New Delhi, Sep 27 () Housing.com, one of the leading online real estate classifieds, will continue to invest in technology and brand promotions to gain market share, buoyed by 60 per cent traffic surge on the platform from pre-COVID-level, its CEO Dhruv Agarwala said on Sunday. News Corp and Softbank-backed Elara Technologies group owns three real estate portals — PropTiger, Makaan.com and Housing.com.

In an interview with , Agarwala, who is also the CEO of PropTiger and Makaan.com, said the group is investing a significant amount on brand building of Housing.com during the ongoing IPL cricket tournament being held in the UAE.

To cater to the rising trafiic from smaller towns, he said Housing.com has been launched in Hindi and the platform will soon be available in other regional languages.

Stating that the Indian digital real estate market offers huge opportunity, he said the group will continue to invest to grow the business and raise funds if needed.

Asked about the impact on its business and recovery post lockdown, he said the traffic on its three platforms fell sharply in the initial days of lockdown, which was imposed on March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease.

Now, the traffic on all platforms are well above pre-COVID levels, he added.

“Housing.com has seen the maximum gains with organic traffic up by 60 per cent from the pre-COVID number. Conversion rates, from traffic to enquiries, on all our platforms are also higher than what they were in March, which suggests that prospective buyers are beginning to come back into the market to search for homes,” Agarwala said.

He noted that the digital adoption in the sales and marketing of real estate has gone up significantly after the coronavirus outbreak, both from demand and supply side. The trend would only become stronger with consumer unlikely to reverse their buying behaviour.

Webinars, video conference, live drone views, online walkthroughs of sample apartments have become more common. Many portals have now enabled end-to-end transaction capabilities on their platforms.

“Consumer behaviour has also seen a shift with more people using the online medium for various activities such as shopping, food delivery, entertainment, education and doctor consultations. This has helped the real estate sector considerably with more people now becoming comfortable using the online medium for buying and renting a home,” he observed.

On the revenue outlook for the current fiscal, Agarwala said experts are forecasting a decline in GDP for the full fiscal year to be in the region of 8-10 per cent.

“Real estate has also been severely impacted, which is likely to have an adverse impact on our original revenue forecast for this year,” he said, but did not share the group’s turnover.

However, Agarwala said the surge in traffic on its platforms has led to a decline in customer acquisition costs, offsetting some of the adverse impact on revenues.

“Our biggest cost saving has come from lower customer acquisition costs. This has been driven largely by growth in organic traffic, better optimisation of our performance marketing campaigns as well as lower marketing costs due to lower demand for advertising during the lockdowns,” he said.

The group has also achieved big savings in infrastructure cost as it surrendered many of office leases because of work from home and remote working, Agarwala said, adding that general and administrative costs have come down substantially.

On fund raising plans, Agarwala said: “The opportunity for digital real estate continues to be big in India. We would raise the necessary capital to continue investing in our business as and when needed to drive growth and increase market share.”

In January this year, the US-based News Corp and its Australian arm REA Group invested around USD 70 million (Rs 500 crore) in Elara Technologies. With this funding, Elara has raised USD 175 million so far from investors. MJH MKJ

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