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Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
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4Ps B&M: How did you think of starting Square Yards?

Tanuj Shori: I’m an investment banker and Kanika had done her stints with the wealth management industry, apart from Bollywood & modeling before we moved to Singapore. So there was a point of time where she wanted to start an entrepreneurial venture, and I started more as an investor. So how did Square Yards and real estate come along? We used to invest heavily in personal capacity into real estate. We had a portfolio of products not just in India, but globally too. But every time we went and invested something specifically in India, a big pain area was that there was not a single professional who could sit across the table and tell us what we wanted and what we did not want, lesser so in terms of numbers, in terms of accurate market trends and so on and so forth; people were just blindly telling us that the market doubled in the last four years and will double in the coming four years. That’s when we realised there was significant need for an intelligent, number- and process-driven player in this market.

Kanika Gupta: Another front where we felt there was a dire need for professionalism was client servicing. This was one of the areas that had a very big gap. As Tanuj says, whenever we wanted to reach out to developers for inputs on various fronts, there was nobody to help us and guide us through even the transaction cycle.

4Ps B&M: How did you think of the name Square Yards?

Kanika: The first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when they go for purchasing a property is how many square yards is the area. So I would say that the name was purely intuitive.

4Ps B&M: But why go online? Did you feel there was a gap in the industry with respect to online presence of players?

Tanuj: Online was never actually a prime focus for us. We thought of online only as a supportive platform at that point in time. That was simply a starting point. When we thought about the idea, we both came to India, spent a few months here and met some industry players like IndiaHomes, Housing.com, Investor’s Clinic, and others. Every day that we spent here, our conviction grew that this is the sector where fortunately or unfortunately no one has tried to build a truly professional organization. No middleman has tried to build an organization. Anywhere in the developed world, in any industry whatsoever, manufacturers have a role to play, distributors have a role to play and clients too have a role to play. But in India, because no one ever attains scale, manufacturers (builders and developers) themselves were distributors. Developers were selling 70% of the stock either themselves or mostly through the unorganized market. But there was no B2B platform or an organization to organization platform present.

4Ps B&M: Real estate is not recognized as an industry in India. In such a case, would not establishing something organized be tough?

Tanuj: I would say it is the opposite; as no one has done it before, it becomes far easier for us. One could get the right talent as one is the only organized choice in the industry. You can also say that being organized would provide one with a significant amount of bargaining power with developers. The entire sector being fragmented, disoriented, disorganized has been a big opportunity; and we still haven’t done anything noticeable out of that. What we have is simply a 2% market share!

4Ps B&M: One successful husband-wife startup is Infosys, where the wife took a backseat while the husband led the business. How have you organized your individual roles?

Kanika: We have demarcated our roles and we both do very different things on a daily basis, which are totally independent. I take decisions for various verticals and have enough independence to work.

Tanuj: Well, the fact is that Kanika started Square Yards and I became involved only six months later. Subsequently, she stepped down from the CEO’s post for me. Because we run a sales organization, apart from taking strategic decisions, I also take care of the sales numbers. She takes care of the remaining structure – whether it’s expansion of international footprints, marketing, CRM and call center.

4Ps B&M: How have you managed to grow so fast? The so called ‘real estate mafia’ generally is quite omnipresent and ready to be of nuisance value to high growth corporations...

Tanuj: We haven’t actually faced any such thing. Our organization is a very organized one with systems in place. In the initial months, when we started going out, we needed management people. And those were early days. So, like any other startup, we would also have trouble hiring key people. We took an alternate route. We pretty much put a chopper on the heads of everyone we grew up with and studied with, anyone we felt could make a difference. Now, in our management team, we have these 16 principal partners who come from significant positions in banking, branding, technology and the real estate industries. The only difference is that they have not been hired. We all know them personally, so overnight, from two co-founders, we grew to 16 co-founders. All of them have equity participation in the company and we now have 16 mini-CEOs. The reason why we grew faster than any of our competitors is that we did fifteen different things at the same time; and these are professionals who have significant ownership to run those mini-ships as mini-CEOs. And it’s my job at the end of the day that everyone has synergy while people head separate verticals and separate regions. Very rarely is there an overlap between the fifteen of us.

4Ps B&M: How would you describe your organization in two to three lines?

Kanika: We are a bunch of passionate people who are doing something which we love doing. We have the freedom to innovate, we have the freedom to do what has not been experimented; so this is still a young startup at heart. Although we are now two years old, that startup feeling, that startup culture is still there, and that is what is keeping us alive and taking us to the next level.

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