Australian proptech firm REA Group, which owns three portals in India, including Housing.com, has invested nearly 300 million Australian dollars in the country in the last five years, and will infuse more funds to establish itself as a “clear” market leader, a top company official said here.
In an interview with PTI, REA Group Global CEO Owen Wilson said the company would expand its India business into more tier II cities, besides entering into home loan brokerage business and listing of commercial properties on the Housing.com platform.
REA Group had in December 2020 acquired a controlling stake in Elara Technologies which owns three Indian real estate portals — Housing.com, Makaan.com and PropTiger.com — and renamed Elara as REA India. Bullish on future growth potential in India’s digital real estate space, Wilson said: “We are investing more money in India in terms of percentage growth than any of our other markets.” The REA group has made an investment of close to 300 million Australian dollars since 2017 as equity investment as well as capital expenditure in technology and brand building, he added.
“If you look at what happened during the COVID, the move to
Why REA is pumping money into India
“We are increasing our investment in India (in terms of percentage growth) more than in Australia. So , I think it demonstrates our excitement about this market.” Wilson noted that Indian property market is huge and there is a passion about property in this country. He said the REA Group’s first priority was to become the market leader in terms of audience on its platforms.
“When we invested in 2018, we were number three. Now six months in a row we are number one in terms of audience and continued record audience levels, which is really exciting,” Wilson highlighted. The second priority is to have the best consumer experience in the market for property and make it easier for consumers to search for property and for owners to get a great outcome when they’re trying to sell or rent, he added.
“And then there are other opportunities. We are looking at things like mortgages, or our rental pay product called housing edge, there are just so many areas we can expand the business into,” Wilson said. Melbourne-based REA Group Ltd is likely to achieve a revenue of over 1 billion Australian dollars in the financial year 2021-22 ending June as against 928 million Australian dollars in the preceding fiscal.
REA’s India business contributed less than 5 percent during the last financial year, but its share will increase in the current fiscal, REA India CEO Dhruv Agarwala said. Elaborating more on the India plan, Agarwala said: “I think mortgage is one big focus area for us, going forward, and you know in Australia as well, for REA mortgage and financial services is a big thrust.” He said the big focus is to just extend its market leadership and also ensure “we become a number one brand.”
Since October last year, Agarwala said the customer traffic on Housing.com was highest and the number stood at around 16.5 million in March and was around 2 million more than its nearest competitor. However, he said it does not make Housing.com clear market leader.
“So we believe that next three years we can be a clear market leader in terms of all metrics, be it audience, revenue as well as brand,” Agarwala said. “Yes we are ahead. But it’s only been six months. Idea is to sustain this momentum, extend the lead. Then I think the next two years, we expect that there will be a tipping point. And we will start getting a disproportionate share of audience, which will ultimately lead to a disproportionate share of revenues ultimately leading to profitability as well,” he added.
The REA group is exploring the areas where it can bring expertise to the Indian market. “REA in Australia is the number one portal and probably one of the most successful property portals in the world. If you look at our revenue, our profitability, our audience position, we have 63 percent of Australians visit our site every month. It’s incredible. And so we believe there’s a lot of value we can add to the business here in India,” Wilson said.
Similarly, he said there are certain things the India business is doing that are groundbreaking in terms of innovation, particularly around the developer market, and how properties are displayed. “And so there are a lot of learnings we can take from the business here and utilise back in Australia as well,” he added.
REA Group is the global leader in the proptech space, with leadership position in almost all the major markets it is present in, including Australia, Asia and North America.
REA Group first invested in REA India (formerly Elara Technologies Pte Ltd) in 2017, becoming the majority 61 percent shareholder in 2020, with a subsidiary of US-based News Corp being the remaining substantial shareholder. News Corp is also the majority shareholder in REA Group. REA Group operates Australia’s leading residential and commercial property websites realestate.com.au and realcommercial.com.au as well as the leading website dedicated to share property, Flatmates.com.au. Internationally, it also owns leading portals in Hong Kong (squarefoot.com.hk) and China (myfun.com).
The group also holds a significant minority shareholding in Move, Inc, operator of realtor.com in the US, and the PropertyGuru Group — operator of leading property sites in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.