According to Providential Real Estate Investors Report, the Indian real estate market is expected to be worth $1.2 trillion by 2021, clocking an annual growth of 30%. The real estate sector is said to the second largest employer in India, next to agriculture. The present real estate market is worth $350 billion with an addressable market of $500 to 600 million. Commercial real estate listing services, ad sales platforms and brokerage firms are fighting for a pie of the market. But there is no dedicated commercial rental transaction service, barring a few small firms in the rental domain.
OfficeJuvo, a startup based out of Chennai, provides a technology-enabled platform that caters to seekers of rental real estate for office space, co-working space, warehouses, retail spaces and shared spaces. OfficeJuvo operates only in Chennai at present and soon will expand into other cities, as the startup has identified at least 10 cities with possible traction.
How It Started
OfficeJuvo was an accidental brainchild of T. Shrikanth, who started his career with Sify Technologies, one of the first companies in the country to bet on the nascent Internet technology. He then moved into IndiaProperty.com when the online property sector was just taking shape. His third stint at Sulekha Property pushed him to venture on his own—not be design but by a twist of thought.
Caught in one of those “pivoting” moments, Shrikanth was thinking of transforming an “old” product into a “new” product at Sulekha to increase the company’s footprint in the property market. This time he was floating his ideas to Aditya Raghav who was in his team at Sulekha after ten years of work in Singapore, Europe, and India. After completing MBA from IESE Barcelona, Aditya came to head a product team at Sulekha, overseen by Shrikanth.
As Shrikanth and Aditya were brainstorming, the question of entry barrier cropped up. And that germinated a thought for both of them—Why not we do it ourselves?
The duo went on to host www.housejuvo.com as a marketplace for property in the emerging South Asian market but they were operating from Chennai. They chose Sri Lanka as their first stop and had plans to launch in untapped markets, including Bangladesh. HouseJuvo brought all the real estate agents on board and created an online database for prospective buyers in Sri Lanka and abroad. The offering did not find traction as expected, and coupled with fund-raising problems, the startup also started consuming cash heavily.
When they started a hunt for office in Chennai, they found that there was lack of genuine information and agents were ruling the roost in the market. OfficeJuvo was born of a coffee discussion to solve this problem in February 2015.
Finding a Space to Rent for Your Business through OfficeJuvo
On the challenges of locating an office space, “it is pure lack of information,” says Aditya. The usual way is find a real estate agent and look for ads that advertise available space. OfficeJuvo just aggregates the information for its customers. Aditya explains: “We decided that we will do a lot of grunt work in re-creating the listings which were scattered all over the place in online and offline media.” The initial groundwork was a bit taxing. OfficeJuvo directly got in touch with the property owners, visited the space available, and took photographs. Then a database was built for a prospective tenant to reach out to the owner, in the site itself. Earning the trust of property owners was the first success for OfficeJuvo. Shrikanth shares his experience thus: “I ensured that I did the first phone call to an owner for getting him listed, I visited the site myself for data collection and I went for the first site visit taking a prospective tenant. This was extremely important to us to understand what to expect in our operations.”
All information related to the rental property, including photographs, is displayed on the OfficeJuvo website. Aditya points out, “We cater to a wide range of customer base both in terms of types of spaces and size of spaces – a warehouse, retail shop, office space, co-working space. Though we work with a large number of corporates, majority of our target customers are SMEs.” The startup today claims to have 1200 rental real estate listings, spanning nearly 3 million square feet of commercial space across Chennai, with an average of 12 listings per day. “Six national retail chains are working with us,” says Aditya. There are 150 active seekers of rental space at present and at least six leads for seekers come in every day. “We have closed 20 deals so far,” adds Aditya. The OfficeJuvo team is 10-member strong at present.
Tenants initially didn’t pay OfficeJuvo anything but now pay a flat fee. In return, they get a database of listings from which they can shortlist the ones that satisfy their requirements. They are offered advice on possible localities. Aditya explains, “We have a standard questionnaire which the prospective tenants answer. Then our CRM helps find the matches based on their needs.” Site visits are arranged, with an OfficeJuvo relationship manager accompanying the prospect. The startup also helps conclude rental agreements.
In case of owners of multiple properties, OfficeJuvo offers the convenience of finding prospective tenants for all of them. The owners are charged 15-day rent as the brokerage fee. For customers looking for, say, a six-year lock-in period, they would want to fix a reliable space as rentals tend to go up in a dynamic market. OfficeJuvo believes in providing correct information as Aditya thinks it’s a hygienic requirement. Retail spaces and warehouses have a real problem of discovery and this startup bridges the gap to help those seeking such spaces. Brokers use information to their advantage and facilitating a transparent conversation requires a neutral platform, which OfficeJuvo seeks to build, according to Aditya. On the plans for the future, Aditya wants OfficeJuvo to become a preferred destination for real estate rentals.
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- real estate
- real estate market
- Startup company
- retail chains
- T. Shrikanth
- retail shop
- Commercial property