're about to make before actually physically landing up.
So, in a sense, it became the zero moment of truth. And that's where MBTV is a really important brand asset for us.
We do multiple things on MBTV. We do location reviews. If you're moving from your city to another, you could look at different areas and what amenities they have, infrastructure they have. You could be looking at specific projects in a city. There are videos that would tell you what kind of infrastructure is available, amenities in the project, price trends prevalent at that time in surrounding areas. And this was 2018 for us.
This led to the time when the whole world was ensconced in the pandemic. And it was a time when a lot of businesses had to relook at themselves.
In our case, we found that real estate transactions and physical movement had really dwindled; it gave us an opportunity to be more meaningful to customers by increasing our digital footprint and cover more and more touch points across the customer journey. We use these two and a half years to build different layers and legs to the customer journey.
To give you an example, when you're searching, you have the ability to research location reviews, project reviews. Then we created services such as legal assistance. You could talk to a lawyer on demand, you could understand what legal documents are required. Third, you've decided to buy a property and you want to know how best to finance it.
Home loans is one of our biggest bets where we created the ability for you to come and apply for a home loan. We could even match you and your profile to different banks. We have more than 25 banks providing home loans through the Magicbricks platform and could do it faster and with less documentation. And it didn't end there. You made the transaction and thereafter you had the opportunity to look at services like packers and movers, home decor, vastu, which allow you to continuously engage with the brand. That was also a key objective for us because at the end of the day, once you're done with your transaction, you would possibly not interact with the brand again in a hurry.
We wanted to become a full stack and a one stop shop for anything across real estate. Home decor is a great example because if you wanted to, let's say, do a modular kitchen, frankly you don't know how much money you should pay, what kind of designs are best suited for you. We actually bring that service and we are scaling up the service as we go. This is the thought behind ramping up to a full stack sort of model with 15-plus services.
I think we are constantly evolving and we will continue to add and remove services as per needs. We've had a very exciting journey over the last two years and a very large launch of the full stack.
What is your most in-demand service apart from real estate listings?
We are ultimately a portal where the core is you come to a Magicbricks for buying, selling or renting. So for sure that is the biggest chunk. We are seeing a lot of interest in new features that we've brought to the market, especially on the rent side.
If you have a house and you want to rent it out, you could have preferences. You may not want a pet in the house or it could be a variety of other things. We've created this ‘Know Your Tenant’ feature where it allows you to have a chat window without giving out too many details and for both owner and tenant to sort of know each other better and decide whether they want to continue the conversation and meet physically. We are seeing a lot of success with this feature. We are seeing a lot of traction around rent and rental agreements. The ability for us to give you rental agreements at a click is something that's shown a lot of uptick. But we're also very buoyant about the core services of buy, sell and rent.
A part of society still prefers meeting and getting a broker offline. How is Magicbricks acquiring these customers?
It's a very valid question, but I will allude to what I said earlier. We continue to be a facilitator. We help brokers and developers and we help them access high intent customers. Given that there has been a lot of digital acceleration, the zero moment of truth is where we exist and begin the journey with the customer. We are that platform that allows you to see a multiplicity of options and then choose who you would like to meet.
What's also changed is that earlier it used to be a lot more offline and people used to go to multiple sites, look at different properties. Today that is also available in the form of videos. So In certain cases, you also have augmented reality which can allow you to see what it could look like if you were to do up the space. That kind of tech is also making its way. But essentially when you are searching, we know what you are searching for and we try to connect you with your best options and then give you the choice to connect with a developer directly or to brokers.
It reduces effort, it reduces anxiety and it creates a certain amount of trust as you go along. Because you're already seeing something and you've liked it and therefore you are going for it. So it is not as ambiguous as it used to be in earlier times. The other part of it is that once you have built that relationship, then there is an opportunity for you to continue that relationship via the services I just spoke of. There again we will connect you with the right people. So we are actually facilitating and enabling the journey. We're not cutting out anyone.
What is the share of Magicbricks in the real estate segment?
