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How Housing.com is augmenting tech innovations for operations and customer experience

In an interaction with Express Computer, Anand Thakur, Group CTO, Housing.com, Makaan.com, and PropTiger.com, talks about the disruption in the online property space and how Housing.com is bullish on technology-led innovations for enhancing process efficiency and providing a 360-degree customer experience

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What’s your assessment of the challenges and opportunities presented by the Covid-19 crisis in your industry?
During the pandemic, there have been certain factors that have impacted every business. For instance, reduced online traffic and conversion rate, as people are not keen on making purchases online. Furthermore, online property buying is much different than any other e-commerce business, due to the product prices. Hence, customers always prefer site visit, but it wasn’t possible in the lockdown period.

At Housing.com, our business principles are well founded and we continue to identify new opportunities, which is crucial for treading through times like these. The pandemic has impacted every business across the industry, but it has also given us the opportunity to utilise technology to create a differentiation for ourselves. Rather than investments in marketing, technology is becoming a key differentiator in today’s times and we benefit from it.

It also gives us the opportunity to work of non-revenue projects such as more customer engagement through through initiatives like our recently launched module, RentPay, which has added the capability to allow customers to pay rent on the platform. The usage of this feature is growing at 300 per cent, with a 50 per cent repeat rate.

Such initiatives brings users to our platform, allowing them to experience it. The crisis has also given us the opportunity to work on technology projects which were earlier not focused upon.

How had been the preparedness at Housing.com to cope with unprecedented events like this, culturally and technologically?
Since I joined around six months ago, I have realised that Housing.com is an evolved business. No organisation could have prepared itself to tackle a crisis of this magnitude. However, certain factors have allowed us to cushion the impact. For instance, we have never been a cash-burning business even when we witnessed topline growth.

Our organisational culture also played a key role; we are a technology-centric organisation. We have had remote working practices even before the pandemic outbreak, and we have been using collaboration tools such as Slack. We have been also tracking our workforce productivity digitally. We had to just extend these practices to the non-technology functions within the organisation. Cloud and endpoint security is also now a huge focus area for us.

We visualise the role of technology in whatever we do, which has helped us ensure seamless business operations. As soon as the crisis unfurled, our CXO team set the right processes and policies in place to ensure sustained productivity — our teams’ productivity has increased during the remote working period.

How do you see the role of augmented and virtual reality for offering an enhanced customer experience?
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been available for a long time now, but their industry adoption has been a challenge. In India, customers still prefer site visits when buying property, but in line with the changing situations, we may see more virtual visits and a few site visits. We will be witnessing increased customer acceptance of these technologies in a post-Covid world.

At Housing.com, we have always focused on leveraging these technologies to provide a 360-degree, immersive experience to users. We also developed a solution using Oculus, wherein users can visit the property virtually.

How do you see tech-driven business operations in a ‘new normal’ world?
In a “new normal” environment, technologies will evolve. Organisations are exploring the right mix of remote and physical work approaches, which will be key in the long term. The pandemic has also opened a can of worms in terms of cyber threats, so there’s now a huge focus on security across industries. Even the traditional organisations that have never focused on cyber security, are now aggressively considering it.

Another big transformation will be enablement of the sales force in a remote working environment. At Housing.com, we are already working on this practice. We have already started video calling feature input platform, allowing customers to interact with property developers. Additionally, we also facilitate virtual site visits through video streaming.

What will be the key focus areas for your organisation in the future?
We are also looking at leveraging analytics and automation for tracking productivity of our sales workforce. In a couple of months, we expect a complete framework to enable t our sales team to work remotely to the maximum extent. The use of advanced analytics will also provide us enhanced capabilities for cross selling and up selling.

Moreover, we will be focusing on the marketing front, further growing the organic traffic.

As part of our bigger vision for the next one year, we will focus on 360-degree coverage of customers’ real estate needs. We want to make Housing.com the one-stop shop for all of customers’ needs, and not just a property listing platform.


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