Ashwini Gangal

"Young entrepreneurs are candid about their feelings; the 'old world order' has to accept it": Pratik Seal, CMO,

Turning a digital real estate company into a brand, launching a multi-media ad campaign, putting together a consumer research team, and reporting to a bunch of 20-something year olds - the IITians who launched the site in 2012 - are just some of the things that have made the past six months a "crazy" ride for Pratik Seal, chief marketing officer of

And his choice of adjective begins to make sense to us, the moment he whips out a red marker and starts drawing on his white table top to illustrate a point during the course of the interview. We'll have you know, the marker is of the permanent kind.

Did he ever do such a thing in any of his previous workplaces, like Star India, Micromax, Samsung, Vodafone, Lowe and FCB Ulka? "No way," he grins, "This is a thing. We scribble things on tables, then take photographs and mail them to each other. All our desks are ruined. It's crazy... we do that." recently released a campaign, the marketing spend for which is around 12 to16 million USD. Around 35 per cent of the budget is for digital, 35 per cent for outdoor and 30 per cent for print.

Currently over 1,200 star flex billboards are on display across seven cities, including the top six metros and Pune. The team is eyeing around 12-20 per cent share-of-voice in every city. gets around 35-40 per cent of its traffic via mobile. Post-campaign, traffic via mobile has increased by more than 50 per cent.

The number of unique visitors on increased by a whopping 1,500 per cent on the day the campaign went live. Post-campaign traffic is 500 per cent more than it was during the previous month.

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Other players in this space, like and, advertise heavily on TV. Why is TV missing in your media mix?

We want to focus on the seven metros, win them, and then go on to the rest of India. A mix of print, out-of-home and digital works better when you're doing such geo-segmentation. Television doesn't.

Also, our concept is far more conducive to a static medium as opposed to television.

But with your Google map-based search and virtual tours there's a lot to you say through an ad film...
"Young entrepreneurs are candid about their feelings; the 'old world order' has to accept it": Pratik Seal, CMO,
The intent is not to talk about the product benefit as much as it is to talk about the emotional benefit.

The insight is based on a dichotomy that exists in this category: While the end result, which is, moving into your own home, is beautiful, the journey is painful... getting a home loan, interacting with brokers, going through the rigmarole of renovation/painting, speaking to plumbers, electricians, etc.

"Young entrepreneurs are candid about their feelings; the 'old world order' has to accept it": Pratik Seal, CMO,
A big pain point in the process of finding a house is the physical search. It takes up so many weekends. We help filter the entire process by enabling you to see a large number of houses online.

So the intent of the product, and of this launch campaign, is to announce that the brand wants to make the journey of finding a house beautiful too. It's not just about chest-thumping through billboards. It's what you give your consumers as a product.

Do you see yourself advertising on TV at a later stage?

We might advertise on television, but when the time is right... maybe in the next quarter.

"Young entrepreneurs are candid about their feelings; the 'old world order' has to accept it": Pratik Seal, CMO,
Your site boasts a 'data sciences lab'. While it's great the way you're trying to negate the need to physically check out a place, aren't you pre-supposing a high degree of digital and tech-literacy? Your traffic flux images, visibility indices and price heat maps might intimidate consumers...

I hear you.

But typically, technology is something people tend to adopt. And India has adopted technology far faster than more evolved, mature markets like Northern America and Western Europe.

Tell us about your target consumer...

Our core consumer is 27-32 years of age.

They are couples looking for a house, couples keen on starting a family... they're upwardly mobile, internet-enabled, modern Indian couples. Both are likely to be working, both are time-strapped, both have active social lives. Time is important to them, not just money.

We haven't done any SEC-segmentation.

The first-time house buyer is getting younger and more responsible. Many of them have CAs guiding them. And more and more people are looking at the internet for transacting.

Your lifestyle rating metric is based on amenities around the house. Does this mean you are speaking to a certain type of consumer? Or does this reflect on the way consumers in general are approaching their house-hunt?

It's people in general.

I give them information about the nearest schools, banks, ATMs, shops, pubs, hospitals, etc. Today, people want modern amenities like lifts, pools, gyms, and health clubs around their houses. Health consciousness has increased; people want a healthier lifestyle, better air and more greenery around them. Focus is on a better 'quality of life', not just on 'lifestyle'.

From marketing a TV channel to a handset brand to a digital brand in the real estate space, you've had quite a category-agnostic career so far...

The consumer is the same. The same consumer has a different mindset when consuming different categories.

I always thought the involvement level while buying an electronic gadget is high but now I realise it is far higher in this category, both in terms of brain-share and emotion-share.

The similarity between this category and the consumer electronics segment is that in the case of both, newer technological innovations can easily render a product redundant. has fetched some negative press of late, for example, news about your CEO Rahul Yadav's open letter to Sequoia. Sure, you're not a PR guy, but to what extent is an event like this your problem?

(smiles) The CMO is also the PR guy.

Here I've learnt that young entrepreneurs are far more candid about their feelings and points of view. At a certain level, I think the 'old world' has to learn. One has to accept the 'new world order'. As someone closer to 40, I'd say even I have to accept this.

Well, this is the first time you're reporting to a bunch of 20-somethings. What's that like?

(laughs) It's crazy. The enthusiasm is infectious.

In the past, I've heard my bosses say things like, 'Why do you want to spend so much on social media?' or 'This not what mature people do; it's what kids do.' I'd feel frustrated.

Here, they understand. They're open to adventurous ideas and want to take risks. The capability to disrupt is far higher among them than it is in the 'older world order'.

Disruption is great. But given their level of fearlessness, don't you worry things might tip over to the proverbial dark side?

That's not fearlessness. That's transparency. It's very valuable to this generation.

Is diplomacy the right way to go? Or is transparency the right way to go?

That's a question I am asking myself.

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