Flathood is a real-estate platform, which not only lists the houses you can rent but also ensures you close the deal within a few days.
Entrepreneurship was never on the cards for Atur Agarwal and Piyush Gupta, especially not in the real estate space. But destiny had other plans.
While working for Delhi-based startup Moovo, they were looking for a place to stay in Malviya Nagar. Ironically, despite going through several new and old real estate portals, the process was mentally exhausting. Right from dealing with brokers to setting up a functional living space, nothing was easy or seamless. They realised the problem was a widespread one and would recur whenever they decided to move again.
With more than 33 percent of the urban population living in rented accommodation, they felt that listings alone weren’t a long-term solution. “Despite having several real estate portals, getting a home in India still takes close to a month. And this is purely because there isn’t a single experience-focused real estate platform out there,” says Atur.
In September 2015, armed with a problem and the facts to back up their premise, they decided to set up Flathood, an on-demand rental platform that also provides home-seekers a host of services that make the entire process smooth and seamless.
Once the idea was clear in their mind, they roped in friends Dipankar Arhat, who earlier worked with Shopclues and Limetray, and Sitanshu Gupta, earlier with Grail Research and The Smart Cube, and the two came aboard as co-founders.
Flathood has an edge as it promises finding a home within a day, a 10-day move-in guarantee, bachelor- and couple-friendly houses, personal assistance in terms of helping to schedule visits, and understanding a customer’s needs and requirements.
The customer gets a single point of contact to deal with, no matter which localities they decide to search in. The team also assists the tenants rent furniture and appliances based on their needs. Flathood says it charges only a one-time service fee that covers everything from visits to maintenance and paperwork.
The team even takes responsibility for property maintenance and service-related issues for the first seven days after a customer moves in. Given that a tenant might be new to the locality, this service comes in handy to ensure they don’t spend their time in sourcing an electrician or plumber, or for that matter, figuring out how something works in a building or colony.
“We also provide customers with the option of a micro-loan for paying rent and security at the time of moving in,” adds Atur.
The Indian rental market is peculiar in its own way. While a report by the Indian Brand Equity Foundation predicts the overall Indian rental real estate market to touch $180 billion by 2020 and contribute close to 6 percent of the country’s GDP, it remains quite fragmented.
Atur adds that for every pincode in India, there are close to 1,000 brokers on average. Listings have been the default method to do business for many startups in this space, including NoBroker, Commonfloor (acquired by Quikr), Magicbricks, 99acres and even Prop Tiger, which acquired Housing.
One of the biggest problems with an online real estate portal is the fact there is a lot of inaccurate information. To top it, rental inventory has a half-life of less than nine days and keeping that information up to date is a task in itself. Many believe that this in itself is an obstruction to scaling.
In addition, there are several rental startups like YourOwnRoom, Homigo and Nestaway, which has raised over $43 million in funding, which follow a co-living kind of rental model. In fact, the co-living model is gaining steam with StayAbode, CoHo, Rentroomi and WudStay, to name a few. All these models offer a complete plug and play solution.
While Flathood too operates on a listings model, the team says that they have added a layer of service on top that, reducing the hassles that both tenants and home owners have to deal with.
“We take care of all communications, negotiations and every other detailing possible. We even give customers the option of helping them find flatmates or roommates or live in their own space. The choice is completely theirs,” adds Atur.
However, he believes that their biggest challenge has been getting people to pay a service fee. He adds that everybody wants to get a home without paying any money to the service provider.
“We are changing that by making home renting a premium, one-day service. We want people looking to rent a home to stop having to bother about it a month in advance,” says Atur.
The team currently charges each tenant half-a-month’s rent for every flat rented out through them. Flathood is currently operational in Delhi and Gurugram. The team intends to focus on the NCR market before exploring other regions.