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Brigade REAP: Embracing Technology And Giving Wings To Indian PropTech Startups

Kritika Rawat

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Brigade REAP needs no introduction.

The company’s Brigade REAP Programme is a guiding force to all PropTech startups who want to grow in India’s dynamic real estate industry. RealtyNXT caught up with Nirupa Shankar, Director of Brigade REAP for an exclusive interview. Read on for excerpts from the conversation.

1. What was your objective behind starting Brigade REAP? Do you think the Indian real estate industry is opening up to finally embrace property solutions?

We started Brigade REAP in 2016 and that’s when there was a huge wave of startups like housing.com and many more which were getting a lot of traction. Every time I read newspapers I’d read news of huge funding for a lot of these startups. I understood that there was something huge was happening within that sphere. The evaluation of these startups was a lot more than profit making established companies.

I knew that I wanted to be a part of something so exciting. I thought it was the best time to start embracing technology because real estate is a space which is age-old but there have hardly been any technological innovations. It is a very brick and mortar type of construction process. A lot of startups approached us to fix their products but they weren’t ready for a plug-and-play model so they all needed some amount of work and coaching for quite a few months. I then realised that my team wouldn’t have the time for this process and that’s is when we decided to set up a core to which specialised in mentoring these startups in order for them to embrace the plug-and-play solutions. These were startups with good products and ideas and I didn’t want to miss out on any of them. After this, it became very easy for them to grow. 

2. Do you think Indian real estate companies are now ready to embrace PropTech solutions? 

Yes. Back in 2016 it was tough as people were interested but not ready to pay. Then they started seeing value in thee startups. We focussed on startups which providing solutions for companies to reduce their costs, increasing revenue or make them more efficient. Then people started coming to us. RERA helped us a lot as transparency increased. Developers had to start ensuring that they construct on time. Now post-Covid-19 I foresee a significant rise in the use of PropTech as we are all trying to work from home in order to optimise our time and cut costs. What better time to utilise technology’s benefits than now!

3. How is Brigade REAP helping PropTech companies?

The selection process we do two batches a year and we have a very lengthy and exhaustive selection process as we don’t want to end up spending too much time on a startup that is not ready to be taken to the market. First of all, we take up slightly more advanced startups along with the idea that they probably have some paying customers as well. We ensure that they receive exponential growth. We don’t come in at the ideation stage. We want startups that already have a product tested then maybe we can have an angel investor and then we help the scale up exponentially. We have a screening process, a filtration process. We get around 150 applications per batch then we select the top 5. Our partners at cisco or Microsoft then step in and then we have another round where we involve private equity players as well. It is very stringent. This is why accelerator has been successful. Harvard University for example picks up the crème of the toppers of the class. 

The team: We have a phenomenal team with our mentors and they all work in the industry and they had set up their own startups and they have been there done that. So they are the best people to coach these startups. 

Brigade senior leadership is very keen to adopt technology to our business. Our senior leadership gets involved and that helps us build a workable business model for them.

4. What is holding b2b companies back from becoming a unicorn?

We like the b2b business. While in b2b you may not find many unicorns, they are the safer businesses. How many unicorns does India have? Maybe a dozen. There is limited funding for startups. It is easier for b2c businesses to become unicorns. In b2b the success rate is more though. Adding value should be one’s top priority. Finding ways to grow sustainably is important. Our aim is for companies to last.

5. Is b2b able to get good funding?

There are fundings happening for b2b but not on the scale of b2c. 80% funding for b2c companies goes into marketing whereas b2b companies may not require those kids of fundings just yet. 40% of our startups have received funding. They are growing in a scalable manner. Anything to do with sustenance is big. Renovating companies are big as well. I don’t believe in chasing valuation. We have always encouraged the b2b sector. Ultimately it depends on how much value one brings to the table and how many people will benefit from the idea.

6. Is there any particular field where you see a need gap?

Predictive analysis. Just to see a company predict the customer’s behaviour is exciting. If cameras for example can get smarter to predict behaviour in a mall for example that would be great. I always wanted to look at material sciences and incorporate Nano technology for waterproofing issues and leakages. I would love to see more research being done for this. It will be a game changer.

7. Name 3 startups which according to you are unicorns in the making.

We like all our startups we have chosen. We have 8-10 startups just to create sustainable living. There is a lot of untapped potential for all of them. WeGoT, ECOSTP, Smarter Dharma. At the end, technology is a tool to make our lives easier and it has to enhance the lives of customers. I also like Renewate because I myself have renovated my apartment multiple times and it is a real pain. Renewate has the ability to ease the process. Then there is Props{AMC} as they are doing a bit of predictive analysis that I had mentioned earlier. VR is so important as well.

8. Who has been your role model?

My parents are my role models. My father (M. R. Jaishankar) specifically because he is the Chairman of the company and he’s a true visionary. He thinks way ahead of his time and I have learnt a lot from him.

9. What advice would you like to give young entrepreneurs who are trying to enter or have just begun their journey into the PropTech industry?

Go after a problem that exists. Observe what problems you experience in your apartment on a day to day basis and try to find practical solutions for them. Try to make a must-have solution that people will be willing to pay for.

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