We are the leading portal. There are many ways of looking at it. But what we normally look at is the share (Comscore). From those metrics, we understand it (our share) is 40 pc or more – a leading share of the pie and continuing to grow. We've seen monthly active users grow by almost 40 pc over the last two years based on the different features and the different services we've launched.
With a deluge of players in the space, how does Magicbricks differentiate itself?
You could have players come and go. We've been a longstanding one that has built relationships and trust over the years. From our brand studies, we understand that we are preferred in this segment. But having said that, we are also one click away from the customer – either reaching us or reaching away from us. And we've realised over time that what's most important is to be able to provide the customer choices, to be able to look at unique options that other portals may not have. We've done a lot of work in the background to ensure that our listings provide that bandwidth of choice.
We work with all stakeholders to try and develop this because the more options you have, the more customers you will get; the more customers you get, chances of connecting them to those who are selling is going to be higher.
So, the largest pool of listings and customer base, and providing expert advisory across the customer journey – those are the two ways in which we look to differentiate ourselves. And of course we've gone ahead and innovated and become the first full stack service provider. That said, I think it is a journey and it will continue to evolve and we will need to continuously work on staying relevant and being meaningful to the customer.
How much of your business comes from Metros and Tier-1 and how much from Tier-2 and Tier-3?
We're a very diverse and spread out business. As in the case of a lot of businesses, the top 10 to 12 cities will make for a fairly large chunk.
Tell us about your recent campaign ‘Story Har Ghar Ki.’
Our last campaigns have focused on two things. One was the story of turning full stack, which was 18 months ago. That was followed with emerging market campaigns where we were trying to build this whole ecosystem of online search, discovery and getting people to move into this marketplace behaviour.
The real estate market is roaring and it's happening now, I think almost after a decade. We realised that it's important for us at this time to reiterate our most important role in the customer's life. If you look at what's fueling the growth, the pandemic has created a situation where people now are looking for a certain degree of social comfort and safety. Home is a big part of that.
A lot of millennials and younger families are opting to buy homes and we felt that this is the right time to get a campaign across where we talk about our core services and use this time, which is the pre-festive time. It's also very loud in terms of platforms because the World Cup is also around.
Just to belabour the way we've gone ahead with the campaign… Everyone has their own journey of buying a house, which is why it's called ‘Story Har Ghar Ki’. We're experiencing an extremely cluttered environment, low attention spans, so we wanted to tell the story in a way that people would relate to.
We wanted to use noticeability. You don't even notice a lot of ads because the first three or four seconds don't grab you. We wanted to use characters which stay in your memory. So in this case, the ad film is designed to be both entertaining and informative and showcases this world of a grumpy father in law. But he's a very sweet man. His daughter and son in law and the interplay between them in a very sweet and slightly funny way, sort of stays with you. That's the kind of feedback we are getting. The insight is that affection in some Indian families is often expressed through sarcasm laced with taunts – which makes the conversations humorous and when you look back, you sniggle and laugh at it. But that's what stays in our memory.
How important is advertising in the category? How critical is brand building?
On one side it's a very intensive journey for the customer, on the other side you could go from one player to another with a click.
So we've invested heavily in building the core, which is the product, which is the website, which is the app, etc. to be able to focus on what's most important. We have seen a lot of success with that, which is what echoes in the kind of share that we have.
Advertising is important to be able to talk to the new users coming into the category. It is also important to be salient, as is the need for a lot of categories. And keeping in line with that, I think our campaign is timed very strategically. It's a fairly large campaign which straddles multiple platforms. So right from being on the ICC World Cup through Hotstar mobile to a very heavy burst on TV, print, OTT, and of course on digital, through video views, through being on the right affinity platforms, social media.
What are the lead advertising mediums and share of each? Is digital the primary avenue for customer acquisition?
Being a product that is on the digital ecosystem, digital is something that we do pretty much throughout the year. But customer acquisition is a sum of building a brand and bringing in high end customers to your platform. I don't think it's possible for us to not build a brand and yet continuously acquire customers. So in that sense, I would say that TV, OTT and digital play a very important role in getting our brand stories across. And digital, like I said, is a continuous drip approach where we understand the intent and sort of use that signal to match with the needs of the customers. So I would not say that digital is the only way.