RoofandFloor.com, the online marketplace from KSL Digital Ventures for new properties, is looking at a shift of its income sources from the current majority contributors of advertising and lead generation, to site visits and an ‘end-to-end’ model.
“We started with advertising and lead generation, which still account for a majority of the revenue, but since last year, we have been very clear that we have to be close to the transactions,” said Bikash Chowdhury, CMO, in conversation with Campaign India.
RoofandFloor.com was launched by KSL Digital Ventures (KDV), a fully owned subsidiary of publishers of The Hindu Kasturi and Sons, in September 2014. Around the same time last year, it went through a management rejig, and ‘real investment’ in product development has happened only in the last six months, according to Chowdhury.
The online portal caters to Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Madurai, Trichy, Vishakapatnam and Vijayawada currently, and is eyeing a launch in Mumbai and Pune before the end of the current fiscal.
“We think Mumbai and Pune launch should happen in the next quarter. We want to make sure we have the right product for each market. Given the product we have, which focuses on the primary property market (new property), we are looking at markets which are not heavily dependent on intermediaries (like NCR). NCR is the largest market in India; but we will look at the best product for that market,” he explained.
Without disclosing absolute numbers, the CMO claimed that traffic numbers were growing at 15 to 20 pc a month over the last six months.
Content, Community, Commerce
RoofandFloor.com’s three-pronged strategy hinges on content, community and commerce, as it aspires to be the end-to-end marketplace for new property buyers.
On the content end, there is a research-based layer on top of specifications and rates provided by builders, to allow visitors more information like the actual price they are likely to end up paying (Trueprice). On the legal front, a panel of independent consultants is on hand to provide counsel, though this service (Truelegal) is not available online on tap currently.
'Community' is work in progress, to create a destination for those who have bought property (by location) and those looking to. This crowdsourced content will be moderated by RoofandFloor, with no seeding by developers or the marketplace.
All efforts are directed to enable more of the property buying process online. While KDV realises that the site visit cannot be replaced by an online experience, the belief is that a lot of elements like the advisory services, can be delivered online.
'Trust' and 'Transparency'
Chowdhury reasoned that with majority of competitors offering used homes and also rental listings, and given the South-centric presence of RoofandFloor currently, traffic volumes may not be an adequate representation of its share. Basis feedback from developers on share of revenue, he estimates RoofandFloor to be in the top three in Chennai. It wants to get into that space in Bengaluru, ‘a difficult market’. Its smallest metro presence is in Hyderabad, where it launched eight months ago.
From 70 people currently, the headcount is expected to go up to 240 in the current fiscal, coinciding with expansion in the West. The people in advisory roles and operations will grow, as will the product and engineering, and marketing teams.
The two pillars around which the brand’s positioning is built are ‘Trust’ and ‘Transparency’. This was born of research, which informed the team that the missing element as perceived by people who used online portals in Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru was not technology, but independent and reliable information on key factors like property title and price.
“The market needed it. And because of The Hindu’s credibility, we could go out and make that promise,” added Chowdhury.
While the brand started off with promotions in the parent company’s print daily, majority of spends are now on digital, with critical focus on cost of user acquisition. The brand will be on radio before December.