The proptech sector in India is fuelled by rapid urbanisation and rural migration to cities. India has the largest number of proptech startups (77 of 179 funded proptech startups) in Asia-Pacific. With innovative solutions driving real estate in India, several proptech startups have entered the segment to make an impact. One such startup creating a disruption by bringing all real estate stakeholders on a single platform while plugging market gaps is Square Yards.
Square Yards was founded in 2014 by a husband-wife duo; Tanuj Shori, an investment banker and IIM-Lucknow alumnus and Kanika Gupta Shori, a Wharton alumnus. The couple lived and worked in Hong Kong during that time and wanted to invest in a property in India. That quest quickly opened their eyes to the mess that the real estate distribution system was in. One of the major challenges was that NRIs like themselves had no credible source of information on real estate investment opportunities in India.
With a deep desire to help people see clearly through this fog, Tanuj and Kanika turned to data and studied the market in a few top cities to present opportunities to NRIs with similar investment appetites. The model clicked and that is how Square Yards was born.
Tanuj gave up his director’s seat at Nomura to take charge of Square Yards. There was no inherited empire or venture capitalist to back the company though, so every asset that they owned — real estate, their ancestral home, jewellery — were used to raise capital to kickstart the Square Yards journey.
Since then there has been no stopping. Square Yards is now present across 25 cities in 10 different countries with more than 3K employees which support the operations. The company claims to generate 18 Mn real estate leads annually.
How Square Yards Overcame The Challenges On The Journey
Post the initial days and after getting its first few clients, Square Yards’ biggest challenge was to achieve scale. The question staring at the founders was how to grow bigger and cover new markets while maintaining the quality of information and services. It is a problem that has miffed many founders before. Tanuj’s answer to that puzzle was to look at things from the customer’s point of view.
The real challenges lay in local trends, builder credibility, quality of construction, ethical financial practices and adherence to commitment. Simply punching in intelligent code could not have disrupted the existing model. That had been tried before. Deep local expertise was important to meet customer expectations.
So, the founders brought in the people, technology and the culture required to win over the information asymmetry, service vacuum and lack of organised distribution in the real estate industry.
After years of effort and trials, the Square Yards platform today streamlines the home-buying process via intelligent search and discovery, assisted sales and offers full property life cycle support including issue resolution, logistics, concierge service with developers and banks, and real estate portfolio tracking.
The Tech Stack At Square Yards
Indigenous technology fuels Square Yards’ operations at all levels. There are mobile apps for buyers, brokers and a custom CRM/ERP module that covers the complete real estate value chain.
The mortgage arm of the startup, Square Capital, uses its own tech stack to make mortgages easy and convenient for home seekers with completely automated workflows that include online identity and credit verification.
Square Yards and Square Capital platform offer an integrated consumer experience that boasts a 17% client repeat rate and vertically integrates with over 500 partner developers and more than 90 banks and NBFCs.
The Square Yards full-stack tech has been christened ‘Edge’ and the company claims that real estate developers and other brokerage firms across the country are switching to this enterprise solution to streamline their own internal processes. Internally, these systems are the lifeline of each one of the company’s 3K-plus employees.
The Way Ahead For Square Yards
The Square Yards platform today facilitates $800 Mn in gross transactions annually, driving over $45 Mn in annualised revenue, already allowing the startup to operate at break-even levels.
On the mortgage side, Square Capital has already disbursed well over $1 Bn worth of home loans, propelling it to the upper echelons of the industry.
In the international arena, Dubai led the pack of cities that contributed significantly to the GTV of the Square Yards followed by Toronto and Melbourne. The international property business at Square Yards recorded over 100% growth in 2018 over the previous year crossing INR 1,100 Cr in gross transaction value (GTV).
Going forward the company plans to have a workforce of over 5K in 2019, and is eyeing more than 100% growth in revenue for the new financial year. It certainly has the momentum it needs to come within reach of the unicorn club with a billion-dollar valuation.