New Success Formulas in Real Estate Powered by Digital Technology
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New Success Formulas in Real Estate Powered by Digital Technology

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Subodh Kumar, CTO, MagicbricksThe real estate sector in India has been on a reformation curve over the past decade. Right before the pandemic, the industry was navigating a tough period on the back of the demonetization and implementation of the Real Estate Regulation and Development Act (RERA) and goods and services tax (GST), to say nothing of the non-banking financial company (NBFC) crisis. Around 2019, the industry was ready to regain momentum, but the pandemic hit like a bolt from the blue.

The pandemic had an extinguishing effect on the flaring prices. The predictions were that the real estate industry would take a while to recover its lost charm. But the real estate industry, especially in Asia, has bounced back sooner than expected despite the world moving toward a recession. Today, much is happening in the segment concerning everything from growth prospects to technology intervention and customer experience. Through this exclusive interview with Subodh Kumar, CTO, Magicbricks—one of India’s leading real estate platforms that connects buyers & sellers, we strive to navigate the challenges and opportunities in the industry. A forward-thinking and intelligent CTO with decisive business acumen, Subodh is an exceptional leader with more than two decades of professional experience in the industry. 

In conversation with Subodh Kumar, CTO, Magicbricks

What is 'business-after-pandemic' for the real estate industry in India? What are the changes the industry is undergoing?
Like all industries, real estate was also affected by the pandemic. Apart from the overall standstill, the sector underwent fundamental changes due to restricted physical meetings, cautious travel, office closures, and work/learn-from-home. The construction of properties was delayed, the commercial real estate market slowed down considerably, and there was little promise of recovery during those months. However, as the lockdown eased and the industry opened up, we observed a steady recovery of demand and supply. Magicbricks Research shows that residential demand recovered 27.7 percent YoY in April-June 2022 and a further 7.8 percent YoY between April and June 2023, fueled by strong home-owning sentiment and supportive monetary policy. We expect this promising pattern to persist for the next few quarters as well.

The business-after-pandemic has evolved significantly, and some popular trends are—increasing demand for spacious homes and openness to invest in peripheral and tier 2 towns and cities.

Technology leadership is the strategic and innovative use of technology to drive transformation, efficiency, and value in the real estate industry


A strong focus on health and well-being has prompted developers to rethink design and infrastructure. Features such as touchless technologies, improved ventilation systems, and open green spaces are gaining importance. There is also an accelerated adoption of technologies such as Virtual property tours, online transactions, and digital property management to enhance convenience and accessibility for buyers and investors.

What does technology leadership in modern-day real estate mean? What are the traits of a good leader in the domain?
Technology leadership is the strategic and innovative use of technology to drive transformation, efficiency, and value in the real estate industry. It involves adopting and leveraging digital tools, software, data analytics, and communication platforms to enhance various aspects of the real estate process, from property development and management to buying, selling, and renting properties. I feel technology leaders need to be adept at identifying customer pain points and using technology to find creative and effective products and solutions. For example, traditionally, the search for an ideal tenant has been a time-consuming and labor-intensive endeavor for landlords because there are socio-economic preferences. To solve this challenge, Magicbricks developed and integrated a new feature—Know Your Tenant (KYT) into our platform, which uses an intuitive and user-friendly interface focused on maintaining the privacy of both parties, enabling relevant conversations and fostering more successful tenant-landlord matches.

The Indian smart home market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 18.4 percent from 2020 to 2025. How do you look at this demand, and what are the other technology trends driving the market?
Energy efficiency is a focus, with smart thermostats and appliances optimizing usage. Security features encompass smart locks, cameras, and real-time monitoring. Health monitoring integrates wearables with home systems. AI and machine learning enable predictive adjustments, while facial and gesture recognition offers secure access. Sustainability is rising in importance, with eco-friendly devices gaining traction. Additionally, Edge computing processes data locally for reduced latency and helps improve user privacy.

