Worked 18-hour days to make Housing.com what it is today: Co-Founder Advitiya Sharma tells all

Success Quotient is a weekly feature in Firstbiz which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - be it a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.

Housing.com has recently grabbed eyeballs with a $70 million (Rs 430 crore) funding from Japan's SoftBank. The venture, which is now valued at Rs 1,500 crore, was started by a bunch of IIT-ians who faced a housing crisis. The geeks have invested heavily in technology and have made it the country's first map-based portal, thus raising the bar for accommodation sites online. Advitiya Sharma, Co-Founder, shares the dreams and the path that he and his classmates traversed, notwithstanding the fears of friends and family. Excerpts from the conversation:

How did 12 of you come together to form Housing.com?

I am from Jammu which is a small town compared with the big city that is Mumbai. Most of us in the team are like me from small towns and came to IIT Bombay for our education. It was when we got our placements that it hit us-rental sites sold more dreams than the real picture. I got placed with AT Kearney in Parel and wanted to live thereabouts to avoid the commute. When I logged onto an accommodation site, I found a house at a cheap rate of Rs 10,000 in Bandra. When I reached the agent's office, he told me the house was off the list as it was taken and showed me a pathetic place. Almost all my friends had similar experiences. All 12 of us, who were batch mates, decided to make a go then at this idea of launching our own accommodation site. Our slogan has since then been: We wanted something better and so we built it ourselves. It motivates us to do better every day.

Were you worried about not hitting it right with the venture? All of you had got placements.

That thought never occurred to us. We were confident that we would be able to solve the irritants regarding housing with our efforts. When you take a step in the right direction, magical things happen. Like it did for us. We have got four rounds of funding, so far; and have met with amazing people who helped us to make decisions. Making money was not our intention.

What were your friends and families reaction to your giving up a job for a start-up?

I come from a family of doctors. I recall how once when I came home from school I saw my dad studying medical texts. That put me off medicine as I did not want to be studying when I was 40. My parents did not understand what I was attempting with Housing.com. Every time I visit my parents I teach my mother how to get on to Gmail. By the time I am back in Mumbai she has forgotten it. So when I said, I, along with my friends, was launching a real estate start-up, they did not understand it. I have a daily chat with my parents at night and after the customary queries, my mother would earlier say, 'You should get a job'. I am crazy about football and my folks know my passion for it. When my mother tried pushing her agenda of'Go, get a job' once too often, I said the start-up for me is like playing football. That metaphor hit home and since then my parents have never questioned my choice.

What does football mean to you?

How do I answer this now? I was an introvert in school. When I saw the World Cup football matches held in Japan in 2002, I got hooked to the game. I wanted to play and achieve glory like the players. I started playing the game and excelled at it. I was an average student then who got just 70 percent marks in class. I did not want to hear sniggering comments that I was only good on the playground. I studied hard and became part of the league of toppers. Football turned my life around.

Was the team's morale affected when some co-founders left the start-up half-way?

Every single one of us worked 18-hour days for two years to make Housing.com what it is today. A few amongst us then felt like doing other things. We did not think that was an issue at all. We continue to be buddies and meet regularly. I am grateful for the time they gave our venture.

What are your plans for Housing.com?

When we started the company we had a huge vision. We wanted to help millions of people struggling for months trying to find real estate that meets their requirements. Today, we have over four lakh verified listings across 45 cities and over the next few quarters, we will expand to 300 cities and map every single house in India on Housing.com

You are into yoga and meditation. You have a Zen room in your office. And you are only 24.

Some time ago I was thinking about what the purpose of my life was. Two weeks ago I got a mail from a young girl in Bengaluru. The girl's family wanted a house in a neighbourhood where there was a hospital so that their 70-year-old grandmother could be attended to, in case of an emergency. The young girl wrote to me to express her gratitude for finding accommodation that suited the family. I was overwhelmed by the response. I realized then that this was my purpose in life-to help people find comfortable accommodation by putting up a site that was the most transparent with details.

Updated Date: Feb 02, 2015 12:45:03 IST