Featured Startup Pitch: Flat.to is tackling a problematic Indian college housing market with its rental marketplace for students

By Editor August 22, 2013
Gaurav Munjal, flat.to

Gaurav Munjal, flat.toBy Gaurav Munjal, co-founder and CEO

Elevator Pitch: We are a real estate platform designed to bring rental flats to students across the country and connect them to the concerned brokers.

Product/Service Description

Flat.to is a Mumbai-based real estate listings website that helps college students find accommodation around colleges by connecting them with real estate agents and flat owners.

The portal is simple, and the actions of searching for colleges, localities, brokers etc., all take less than a minute.

At the same time, we encourage students to list their flats that they are willing to share with other students who may be interested in the similar area or from the same college. Even listing a flat is simple. A simple form is filled and a few photos must be added, and your listing is created pending approval from our admin. Our admins are almost always on the website and your listing is approved within 5-to-10 minutes. We decided that having photos is a must as a visual idea of the flat on offer creates the best impression.

Brokers can also list flats which are available for students and are in the price scope of the average student. We also have an option for creating dedicated broker profiles which can be used as direct links or through specific domains that we provide for the brokers.

Students may be spoiled for choice, yes; however, finding flats is not easy—especially one that fills all the demands. So, our extremely dynamic search page not only shows the flats close to the required college, but also has filters to customize the search options. At the same time, a simple mouse hover on any listing on the search page gives an immediate location of the flat and its distance from the selected college in meters.

Founders’ Story

I graduated from NMIMS University, Mumbai (Computer Engineering) in 2012 and came up with the idea after facing the problem of finding accommodation around college myself. I previously used to run Unacademy and I have also worked with Directi, a web products-based company in India. I came in touch with Aakrit Vaish around a year ago, and Aakrit came on as the chairman of the board of flat.to.

I’m originally from Jaipur, a city in Rajasthan. I moved to Mumbai in 2008, and so far in five years in the city, I have ended up changing four flats. It was once during the registration of one of the flats that I realized the absence of a portal or platform designed to ease the process of getting flats for college students. That was when I got the basic idea for the portal that is now flat.to.

After I graduated, I started work at Directi since I had a job offer, but I had set out with the intention of embarking on the startup, and after meeting Aakrit at a seminar and bringing him on board, there was no turning back.

Marketing/Promotion Strategy

Since we are targeting a very specific audience of college students, our main strategy is to tie up with as many colleges in Mumbai. Right now we have official tie ups with some of the biggest colleges in the city. With the likes of NMIMS [Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies] and Thadomal Shahani College signing up with us, we are definitely heading in the right direction. We’ve also tied up with AIESEC in Mumbai, which is one of the world’s largest student bodies, who have actively supported us as they understand the dire need of flats for new incoming students into any metro city. AIESEC is an international non-profit organization that provides students with leadership skills and internship opportunities.

As for brokers, we are pursuing an active feet-on-the-street campaign with multiple brokers contacted every day by our highly-skilled sales team.

Market Opportunity

Mumbai is one of the major centers of learning and higher education in India. Most Indian students in towns and small cities generally move towards metros to pursue higher education, and that’s our largest target audience.

The massive influx of students every year from all corners of India—not only in Mumbai but also in most metro cities of the country—has created a large demand for colleges to provide accommodation to these students.

However, college campuses don’t have enough space to accommodate ALL the incoming students because not only do they run out of space, they also tend to run out of budget. To solve the problem for students and colleges alike is where we come in.

How We Differentiate From the Competition

There are quite a few well established digital platforms that deal in property and real estate across India. There are even a few startup companies that have done extremely well in terms of funding and expanding.

However, we at flat.to cater to an extremely niche market but one that is growing by the year—that of college students. This differentiates us from established competition by targeting a particular need and then expanding on that need.

As stated earlier, the amount of college students entering a metro in any given year is staggering. Most of these students require places to stay while they complete their courses over the necessary amount of time. Finding flats is a daunting task given the fact that the available options are not always the ideal ones. Flat.to solves this by giving a central platform specialized for college students.

Business Model

We rely on our relationships with brokers. If a broker caters to students and has accommodation options specifically for students, we bring him on the platform by charging a fee. He can then add the flats and paying guest accommodation options that he has, and students get in touch with the broker through the platform.

Current Needs

We at flat.to are actively recruiting developers, sales executives, marketing strategists and the like. Our main criteria for recruiting is NOT academic based or how much the person has scored, etc. For us, dedication to the job matters. If you want to do this and are having fun working with us, we welcome you to apply at one of the country’s fastest growing startups.

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Flat.to logoWebsite: www.flat.to

Founders: Gaurav Munjal, CEO; Aakrit Vaish, chairman

Headquarters: Mumbai

Year Founded: 2013

Investors: Bootstrapped

Employees: 11

Facebook: facebook.com/flatdotto

Twitter: @flatdotto 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/3125750

AngelList: angel.co/flat-to