What is the technology transformation story of Magicbricks? How does it leverage technologies like AR and VR to provide the experience customers demand?
Magicbricks has many industry-first technologies to its credit. We started with 5,000 brokers and 25,000 listings in 2006, aiming to ease the process of buying, selling, and renting properties in India. However, early on, we identified our customers' pain points in their journey of searching, shortlisting, finalizing, and moving into a home. And for the past 15+ years, we have made technological advancements and planned business offerings to solve them.

In 2008, Magicbricks launched India’s first real-estate mobile app, PropWorth, which benchmarked residential prices across eight cities including Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune. Over the next decade, we continued to invest in AI and technology stacks to deliver more value to our customers. We introduced several new additions to our product portfolio, including Agent Suite and Travel Time Search, and launched India’s first Real-Estate Experience Center in Mumbai in 2016. The state-of-the-art center made the home-buying journey more intuitive through AR/VR and 3D technologies, including immersive walkthroughs, virtual discussions with Magicbricks’ representatives, and touch-screen-based map searches. Over the years, we also built several data assets to bring forth credible industry insights. In 2018, we launched India’s first real-estate video channel, MBTV, bringing authentic property & location reviews and expert advice to customers nationwide. 

Today, we are a tech-enabled full-stack service provider using technology across our services. For example, one of the biggest value unlockers in buying a home is getting the right home loan. To assist them in making informed decisions, Magicbricks launched the Bank Recommendation Engine, which leverages advanced AI technology and evaluates home loan products and offerings from over 40 financial institutions. This comprehensive analysis enables the tool to recommend the ideal home loan partner for prospective home-buyers. Over the past year, the tool has successfully assisted thousands of customers, showcasing an impressive accuracy rate of 90 percent.

We are also focusing on further developing and enhancing our recommendation engine, which deploys a unique algorithm to bring the most relevant properties to the customers based on their preferences.

How do you perceive the new regulatory reforms happening in the country from a real estate standpoint? 
With all stakeholders focusing on bringing transparency and trust in the sector, technology has an important role to play in this ambition—from digitizing land records to deploying blockchain technology for revolutionizing how ownership, contracts, and records are managed while reducing fraud and administrative complexities. It enables efficient digital verification of property histories, enhancing trust and simplifying the transfer of assets. The Andhra Pradesh government has already implemented a blockchain-based land record management system called 'Bhoomi.'

I also foresee a more structured policy framework to promote sustainability, especially regarding technology integration. Green building certification systems and energy efficiency standards will be more formalized to encourage net zero carbon buildings.

Tell us about your leadership approach and governance style. What are the methodologies or guidelines you follow?
Leadership is not a function of title or responsibility; leadership is a function of doing what leaders do—helping others be more effective. As leaders, we must set the standard high, encourage creative ways to accomplish the tasks and empower teammates.

I also believe that as leaders, we must always give more than expected. This has proved to be the best way to exceed expectations for customers, employees, or investors consistently.

Essentially, I would say that leading, staying focused on what you and your organization do best, setting high standards, empowering others, giving them a reason to believe deeply in what you and they are doing, never compromising your standards, and giving more than expected are best hacks to leadership. I have complete confidence that these are ingredients for effective leadership.

What would be your advice to the budding technology leaders in the smart-everything industry?
User-Centric Approach: Understand end-users' needs deeply—design solutions that enhance their lives, prioritizing usability, convenience, and value.
Data-Driven Insights: Embrace data analytics to make informed decisions. Harness insights to optimize processes, predict trends, and drive strategic initiatives.
Vision and Innovation: Develop a clear vision for how technology can shape the future. Be willing to innovate, challenge norms, and explore unconventional solutions to drive meaningful change.
Ethics and Responsibility: Tech decisions impact society. Operate with ethical considerations, ensuring privacy, security, and social well-being are central to your innovations.

 

Hobbies: Cooking and playing Cricket with my daughters

Favorite Cuisines: Indian Cuisines

Favorite Books: The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Favorite Movies: Vertical Limit

Favorite Travel Destinations: Leh & Ladakh