This ex-StanChart banker co-founded a Real Estate Management Platform to help NRIs maintain their properties, now has an AUM of $1.3 billion
Seema started Indiassetz, to manage the complexities of real estate for HNIs . Today Indiassetz has an $1.3 Billion in active assets under management
- Seema Harsha has been in the Banking industry for over a decade, working for Standard Chartered and HSBC among others.
- She co-founded Indiassetz with Shivam Sinha, to manage the complexities of real estate for HNIs as well as Resident Indians.
- In a few months, three colleagues from Standard Chartered joined them. Today they have more than USD 1 Billion in Assets Under Management and a team of 150.
- She encourages all women to consider a career in the real estate sector.
Banker turned entrepreneur
I consider myself a diehard banker. I have been in the Indian Banking Industry for more than 17 years.
Over those years I have worked across Corporate Lending, SME Lending, and Commercial Banking.
While I was working at Standard Chartered, my colleague Shivam Sinha brought up a very important point; “The banking industry has grown so much in India, but when it comes to real estate, we are far behind.”
What we have to understand is that banking and real estate are interlinked.
In banking, let's assume we are lending to some company, where the underlying asset is actually real estate. As a banker, you would end up knowing all the financial assets and then offer services to the client.
But for some reason, banks did not offer real estate services.
There are the Big 4, CBRE, which handles the large corporates and their real estate. There are other PropTech businesses, but they have an aggregator model.
Unfortunately, there is a dearth of organisations that manage, execute and advise the real estate portfolio of the NRIs, and resident Indians.
People end up depending on their friends, family, and relatives to manage their real estate.
In simple words, there was no wealth management platform. This was an opportunity for us.
That is why in 2015 I along with my three colleagues from Standard Chartered decided to resign from our banking jobs and establish Indiassetz – a one-stop digital solution for our customers, enabling them to remotely monitor their portfolio, thereby maximizing their Real Estate Wealth.
Initially, of course, moving to the entrepreneurial space was tough because in the corporate world I was in my comfort zone.
It was also difficult to convince people as they were satisfied with managing their real estate. And they were not used to a real estate manager.
But it was also a bit easier because people were inclined to meet with us since we had experience as bankers.
Beginning with only Rs 2 lakh, we started with managing properties of our relatives, family friends, and college batchmates. We then found customers through LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media platforms as well.
We started this journey from my friend’s garage and worked hard for 12 months straight.
The turning point was when our first customer gave us a huge cheque of USD 12,000. It changed our fate and afterward, Indiassetz reached people through word of mouth.
In a year we went from a team of 5 to 20.
We then moved into a regular 30-seater rented office.
On the personal front by Oct 2015 we could take 30% of our last drawn salaries and reinvest the rest in the company for expansion.
Today we have 10,000 plus customers in five cities; Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bombay, and Delhi, with more than $1.3 Billion in active assets under management.
We have partnered with the world’s leading Banks and Wealth Management firms across India, who trust us to manage their clients’ Real Estate Wealth.
So far it has been going pretty great.
Starting with INR 2 lakhs and now over $1 Billion AUM
Since our model is fee-based, we got the inflows early on.
But as bankers, we knew how the venture capital world worked. So we got in touch with a few investors and started pitching the business.
A very prominent investor heard our idea and was very impressed with it. He was sitting on a lot of real estate and said he was able to see the benefits of a property management business for someone like him.
Later in a conversation, he assured us that we did not need investors’ money and discouraged us from diluting equity. That meeting changed our lives.
He also became our first customer and referred clients to us.
We decided that we would meet investors after building a solid business with people, processes, profits, and technology in place which will enable us to scale.
And we did that.
In less than a decade we have gone on to build more than $1 billion in assets under management with more than 150 employees across 5 offices in India, without funding!
We are also happy to announce that we just raised pre-series funding from HNIs in January 2021.
How Indiassetz works
The onboarding of customers is completely digitized. After completing the digitized KYC procedure you could stack up all your properties.
You would have a whole database of your real estate portfolio.
If you have signed up with our service, you will have a dedicated relationship manager based on the category you have opted for. You could communicate through the platform completely, and raise a service request.
For obvious reasons, we have opted for a hybrid model.
In addition, our people will be at the ground level and enable last-mile management of the real estate too.
In terms of technology, we have been lucky because of our CTO. He understood the concept of real estate fairly quickly. Besides he loved the idea of building a proprietary product.
Leadership and the need for women in real estate
As a leader, you have to manage people and time. This has been my biggest learning as an entrepreneur.
I used to handle a team in the corporate world but in a startup it is different.
Everyone or anyone who joins a startup joins in for the Founders, their vision and passion.
So that becomes more challenging that even for a day, you cannot say that I am not sure about my vision, you always have to be clear. And that's how I think Shivam and I have been for the last seven years to precisely know what we do and motivate the team in the same direction.
When I was working in the banking sector there were many women, of course, but as usual, very few women were in leadership positions.
Things have changed over the years.
Now I see more women coming into leadership positions. I just wish there were that many women in the real estate industry.
To ensure that there are more women in various departments in our company, we have launched an initiative to hire women who had to take a career break but have the requisite skill sets.
We want women to get back to work.
Ultimately, I would say the real estate landscape surely looks promising in India, and more people should look into it.
Edited by Preeti Mondal and video by Avijit