February 24, 2020
4 years back when Jigyan Deep Kalita founded bharaghor.com under Stackcell Technologies, he didn’t have a business blueprint in hand. It’s a non-profit website without a revenue model, connecting property owners to the tenants. The plan was to create a database around which a concrete business model could be worked upon. The quirky data gathering idea yielded perks in the form of humongous traffic generation and gaining people’s trust. Today, the website has 1500 enlisted properties, with 900 registered house owners, and boasting a traffic of 10, 000 visitors every month. This phenomenal response to bharghor.com marked the stepping stone for founding NHomes.
Having smartly identified the market need for a comfortable house to stay, Jigyan started working on the model around a brokerage-free principle. The idea was to find well furnished houses to the tenants without charging a fee from them. In the process, he developed a model targeting property owners and offering hassle-free property management services.
NHomes takes properties on lease for 11 months, finds suitable tenants, and takes complete charge of maintenance.
“NHomes is a management company looking after the properties of the house owners,” Jigyan summarizes.
They sign an authorisation agreement with the property owners for subleasing the house and immediately take charge to find apposite tenants. The pre-onboarding process involves thorough background checking of the prospective tenant, police verification and documentation, followed by a formal meeting between the property owner and the tenant. The startup takes care to spruce up the property with basic amenities before the tenants are given final access to the house.
In case of any repair issue during mid-stay, the startup bears complete responsibility of tending to the issues through their registered vendors at various localities of Guwahati.
“As a house owner, you are relieved of all the responsibilities. On the first day of every month, you have the rent amount in hand. And the rest is taken care of by us,” explains Jigyan.
“It’s a win-win deal for both the parties. The tenant gets a well-maintained service apartment without paying any additional amount as brokerage. The house owner gets the rent on time without worrying about maintenance or the hassles of finding a suitable tenant,” Jigyan further adds.
Understandably, the startup has set a benchmark for property selection. They have an uncompromising standard test to ensure best properties for tenants. That’s one reason why they exclusively target premium apartments with base rent starting at Rs. 15, 000.
NHomes offers both unfurnished and furnished houses. The furnished variety comes with a customized deal wherein the tenant can choose from a list of furnishing items for a cost fixed against each.
The startup does not accommodate short-term stays. They have fixed a minimum lock-in period of 6 months, failing which the tenants must pay a penalty amount.
Since the launch in 2018, NHomes has onboarded 45 properties in Guwahati. The number is increasing by 5 every day.
Despite an encouraging response, the startup has had its own set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges has been tenant verification and sieving the fair parties from the frauds. Jigyan calls the instance of a decent-looking tenant party, who, on deeper investigation, was found out to be a serial conman.
However, the most critical challenge was to see through the initial days with crunch capital until becoming a profitable venture. Jigyan had raised a seed fund of Rs. 10 lakh from a local angel investor, a major portion of which was expended in setting up the office and paying salaries. The urgency to become profitable was a task.
“Our initial focus was on surviving for the first 5 years, come what may. I had spent 4 years planning for my startup. There was no way I would have let it go waste,” the founder says.
An IT engineer by profession, Jigyan believes in the effectiveness of setting short-term goals and taking one step at a time. That’s one major factor that keeps him from scaling up at the moment. His present focus is on leveraging and consolidating technology in order to set the process right. Jigyan is, currently, working on developing a prototype app that would help streamline the process.
In a world of multifarious business mantras, Jigyan swears by the time-tested rule – Customer satisfaction grows the business. “To begin with, it’s better to focus on a small customer base and spoil them with the best of services, making them come back every time and even bring new clients. And for this to happen, I have to set up an infallible, user-friendly technology platform to ensure smoother interactions and quick services for our clients.”
Jigyan’s goal for the next 2 years is to get 250 properties in Guwahati on board and then scale up. He is also contemplating on building a B2B model, targeting corporate, banks, and insurance companies.
A no-brokerage model that blows fresh air into the regular property management business, NHomes shows excellent potential to mark its presence across the country. But, as Jigyan says, ‘the priority is to strengthen the base with dependable technology; scalability won’t be a problem.’
A fundraising at this stage is crucial to developing the technology platform. The startup will soon be sanctioned the monetary remunerations it had applied for under the My Assam Startup ID (MASI) by the Government of Assam. Jigyan is also in discussion with the investors, which is expected to convert into the necessitated investment very soon.
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By: Satarupa Mishra