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Transparency & institutional teeth needed for crowdfunding

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Bottom Line: A loose alliance of pre-launch investors in the Indian real estate operates on the lines of crowdfunding but it needs transparency & institutional teeth to make it an alternative fuding model.

Home Buyers Crowd, Public Perception, Public Opinion, Home Buyers' Survey, India real estate news, Indian realty market, India property market, Track2RealtyAfter reading in newspapers some of the successful global case studies about crowdfunding in the real estate, Rajeev Minocha is wondering why his investment was never labelled as crowdfunding. After all, he along with some of his school friends has been loosely funding this Pune-based builder even to buy the land and all of them have made money in the process. The developer has been product of the same school from where his crowd of financers belong to. The friendship goes years back and so does the level of trust.

In terms of the crowdfunding in the realty business, beyond the mutual trust the ROI has been much better than any other investment in his portfolio and in a span of nearly two decades now it has also helped the developer grow with his national footprint.

A closer look at the prevailing funding options of various developers suggests that some loose alliances of the nature of crowdfunding are always there in the Indian realty market. However, crowdfunding as a practice has not gained ground in this market primarily due to lack of transparency and institutional teeth.

Crowdfunding is the financial modelling of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people. However, this model needs three parties to take shape as a business model– the developer who proposes his project/idea to the crowd, people who support the idea with financial contribution and a moderating organisation that brings the parties together to take it on ground.

In the context of Indian real estate, this third crucial element of moderating agency is missing and often it is the mutual trust, like in the case of this Pune-based builder, that acts as the moderating agency.

Not all the developers in the Indian market have that kind of goodwill or resources. The developers themselves admit that this is a double-edged sword of funding in the Indian market and needs to be handled carefully. David Walker, MD, SARE Homes feels if properly regulated, the potential for crowdfunding could be tremendous. Without regulations, however, such a revenue-generation avenue could end up giving the real estate industry more of a bad name, since it may be misused by unscrupulous elements.

“With proper regulations, crowdfunding could be an answer to developers’ liquidity woes, attracting end-users and others into the market as investors. But regulation through SEBI or a new regulatory authority is imperative to ensure it is not misused by any stakeholder. Else, it will be the realty industry that ends up with more negative coverage due to the misdemeanours of a few,” says Walker.

Sandeep Ahuja, CEO of Richa Realty also does not sound very optimistic about crowdfunding in the present framework. He says it won’t be feasible in the immediate future. It will take some time for the concept to develop. Besides, the lack of regulator will dissuade the investors to invest in projects or developers not known to them personally.

“I don’t see much prospect of crowdfunding in Indian real estate. The reasons are high investment in real estate projects, low transparency levels, long gestation period of projects, low liquidity, project delays and lack of regulation in the industry. It is very difficult for an investor to evaluate an investment opportunity on a crowdfunding platform with limited details,” says Ahuja.

In a nutshell, while a loose alliance of initial investors might be behind some of the developers, often giving impression of crowdfunding to be a viable model of funding in the Indian real estate market, the concept itself is very confusing in the Indian context.

If only there is transparency with organised framework that acts as a moderating and regulating agency to monitor the funds being channelized for the given projects exclusively, crowdfunding can be one of the viable options of Indian real estate. That framework is nevertheless missing in the current market.

By: Ravi Sinha

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