CommonFloor.com among 25 Good Businesses which are helping societal changes – Outlook Business-Independence day Special-Business magazine from India covering economy, business and personal finance.
CommonFloor is an online portal for Apartment Owners and Welfare Association Members enabling better Management of Expenses, Payments of Maintenance Fee, Online Property. CommonFloor offers apartment-dwellers a unique, online collaborative platform to mange their properties better. Empowering home owners and connecting neighbours through an online and SMS-based platform called CommonFloor.
CommonFloor arms home owners with all the relevant tools required to take informed decisions on any matter pertaining to their property. By sharing their experiences on CommonFloor, apartment communities have been able to find solutions to their problems. There are 20,000 apartment communities from 95 Indian cities.
For CommonFloor, a large user base means big advertising moolah. Because CommonFloor is a free service, the only way it can earn money is through advertising—the Google model, so to speak. Though the founders are reluctant to divulge financial numbers at this juncture, they insist the company is earning profits.
“We not only got to know who our neighbours were, but also found that we shared some similar interests,” says Sumit Jain, Co-Founder, maxHeap Technologies, the company behind CommonFloor.
“Today, no one has the time to mingle with neighbours—at best, we exchange greetings inside an elevator or staircase. We thought of developing an online product that would improve communication between neighbours,” notes Lalit Mangal, Co-Founder, maxHeap Technologies, the company behind CommonFloor.
Sumit Jain and close friend and fellow IITian Lalit Mangal (both were working in Oracle then), began exploring the idea of connecting neighbours online.
“We did not want to become a neighbourhood social networking platform—that would limit our scope. Besides, it wouldn’t be a scalable model,” points out Vikas Malpani, who joined Jain and Mangal from SAP Labs and became the third Co-Founder of maxHeap Technologies.
CommonFloor was launched in November 2007 but getting home owners to use the product in its initial days was not easy. “It took every bit of our persuasive and networking skills,” recalls Vikas Malpani. What finally helped was word-of-mouth publicity. Today, less than three years since its launch, CommonFloor has over 20,000 apartment communities across various cities in India. But, Lalit Mangal insists their work is far from over. “We call ourselves a work-in-progress—we are continuously looking for ways to offer more services and, to improve existing ones based on the feedback we receive from users. That’s the only way forward,” he adds. Mukherjee, who’s been associated with CommonFloor for the past year—first as an administrator for his apartment complex and now as a user, says the company is very attentive to feedback, however minor. “They can do this because they are small and that’s all they do, unlike a Google group or a Yahoo group,” he adds. The challenge will be to maintain this level of responsiveness once CommonFloor achieves scale.
The team at maxHeap Technologies is hoping to do to apartment community-building what Google did to the search experience. It’s an ambitious dream for a bunch of youngsters just about starting out on their careers, but Sumit, Lalit and Vikas (along with team members Rahul Gupta and Manoj Singh) seem determined to make a go of it. Already the company has caught the attention of venture fund Accel Partners, which has invested an undisclosed sum. Flush with funds and armed with a killer application, maxHeap Technologies is ready to fire on all cylinders.