Indian real estate startup CommonFloor has made its first major move since raising $7.5 million investment from Accel and Tiger Global in July: it is hiring air-conditioned hatchbacks, sedans and luxury cars to ferry affluent, lethargic Indians to/from unconstructed properties. In a sense, it is bringing the mountain to Moses.
The high-end and commercial real estate website currently lists about 60,000 developments, containing about five million homes, and announced its new ‘site visit’ option would ferry customers to and from properties in the air-conditioned comfort of a sedan or hatchback. CommonFloor co-founder and CEO Sumit Jain said high-net worth customers will get the sweetest ride, being chauffeured in Mercedes and BMW vehicles (champagne optional). While this does increase the burn rate, the good will generated is clearly priceless.
“We have a wide range of properties from high-luxury to quite affordable, and they each attract different sets of buyers,” Jain said. “Someone already using a Mercedes or BMW will not want to travel in a mid-class segment car so, depending on the budget, we arrange for vehicle and convenience.”
In the initial stages, the company will pay the expense for renting the cars, available in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, and Delhi, but eventually Jain said they will charge the property sellers for delivering these high-value leads. There are no plans to hire flower bearers to scatter rose petals at the feed of visiting nouveau riche as they tour the estates.
Indians have plenty of reasons not to want to venture outside of their homes. In many cases it’s impossible to navigate a particular neighbourhood without already knowing where you’re supposed to be (Google Maps is only useful if you’re chasing geese). The intense climate, which recently breached 100 degrees in Delhi; the crumbling infrastructure; and chaotic traffic also make travelling between from A to B a serious ordeal — especially if you’re sitting in a lawnmower-engine powered, three-wheeler rick travelling at 10 miles an hour. Most important, however, is that the average affluent Indian’s largesse doesn’t include venturing outside of their comfort zone. They are in many ways an immovable object.
Jain said the taxi service is closing the loop between seller and buyer.
“There’s a huge information gap in this country, in terms of not finding the right information. It works in three phases. The first problem is the normal problem people face finding buyers and sellers on their platform, but once you get enough how do you get them to transact, and how does the transaction happen?”
“We’re taking buyers closer to property and not limiting ourselves to only show it on the website. We’re closing in on closing the last-mile connectivity.”