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Confident to stand alone, but open to joining forces: Housing’s Jason Kothari

Jason Kothari, CEO, Housing.com

Amid merger and acquisition talks involving the company, Housing.com CEO Jason Kothari said the company is open to joining forces with others if that makes business sense. “If it’s beneficial for us to join forces with someone, we would be open to it. We have a lot of those options on the table, but at the same we’re also very confident about our position as a standalone business,” he told TechCircle when asked about merger deals involving Housing.

The four-year-old realty portal backed by SoftBank was in news in the recent months for a number of merger talks it was reportedly involved with. Kothari had earlier denied holding talks with another SoftBank-backed company, the e-commerce marketplace Snapdeal for a merger. Recently, a report surfaced about merger talks between Housing and Mumbai-based Square Yards. Kothari denied the development, “Housing is not merging with Square Yards. That’s not accurate.”

Meanwhile, Housing is looking to raise fresh capital in the next few months. After raising $15 million in a bridge round from SoftBank that was announced in January this year, the company is in need for further capital infusion. Kothari said the company would be raising a relatively small amount of capital.

“Because the company is doing very well now, we’ve been approached by strategic and financial investors. In addition, our existing investors are very happy with the transformation we’ve done with the company. So we have a number of paths available to us that we’re evaluating right now,” he said.

VCCircle reported earlier this month that Housing held fresh talks with Chinese investors after the merger with Snapdeal was put on the back burner. “..we’re close to many of them, like the founder of SouFun or Leiju and so on, and there’s been a set of meetings and mutual learnings and we definitely have interest from China in Housing but it’s one of the various options that are available to us,” Kothari said.

Kothari in a recent interview said the company scouts for acquisitions to become an end-to-end player in the real estate service market starting from search and listing to helping transactions. When asked how the company would fund such buyouts given its limited cash reserve, Kothari said, “We have access to capital if it’s the right opportunity and can also issue stock as consideration.”

After the ouster of co-founder and CEO Rahul Yadav last year, Housing reduced its workforce by one-third to around 1,200, shut operations in a dozen cities and withdrew from a number of businesses. Kothari claimed the company reduced spending by 70% and would achieve $10 million revenues by the end of the year. He said the page view of the realty portal quadrupled in the last eight months.

However, SimilarWeb data showed that web traffic for Housing decreased from 2.4 million in December 2015 to 1.9 million in May 2016. Kothari refuted this trend.

“That’s not accurate. SimilarWeb has its restrictions; so it takes certain samples and it also doesn’t necessarily take mobile app or mobile web completely accurately. From the outside, if you use third-party analytics to measure this, they do have certain limitations,” he said.

Housing competes with MagicBricks, 99acres and IndiaProperty, besides a host of other digital real estate companies including PropTiger. News Corp, which holds a significant stake in PropTiger, also owns the parent of this news website.

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