It was February last year. I was doing my final semester at IIT Bombay; I and my batch mates realised that for the first time in our lives, we needed to search for a place to stay for the next few years. So we started our search really early. But within the first few days, we realised that it was going to be a nightmare. After around 30 frustrating days and roaming all over the city, we finally found something that barely met our requirements.
However, the very thought (of a flawed home search technology) kept coming back to us again and again. We knew that this problem existed in India for decades now. And if nothing is done, it'll simply continue to exist. And at that moment, we had a realisation that maybe we could come up with a solution for this problem that clearly affected a large number of people. And this very thought led to the setting up of Housing.com.
A different route
We have taken a completely different approach from the beginning. There was an apprehension that the market wasn't ready for the kind of model we introduced (photographs of houses and agents map, etc.). But the model has been highly successful. More and more agents are coming in and uploading pictures of hundreds of apartments onto the Housing site. The model was our biggest bet and everything has been built, keeping the consumer in mind.
Also, the response from our users has been phenomenal. People found great value in home search when they used our product and that is the reason why we've been able to expand to 10 cities in just one and half years. And we would want to continue it and focus on doing great work.
I believe that entrepreneurs are the experimenters of the society, and they are the ones who change things and push things forward. It is great feeling to be responsible for the employment and growth of over 650 people. Every day, the whole team is focused on doing a great work to revolutionise the home search process for our consumers.
Both bootstrapping and building companies with VC funds are essential
I think people perceive that the one word that defines a startup is traction or the pace of growth. I don't think that's enough. In fact, it's the rapid growth executed in an efficient way that really matters. I think bootstrapping a venture is a process, and not an event that must start from day one and continue. So both VC money and bootstrapping play huge roles in the rapid and efficient growth of a venture.
At Housing it is all about the people it has and the ideas they bring. We are a team of developers, engineers, artists, professional problem solvers, economists and take-out critics, working around the clock to make this the best Housing portal in the universe.
Startup ecosystem needs a structured support
The startup ecosystem in the country is picking up at a fascinating pace. I believe that there are two primary hurdles to entrepreneurship in India - fear of failure and lack of proper support.
Entrepreneurship is tough. People with the right skills and opportunity vary of going ahead with entrepreneurship because of the fear of failure: they might not be able to form the right team or raise the required money for growth. What I believe is that we must plan to ensure that the youth is getting the right education and training. They also need to be really confident about their ideas, their passion and their journey.
Any ecosystem needs the right support to grow. I believe it is still in its nascent stage. The ecosystem needs a well planned-out, structured support. Be it entrepreneurship cells in colleges or policies made by the government, we need to get a structured support system.
Sometimes, when you startup you tend to believe that there's no support out there, that you're alone. But an amazing thing happens once you take a step forward in the right direction. There are many people out there who need help. And Housing has been fortunate enough to have found great partners and great mentors.
So, my advice to entrepreneurs would be to be confident about their ideas and seek support whenever needed. And you'll be surprised at the number of people who come out to help you.
(Advitiya Sharma is the co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners-backed real estate portal Housing.com. As told to our Bangalore correspondent Sainul K Abudheen)