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Technology pushing transparency, on-time delivery in realty sector

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Just last week, the Supreme Court ordered a forensic audit into projects of embattled real estate firm Unitech Ltd, which has been fighting a legal battle with homebuyers over delays in delivery of projects. While Unitech has been making headlines, many of the biggest names in the real estate industry are also facing flak over missing project deliveries, since the timely handover of homes has become critical for the real estate industry in the RERA (Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act) regime.

Eyeing this as an opportunity, several firms have built SaaS (software as a service) based solutions for effective monitoring of construction schedule, which gives realtors real-time insights into the progress of their various projects. Realtors, which have so far been behind the curve when it comes to adopting technology to streamline processes, are now coming forward to use these tech solutions.

One such platform developed by a Bengaluru-based startup, QwikSpec helps them not only to monitor the progress of a housing project, but it also enables project managers to have a 360-degree view of the construction progress that enables them to optimise cost by reducing wastage. No wonder, the company has seen rapid adoption of its solution among realtors with some of the biggest names in real estate - Prestige Group, Brigade, Shapoorji Pallonji, Mantri Developers, Ozone Group as its customers.

"Currently, most realty players follow WhatsApp or paper-based manual process to monitor a project. This breeds a lot of inefficiency. But, our mobile app, which is a SaaS-based platform, helps realtors to capture information on the project side on real time basis," said Ajith Alexander, co-founder of QwikSpec.

The cloud-based platform helps in storing information generated from the project side, which then produces multitudes of dashboards for senior management of real estate firms by turning the unstructured data to structured form through the use of data analytics. QwikSpec’s application is used by every engineer on the construction site, be it the construction engineers or project consultants.

"Through this app, the project engineers can upload photos, can tag locations and can even add comments. Once the data gets uploaded, that is converted into graphs, dashboards and reports," Alexander said. This then enables project heads to monitor the progress from anywhere in the world, saving them the trouble to travel to multiple locations often. The app also helps in tracking the number of nonconformities, allowing management to take remedial measures to keep projects on track.

Other than the supply side, realtors in India have also started using solutions to provide better front-end experience to the clients. While there are many technology platforms that currently enables home buyers to search for properties through their websites, no platform allows customers to buy properties online. Sensing this gap, some companies have now ventured into this field by creating an online marketplace for home buyers and realtors. One such firm is Zaasna that now makes it possible to purchase a home online. While similar concepts have popped up in the past, given the changes in regulation to boost transparency and availability of e-sign, the chances of such an idea working are higher than ever, say experts.

"Our deal desk enables a customer to shortlist, compare, select houses, bid and negotiate a mutually desired price online for properties listed on the portal," said co-founder and CEO at Zaasna, Arvind Kadam.

In this e-marketplace platform, a customer can choose a property after negotiating the price and can then book the house by paying 10 per cent of the total amount. Zaasna’s platform then produces a legal binding agreement between the developer and customer using a digitally-signed document, avoiding the hassle of manually signed documents and improving transparency in the process. The money paid by the customer will stay in a separate account till the legal document is e-signed, a service which is powered by DocuSign, a leader in the digital signature space.

Founded by Arvind Kadam, an IIM Bangalore alumni, and Amit Tyagi, an engineer with stints at Sasken Technologies, Sun Microsystems and GlobalLogic among others, the core of Zaasna’s platform is a recommendation engine, similar to what Amazon or Flipkart has built, but for residential realty. By making smart recommendations to both customers and realtors, the company hopes to stand out from platforms that merely show listings of homes for sale. "We are currently investing in blockchain technology as this is a decentralised ledger which will make all transactions transparent," Kadam said.

As regulations become more stringent with increasing customers' activism, real estate industry is all set to be a fast adopter of emerging technologies not only to escape regulatory scrutiny but also to restore the faith of end users.

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