Pankhuri Shrivastava: re-shaping the real estate industry through Grabhouse

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We at Inventiva love entrepreneurial stories where a dire need in the market stems off an idea that gives way into a business. To solve a need is the basis of being a great entrepreneur and this is exactly what shaped up the life of this young and vibrant women entrepreneur, Pankhuri Shrivastava!

Pankhuri completed her B.Tech from Bhopal and went on to pursue a career in the field of education in Mumbai. She served as a fellow for Teach For India for 2 years before realizing there was something distinct that she wanted to work towards.

Her own experience of changing 5 houses in 2 years as a 22-year-old and going through the much-dreaded task of house-hunting made her realize that there was a huge gap in the real estate industry.

The biggest challenge in moving cities, everyone agrees is that of finding the right house. There is a real reason why people find the entire process so extremely taxing. Historically, people have been approaching brokers and other middlemen for help. These, in turn, end up looting souls already perplexed by the trials of relocation.

Pankhuri too faced the same dilemma and found herself spending off cash on brokerage each time. This led to the idea of Grabhouse.com in 2013. She realized the need to eliminate middlemen. To bring together tenants and those searching for rentals broker-free.

She contacted her friend Prateek Shukla and together they formed Grabhouse. They started off as a platform where people could get in touch with potential roommates for free.

Pankhuri says “Many people advised us against entering the sector but we felt we had the drive to be different,”.

Initially, they made Grabhouse successful by keeping the core product absolutely free. In fact, it was India’s first free roommate search engine. From there they developed other revenue streams to earn profits.

They started off by acquiring a Facebook group. Without huge amounts being spent on marketing, most of the traffic on Grabhouse started coming in organically.

2 years down Pankhuri realized that it was not only a broker-free set up that can address the gaps in the industry. They then actually wanted to clean the industry.

The focus was on solving rentals as the core issue and becoming market leaders in the domain. Pankhuri says the main aim was to “make house hunting a happy experience”.

Grabhouse then extended into renting out specialized Cocoons. These were managed serviced apartments by Grabhouse. The Kitchen, living space and bedroom were all taken care of and fully furnished to sublet.

They got varied house owners and PG owners to list properties. They would earn by charging a fee on every deal. They aimed to make property rental as easy as online shopping.

Pankhuri stated that while customers look forward to physically seeing the house before renting it out, Grabhouse focuses on presenting the accurate date to them online. Right kind of data including reviews and ratings by authentic past habitants help in decision making.

As for her contributions at Grabhouse herself, Pankhuri was involved in all business functions on a regular basis. She, however, thought that the single most important thing she did at Grabhouse was to build a great working culture.

She helped people grow and was involved with each employee motivating them to give in their best each day. She would be sitting at all hirings to personally soak in what the candidate shall be bringing to the team.

She kept the team passionate, involved and on their toes. She kept them “Crazy, optimistic, energetic” and buzzing with ideas. Pankhuri herself is extremely spontaneous she says. “I sing, dance, read, write and run the company!

Within a year of its inception, Grabhouse had 4.5 monthly visitors. They raised 12 million dollars from Kalahari and Sequoia Capital in 2015.

Within 2 years Grabhouse was in around 11 cities. It became one of India’s top 5 house hunting online portals. Finally, in 2016 Quikr acquired Grabhouse in an all-stock setup.

Inventiva applauds the sheer courage and passion of Pankhuri. Her philanthropic side shines through in her contributions to the society while at Teach For India and at Grabhouse.

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