EMOH: Kamran Chaudhry and Haashim Rifai
The prop-tech founders on securing investment via their personal network and why coming from an entrepreneurial family pushed them to launch a start-up
Name: Kamran Chaudhry and Haashim Rifai
Company name: EMOH
Date launched: 05/10/2015
Location: Greater London
Tell us what your business does:
We are an online property marketplace that allows property sellers to list their homes for sale and connect with buyers directly without using an estate agent. It is completely free of charge.
As almost all house hunting starts online, it makes sense to use the internet to complete the process. We are the only online platform that places complete control in the hands of buyers and sellers and removes any middlemen from the equation.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea was born out of frustration with the inefficiency of the current estate agency model and how it has remained unchanged and unchallenged for such a long time.
Estate agents have had a hold on the market largely due to a lack of alternative methods of sale, and so we felt there was a pressing need for a way to buy and sell your property independently. The idea to connect buyers and sellers directly by removing the middleman came from wanting to offer buyers and sellers a platform to take control of the process themselves.
How did you know there was a market for it?
As the Internet has recently given rise to online estate agents we felt that change was already taking place. By removing the need for any form of middleman from the equation and by creating a property marketplace that allows private landlords to buy and sell online was the logical next step. It simply required the development of sophisticated software that is simple to use.
We feel that no one knows your home better than you do, so in that sense, no one can sell it better than you can. We also feel that estate agents don’t do a lot of work for their money or at least nothing that you can’t do on your own.
Currently, you can only be featured on the biggest marketplaces like Rightmove and Zoopla if you are contracted to an estate agent who advertises your property. We felt that it was about time people got to choose to sell their houses independently if they wanted to. Therefore, we saw a gap in the market for a similar marketplace that caters towards independent private sellers.
What were you doing before starting up?
Chaudhry studied economics at The University of Nottingham before starting work with his family in a variety of businesses including residential and commercial property investment and development. He helped design, build and set up his family’s flagship restaurant in North London and then went on to set up his own glazing company to complement his father’s existing glazing business. After building this into a successful business, he started working on EMOH with Haashim Rifaii.
Rifai lived in Abu Dhabi before moving to London to study at university. He set up a private investment fund aimed at Middle-Eastern and Gulf investors looking to invest in prime properties within London. He was also involved in the founding and launch of another tech start-up, an app that allows businesses to condense their social media and other vital information into one platform.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, we’ve always wanted to run our own business. Being surrounded by it throughout our childhood and exposed to numerous family businesses it’s always been our intention to run our own.
How did you raise the money?
After developing a solid business plan and strategy, we approached family and friends with the idea. We were lucky enough to find a private investor who believed in both us as well as the idea, and who could see the potential and long-term vision of the business.
He was willing to invest the seed capital needed to get the business off the ground.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We are essentially an online marketplace, very similar to eBay and Gumtree, but specifically catering to property buyers and sellers. We allow private sellers to list their properties for free through ten easy steps, and buyers to contact sellers directly to arrange viewings, ask questions, make offers and potentially complete on a sale.
We charge no commission or have no listing fee. Our money is made through the purchase of any additional services which may be required, such as photography, floorplans, and EPCs.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
We have come across a mountain of legislation that makes it very hard to compete with estate agents without being branded an estate agent ourselves. We face the challenge of breaking the mould on a daily basis, but quickly overcome this by educating consumers that this is a viable alternative and that it is not that difficult to sell your home without using an estate agent.
What was your first big breakthrough?
We have been developing the site since the beginning of January 2015 and the site went live in October. Despite the platform being at a very early stage, we’ve been overwhelmed with the traffic to the site. Our plans for 2016 include a hard-hitting PR and marketing campaign because this is the time of year when the property market picks up.
Getting to this stage after being nothing more than a concept a year ago has been a huge achievement.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Our advice to all budding entrepreneurs is to carefully study the market you intend to enter, spot a gap or niche and once you commit to an idea never give up. If you believe in an idea and are willing to put your time and effort into making it a success then anything is possible.
Potential investors are always able to spot enthusiasm within an entrepreneur, and if your self-belief is strong enough it will be hard for them not to believe in you.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Our aim in five years’ time is to be the biggest online private property portal. We want to show consumers that there is another way to sell your home and it’s not always necessary to use an agent.
Through this process, we will hopefully be able to cement our place as a market leader in the growing private property sales sector.