Mr. Sudhir PaiMagicBricks.com is an online property portal from Times Business Solutions, which provides property listings, advice and news on buying or renting properties. In the first part of our interaction with Sudhir Pai, Business Head of MagicBricks, he spoke about the launch of new locality features, response to their website, profitability of their business, among others. In the second part of our interaction, he speaks about monetisation, luxury section, consumer complaints, consumer data collection, target, competition, scaling, marketing and challenges.

Monetisation

Medianama: How do you monetise your website? How much do you charge for ads and premium listings?

Pai: We have a robust commercial model where bulk of the revenue comes from builders and brokers for listing properties, for banners and other kinds of advertising. Free listing is available for individuals.

Medianama: How do you ensure, when an individual is posting, that he is not a broker?

Pai: To ensure that agents don’t go down that route, only one listing can be made on the website using one email Id and one mobile number for free. Beyond that, even an individual has to pay. Most people who want to list more will end up paying for the listings because of the email Id and mobile number.

Medianama: Why did you decide to launch a luxury homes section? How have you monetised this section? Is it different from your regular monetisation strategy?

Pai: It is a completely different section because our experience told us that a cluttered website is not able to cater to luxury buyers. A luxury buyer is more concerned about experience. The luxury section has been created with that in mind. It has no clutter, very select, curated 30-35 properties per city are listed in this section. Personalised service is available to a buyer over a period of several months. We have a newsletter with content for our luxury site. Interested buyers can sign up for it. Even sellers are looking for high end quality of leads therefore we have a completely different business model for this section. However, although the prices are different, the method of monetisation is similar. We don’t charge buyers. There are other value add services like vaastu, astrology, assisted search etc with an one time fee which buyers can opt for, other than that the website is free for all buyers.

Consumer Data Collection & Targeting

Medianama: What is the kind of data that you collect on your website and mobile apps? How do you monetise it?

Pai: When users go on the Magicbricks website, they end up creating a vast pool of data around the listings, locality, searches, number of listings in the market, data for consumer demand, among others. Consumers by using the site throw a lot of data regarding the overall consumer demand and supply and as site we have access to both demand and supply data. We run extensive algorithms which throw up rates and trends which we publish into a quarterly online and hard copy book called Prop Index. We also provide rates and trends as part of every listing and is available for users to use for free.

Medianama: What kind of partnerships do you have property owners, agents and developers? What kind of monetary relationship do you have with them?

Pai: Listings and advertising by agents, property owners and developers is the main  model for us. However, we also engage with senior builders who in come as experts and we leverage them for our content.

Medianama: Who is your focus, end consumers or agents?

Pai: We need both sellers and buyers and end consumers. Both are equally important since there no sellers would list on our website without buyers and no buyers would come to our website without listings from sellers. We have to do a balancing act to cater to both of them.

Consumer Complaints

Medianama: There have been complaints on different platforms about bogus agents on your website. What are you doing to ensure that the listings are done by real people who have properties?

Pai: There is a problem of spam, not just on our website but on all websites in our category. For us, this is one of the important things that we are trying to handle. We are making sellers put up more information about the listing which makes each listing as authentic as possible. Listings that we identify as bogus or fraud are deleted. We push the more accurate listings higher up on our search. The effort is to create algorithms which will identify which listings are accurate and better. It is an on-going work and we are doing it well. However, it is an on going challenge for our category as whole, not just our website.

Competition

Medianama: How has competition affected your business? How do you differentiate yourself from other players in an overcrowded sector like online property listings?

Pai: We are clear leaders in this category. We have differentiated ourselves with about 18 features in both product and content sites which sets us apart from everyone else.

Medianama: How do you call yourself market leaders?

Pai: There’s Comscore data for the last three months where we have been number one in every single traffic parameter, way ahead of the rest.

(Editorial note: Traffic is not necessarily an indicator of  revenues or marketshare)

Medianama: How do the property listings on Times Groups* offline publications affect your business? Is not conflict of interest?

Pai: It is not really a conflict of interest. Newspapers have their own business model. Online is very small compared to other media. As an advertiser, I’m free to choose my media either offline or online or both.

Scaling

Medianama: Are players in the online property segment simply fighting for a piece of a pie in an overcrowded sector? What are the real growth potentials for players in the online property space?

Pai: It is not a very small category. Last year this category had generated 150 crores. Yes, there are several players in this category, however, I wont call it overcrowded but rather the sector is attracting more people to set up shop. And yes, over a period of time, the market will consolidate throwing up a few winners who are big and others would have to settle for something smaller or for small sections.

Medianama: How is scale possible in this sector without breaking into tier II cities? How can you scale your business with just tier I cities?

Pai: I think we will have to both break into tier II cities and also increase listings in tier I cities as well. We are in 32 cities in the country. Having said that the lion share about 85% of value in terms of advertising stays with top 10 or 12 cities. It is indeed possible to create a need and grow well even in the top 10 cities for several years. There’s a growing market in small towns as well. There is also another segment which includes the NRIs It is an important segment for us and we get 15% our revenues from NRIs. We are now working on expanding NRIs share.

Marketing & Challenges

Medianama: How does marketing strategy help you differentiate from the competition? How are you marketing yourself differently?

Pai: We market ourselves in two distinct ways. Firstly, we have built a strong positioning in terms of options we provide. Secondly, we have taken an integrated marketing route. We market uniformly across different media including internet, print, radio and online.

Medianama: What are the challenges that you face as an online portal in the property space?

Pai: Penetration in the category is low. The next challenge is how do you make people who don’t use online come online. Internet penetration and change in habit are the main challenges with respect to buyers. With respect to sellers, we are trying to avoid spam and ensure genuineness and accuracy of listings.

Disclosure: Times Internet Ltd is an advertiser with MediaNama