NoBroker's Journey To Becoming India's First Proptech Unicorn

NoBroker clocks more than 5, 00,000 transactions every year and more than 75 lakh properties are registered on the portal

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When Akhil Gupta, Amit Kumar Agarwal and Saurabh Garg, co-founders of NoBroker, decided to launch a tech-based brokerage-free real estate platform in 2013, achieving a billion-dollar valuation was a far-fetched dream. 

Company Handout

That is why, when the startup raised $ 210 million in Series E to become the first proptech unicorn in November 2021, it was not a moment to tick off a goal, but a time to see how far the IIT graduates have come and pat their backs.  

“We certainly believe that the problem that we have taken up to address, that is the way brokers add very little value to the ecosystem and charge high intermediation costs, is a real genuine pain for the customer. So, we always believed that this was a very important business model. We were very, very confident that if this works and if we were able to execute in a way we were thinking, it would be huge. However, chasing unicorn status never crossed our minds,” said Akhil Gupta, co-founder and CTO, NoBroker.

While the founders have been doing the same thing in the last seven eight years and continue to do so, the unicorn status has surely brought a lot of happiness to employees. “In terms of perhaps external acknowledgement, it is a validation that whatever we are doing is attracting investors and allowing them to have faith in us. And yes, of course people are happy, especially because we are the first property-tech unicorn. I think what we have been able to prove through this is that if you just focus on customer problem, year over year then you can grow,” said Amit Agarwal, co-founder and CEO, NoBroker.

Solving A Problem 

The genesis of NoBroker came from a personal problem that the founder shared with millions of Indians, that is brokerage. “In 2007, when I was trying to find a house in Mumbai, I tried many tech platforms. But I still had to pay a huge brokerage fee. And the funny part is that when I was renewing the agreement with the same landlord, the broker came back and demanded the brokerage again. I realized it was a huge problem which millions of people face in India. So, I spoke to my friends (cofounders now), who also were facing similar problems,” said Saurabh Garg, co-founder and CBO, NoBroker.

That’s how in 2013 the three co-founders came together and decided that they needed to solve this and find a solution in which a broker can’t do anything and only genuine owners, tenants, buyers and sellers could interact. And, that paved the way for the launch of NoBroker in 2013.

However, though the intention was right, the road ahead was not smooth. “We thought we were solving a genuine issue. So, like any budding entrepreneurs, we started our journey. We rented an office in a normal bungalow, which was accessible from the road. Anybody could walk in and walk out. We didn't realize that we were actually causing a disruption,” said Garg. Well, until one day when some brokers started breaking things in their office and the founders didn’t have a security guard or a camera. 

This incident made them realize that they had caused a disruption which was bound to have repercussions. However, this also gave them the confidence that they were doing the right thing. They were sure they were making a difference and had to rally strong towards their mission of solving the brokerage menace. “One thing which I tell my team is that if you commit a mistake, it's not a problem. You should make mistakes, but learn from those mistakes and don't commit the same mistake again,” said Gupta. 

“As entrepreneurs, you should continue working towards solving customer problems and keep customers always ahead of you. And when you are doing it, there are much higher chances of getting success than assuming something and doing or building something for the customers that they may not need,” he added. 

Another important learning for the founders was to hire the right finance and HR leaders. “We were bootstrapped for a year after launch. But even after we got funded, we continued to do the same things. Like, I would edit a word document, convert it to a PDF and issue it as an offer letter. For a good amount of time, we basically acted as HR and finance. If we could go back in time, we would hire good HR and finance professionals faster,” said Agarwal.

NoBroker today clocks more than 5, 00,000 transactions every year and more than 75 lakh properties are registered on the portal. Also, more than 1.6 crore individuals have so far used NoBroker services.

Business Model And Future Plans

While NoBroker is a real estate rental platform that offers verified listings from property owners without middlemen’s brokerage fees, the startup also has secondary businesses such as NoBroker Financial Service platform that provides home loans, NoBroker Home Services platform that offers movers and packers, painting services, among others and NoBrokerHood, a security and visitor management platform for residential complexes and a seller’s marketplace for verified users.   

The idea behind sub-segments is to help the core business, that is NoBroker, reach out to more customers and also to offer a one-stop solution for the customers. 

“We started with the enormity of the brokerage problem and over a period of time we became a one stop shop where we said that you know, everything that you need to do in your real estate journey, you can do it on NoBroker, whether it is packers and movers, painting, documentation for loans and all these, but the idea was always to solve this problem and I think as we were solving this problem, this came as part of that, rather than this being a goal,” said Garg.

The co-founder believes that all these services add a huge amount of value to customers. “These are fragmented industries which basically offer customer service or uncertainty of service and high variability in price being quoted. So it made sense for us to be there,” said Agarwal.

When asked about how the co-founders divide the work between these different businesses and verticals, Agarwal said, “We have been able to do so many businesses because we think there are not three but at least 20 founders who are very committed and extremely passionate people who are running these verticals. And they are the ones who are actually growing the business right now as we talk to you. They are the ones who are putting in all the hard work to make it a success.” He added that the startup has been fortunate to hire great people who believe not only in the vision of founders, but also have expanded that vision to achieve much more. 

The startup is currently available in six cities including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi-NCR, and plans to expand to metro, Tier 1 cities and beyond.

S Shanthi

Written By

Entrepreneur Staff

Shanthi specializes in writing sector-specific trends, interviews and startup profiles. She has worked as a feature writer for over a decade in several print and digital media companies. She is also a mom who looks forward to playing a game of cards with her tween daughter every evening after work.