Housing.com CEO Rahul Yadav had a characteristically candid session at the Reddit AMA (ask-me-anything) on Tuesday evening. Yadav, who has hogged headlines over the past three months over public spat with investors, resignation as CEO followed by a quick withdrawal, allegations against a media house besides the latest shocker where he decided to simply give away all his stake in the firm to employees, maintained a relatively stoic tone throughout the session.
He did make intermittent digs, though, talking about Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal and shared his original gripe with Sequoia Capital.
Here's a selected pick from the questions posed to Yadav and his reply during the session .
Yadav shared that Housing.com team is exploring commercial properties as a segment for its site and gave a broad sweep of how he looks at the opportunity: “Rent, PG, short stays, hotels are just the form factors of rental real estate. I see the boundary merging between these in future. We're also working on the fundamentally changing on how houses are built (end product), that I feel will change the game in long term.”
He said the Housing.com has just acquired a legal and due-diligence company which is working on cross checking all new projects that are on its own property listing platform. He didn't name the target but click here for more on that.
Yadav also said: “We are entering into designing next-gen houses, the HOUSE 1.0 Project has already been initiated last week.”
He also gave a glimpse of how Housing.com is approaching the market: “For me, finding a House is a much bigger problem. Brokerage is a 2nd level problem. First we're focusing on solving the first problem. Once that's done, we'll solve the 2nd problem.”
On being asked his thoughts on the popular growth metrics in online realty space such as site visits and app downloads, Yadav said: “Yes I believe these are really bullshit metrics. But the market (brokers, builders, investors, media) somehow cares about all these things. And perception matters. So unfortunately, we have to play by THIS (India) market's rules.”
On Startups, entrepreneurs
On being asked what are the three most important ingredients of a startups' success in India currently, he counted: validated and copied idea from another market; capital and marketing. He went on to say he thinks it should actually be solving Indian people's problem, great product and innovation besides great team and culture.
Sharing his view on valuation of startups he said: “Indian market is an elephant. It's gonna run/grow slowly. People/companies with patience over a period of 5-10 years will be able to leverage the opportunity. Companies which will survive in this period, for them the current valuations are nothing, given the opportunity size.”
On being asked what does he think his antics mean for entrepreneurs, he replied: “I think the market should wait before passing a judgment on whether I am helpful or harmful for the young entrepreneurs.”
On Zomato, Deepinder Goyal and Flipkart
Last week Yadav had made a public call to founders of Zomato and Ola to follow him in sharing their stock-wealth with their employees. He asked Bhavish Aggarwal of cabs aggregator Ola and Deepinder Goyal of Zomato to share half of their shares in their companies to employees. This was after he himself pledged to give away all his shares in Housing.com to the startup's employees.
Goyal and Aggarwal mocked his call with the former tweeting: “Awww so cute” and comparing Yadav's antics to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Ola's Aggarwal tweeted a Barack Obama meme saying “Give that man a cookie”.
Talking about his thought process, Yadav said during the AMA: “Success of a venture is a team work. Although all startups give ESOPs to their employees but the problem is it’s not PROPORTIONAL to the value creation. Value is being created at x rate and is being given to the employees at y rate. x not being equal/proportional to y is the real issue. So these two names came up in my mind and I just nominated them.”
Poked for making a personal comment on Zomato's CEO Goyal, Yadav replied: “I really don't know him much but his sense of humour sucks.”
He also took a jibe on Zomato itself: A company scanning menus from last 7 years and doing no innovation. And the CEO says 'Aww. So cute.'
Meanwhile, on being asked about which Indian startup he admires, Yadav said: “Flipkart, for maintaining relative quality (in product, service and culture).” He was quick to add that: “They (Flipkart) have earned respect in terms of implementation and execution and not because of the idea.”
On Sequoia Capital, existing investors
Yadav also shared the genesis of the public spat with Sequoia Capital's Shailendra Singh. Although that was related to a poaching attempt, his letter to Singh also referred to some 'bad things'.
During the AMA, Yadav acknowledged that the VC firm was to invest in Housing.com with a staggered deal constituting 10-15 per cent stake for $1 million. He claimed that after two months of due diligence, when Sequoia realised Housing.com was running out of money, the VC firm said it wanted to do a flat equity deal.
Yadav said he agreed to this and asked for a 12.5 per cent equity dilution but Sequoia asked for 14.75 per cent. “When I requested more, they said “Let’s not waste each others’ time.” We were left with no option. I came to know they have done it with lots of other ventures (TFS, Ola, Dexetra, LetsBuy..) So to cut it short, I think they’re culturally a very cutthroat VC and sometimes I think that’s why they’re more successful than others. But I still condemn their practices because I feel they’re inhuman and for me, people are the ‘why’ for everything I do,” Yadav said.
Yadav acknowledged that his actions could be distracting for Housing.com employees: “Yes, it is distracting. But it’s actually fun if it’s there only for a few weeks. Beyond that, it’s really distracting and does not help.”
On being queried why he dropped out of IIT Bombay in the final year, he said: “I think I mentally dropped out of IIT in 2nd year. Physically in my 4th year. And on papers, I think I’m still an IITB student. :)”
You can read the entire AMA here.