Cementing Futures

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Gaurav Munjal, Co Founder - Flat.toGaurav Munjal talks to Youth Inc about his tryst with house brokers and the inception of Flat. to

FROM JAIPUR TO MUMBAI
I was born and raised in Jaipur. I studied at St. Xavier’s Senior Secondary School and I moved to Mumbai to study computer engineering at NMIMS University. During the third year I interned at a company called Directi and also worked there as a software developer after the completion of my course. During college, I undertook two ventures – one was an education venture known as ‘Unacademy’ and the other one was a fashion blog ‘Fashionama’ that today has over a million fans on Facebook.

THE REVELATION
When I moved to Mumbai in the first year, hostel accommodation was provided by my college. After that I had to find a flat to stay near college. That’s when I realised two things – one that the housing market is unorganised and second that there is a lot of money in it so brokers on an average make one month’s rent as brokerage from students as well as flat owners.
By the time I was in my third year, I had already switched two flats. I began to think, what if every student in my college takes a flat through me? We would be solving problems by listing down all accommodations issues available and we would also end up making a lot of money. At that point in time, if you referred someone to a broker and if they got a flat through him, the broker would give you a 10% commission. If I did recommend a person, I would make some money out of it. That’s how I thought about it and that’s how the idea came to me. Since I had experince working with web products, I thought I could build a product around it and help solve a problem.

HOUSE HUNTING IN MUMBAI
I switched four flats in five years in Mumbai. Four years when I was studying and one year when I was working. Every year I had to go through a new broker and it was a hectic process. We at flat.to make it easier for the students to connect with the right broker since it is very important to connect to the right broker or owner.

LIVING IN MUMBAI
My time in Mumbai was full of wild experiences. I remember living in Goregaon East during my first year in the hostel. I realised that when you come from a city like Jaipur or even Delhi you do get excited when you see a TV actor or a movie actor. We used to visit a number of places like Oberoi Mall. Often we’d see a TV actor and get so excited. It never happened with people already living in Mumbai. It was a kind of weird experience because we always wondered, “Why aren’t they excited to see them?” Another experience: my college was in Juhu, so Juhu is where my campus life was. I remember walking on the beach at 2 am or 3 am without any fear. I think these are the experiences that only happen in Mumbai. I am currently living in Bangalore and I miss Mumbai terribly.

ROLE OF BROKERS AT FLAT.TO
Using the service of a broker is one feature on our site. If somebody wants a flat without a broker we provide it, but if somebody wants to get connected to a good broker who can be helpful to students and bachelors, we help with that also. There are people who don’t want to go through a broker – that’s when our feature comes in handy. I haven’t had any bad experiences with brokers, but I know a lot of people who because of a bad broker have got into trouble.

BAD EXPERIENCE AS A PAYING GUEST
I didn’t live in Mumbai as a paying guest. I had a flat on rent and it was brilliant. I didn’t have any bad experiences as such. But just for the mention, the security guards and the people of the society demean you because you are a bachelor and a student. Even if you are not doing anything wrong they tend to generalise. If your friends come over they ask questions like, Why are they visiting? If you play music they ask you to stop. Nothing major, but bachelors and students have been looked down upon in society in general.

THE CREATION OF FLAT.TO
I am not the kind who researches before building something; I go by my intuition. I felt that there was a need for this site and that’s why I built it. It started off with Andheri, Juhu and Vile Parle – three suburbs in Mumbai and now we are present in six cities across the country. If you believe in the problem you are solving then it has to be by intuition – yes, this is the problem that needs to be solved and that’s why we do it. A friend and I initially started coding together which was when we launched the site. That’s how we started. But when we were making it a company we hired our own employees and got our own office and that’s how we scaled.

TIPS FOR PAYING GUESTS
* Try to maintain a rapport with the landlord or the owner. It might be of help if you fall into trouble.
* Be cautious about smoking and associated things especially in a PG; the temperament of the landlord needs to be kept in mind.
* Don’t play loud music late in the night.
* If you have people staying the night and the owner has mentioned that it can pose as a problem, clear it out before hand by mentioning the dates you will have people coming over.

THE FUTURE OF FLAT.TO
Flat.to is present in six cities right now. Our aim is to launch in at least 18 cities where we think there is a market for Flat.to. Also, we are looking at and are building more and more features that help students find accommodation, for which we are also working on a product for people who need flatmates. They can get help through our site and can then find roommates/flatmates; we could also connect them to the right brokers. There is a lot of interesting stuff in the pipeline, so all I’ll say is stay tuned and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be updated!

QUICK QUESTIONS
Qualities of an ideal roommate
A non-smoker, someone who gives you space when needed

Your entire flat renting experience in one word Adventurous

The kind of landlord a person needs to look out for

The kind who doesn’t look down upon his tenants, someone who is supportive and who understands that you are a collegian and you deserve to have fun

One essential quality that a person living as a paying guest/on rent must have Tolerance

 

Volume 3 Issue 12

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