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Online Home Purchase Boom in India

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Madhumita Mondal, a resident of Mumbai made a decision to buy an apartment online. A strange but appealing feeling that save time and also offers mouthwatering discount compared to tradition offline purchase. Mondal spent $ 159,000 (10.1 million rupees) on a 3 bedroom apartment located in Mumbai suburbs. According to Mondal, normally she purchases books and dresses on Snapdeal.com, but when she saw the apartment advertised with good discount, she decided to give it a try to save time and money. A decision that changed her online experience.

‘Rather than having to go through property agencies off-line, this experience is much better,’ Mondal commented.

While it seems difficult to spend hundreds of thousands of rupees online, many Indians are happy about it. Property is being sold online and huge internet sales realized. Developers are getting an easy time disposing off the excess supply while consumers find it easy to buy houses with good discounts. Over the past few weeks, both Mantri Developers Ltd and Tata Housing Development Co made sales of $ 1 million each on Snapdeal. In the past one year, Snapdeal, Housing.com and 99acres.com are sites that have been making property sales online. More than 1500 apartments of sales online are reported by Tata Housing. The online platforms promise lower prices. In an advert placed on their website, Snapdeal promises low prices, ‘obtain unbelievable discounts’ the advertisement reads.

Cost Conscious

The managing director and chairman of Mumbai-based developer Rustomjee Group had this to say, ‘Indians are very conscious on cost. They believe that online platforms and mass buying are cheap methods of buying anything.’ More than 30 apartments have been sold online by Rustomjee Group through a brokerage site where buyers are directed to Rustomjee to make the sale complete. ‘We observe traditions on most things while in India, we embrace technology and what it has to offer. I see a lot of potential in the manner in which the internet can make changes in sale of apartments.’

For a new construction, the sites for online sales work in the same manner as an offline showroom belonging to a developer. Instead of going in person to view the photos and proposed models, the potential customer only has to make a few clicks. He/she is able to view the neighborhood and see how the building and units look like. He also gets an opportunity to see the reviews and ratings from other buyers. Also available is a walk-through of the three dimension furnished apartment.

Big Discounts

A good example of a typical discount is an apartment worth 6.5 million rupee which was built in Bengaluru by Ardente Realtors. The mortgage interest payment of 800,000 rupees (12 % purchase price) was being slashed off on this apartment if the purchase is made through Housing.com.

When a down payment of $ 1,600 is made by the customer on the ecommerce platform, the buyer is contacted by the developer in order to assist mortgage financing arrangements through the bank if need be. The option of paying the balance through online banking is also available.

‘Unlike offline real estate brokers, online commissions for sellers are lower,’ said Rustomjee Irani. He didn’t give further details. Snapdeal also failed to give more information on commissions. In some markets, developers are using the site so that they can offload excess supply in the markets. In the first quarter of the year, there was a total of 192.3 million square feet of unsold homes. This was expected to take 3 years and 10 months for them to be sold at the prevailing pace in Mumbai. This is according to a research and real estate consulting firm, Liases Foras Real Estate Rating & Research Pvt. There is 8-12 months inventory required to be maintained for a healthy market.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Fund Raising

Releaf Secures $4.2M in Seed Funding Plans To Drive Industrialisation of Food Processing in Africa

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Nigerian agritech start-up, Releaf, has just announced a $2.7 million seed funding led by Samurai Incubate Africa, Future Africa and Consonance Investment Managers with participation from Stephen Pagliuca, Chairman of Bain Capital and Justin Kan (Twitch).

In addition to the seed round, Releaf also secured $1.5 million in grants from The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) and USAID.

The seed funding will enable the development of industrial food processing technology in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven Oil Palm sector, while the grant will enable Releaf to provide working capital and other value-added services for smallholders and small-scale processors. Grant funding will support the training, recruitment and retention of more women and youth in Nigeria’s Oil Palm sector by creating both digital and technical jobs.

Nigeria’s oil palm industry is dominated by smallholder farmers, with 80 percent of the local market share. However, production rates are low because many still rely on inefficient processes for de-shelling, including the use of rocks and inappropriate hardware. These ineffective processes also lead to low-quality palm kernels, largely unfit as input for high-quality vegetable oil manufacturing. As a result, food factories are unable to purchase these raw materials and operate significantly under capacity. On average, food factories have 3X more installed capacity than utilisation, which impacts the cost of food and further investment into processing capacity.

Releaf acts as a bridge between smallholder farmers and food manufacturing companies with its proprietary patent-pending machinery, Kraken. Kraken can process any quality of palm nut into premium quality (95 percent purity) inputs for food factories. Releaf’s software connects the start-up to more than 2,000 smallholder farmers, ensuring consistent, large-scale supply. While palm kernel oil production is not foreign to Nigeria, Releaf’s technology and scale mean it can process 500 tonnes of palm nuts per week. The software offerings also allow the start-up to receive inbound supply requests from farmers via USSD, provide working capital financing, and collect proprietary data on supply availability.

Speaking about the new funding, Ikenna Nzewi, CEO and co-founder of Releaf, said, “our mandate is to industrialise Africa’s food processing industry. This round of funding enables us to develop and prove our technology with smallholder farmers in the oil palm sector. Given Nigerians spend ~60 percent of their income on food and Africa’s population is set to increase by 100,000 people per day over the next three decades, we’re presented with an incredible opportunity to feed more people, reduce consumer costs, and supply the fastest-growing food market in the world. Releaf is committed to harnessing technology to accelerate the economic wealth of rural, agrarian societies throughout the Continent. We firmly believe that a robust real economy is the foundation for long-lasting and shared prosperity for Africans and are excited to deepen partnerships with like-minded organisations, governments, and firms.”

Rena Yoneyama, Managing Partner at Samurai Incubate Africa who led the round, commented, “Releaf’s novel approach to operating within the value chain with proprietary technology set it aside from many agritech startups we have spoken about to. We believe the firm’s thesis on decentralizing food processing would strongly match Africa’s economic development landscape for the next few decades. Ikenna and Uzo are the perfect founders to disrupt this market in Nigeria and beyond. We are thrilled to back them as they innovate in providing both agro-processing and financial services to rural communities and farmers.”

Iyin Aboyeji, General Partner at Future Africa noted, “more than 50% of the goods in supermarkets globally contain glycerine – an extract made from palm oil – a cash crop that is passed down from generation to generation. The team at Releaf is building the agro-allied industry of the future from the ground up, starting with palm oil which they have developed a novel technology to aggregate, deshell and process into critical ingredients like vegetable oil and glycerine. Future Africa is delighted to back Releaf to build the future of modern agriculture.”

Dr. Nneka Enwonwu, Country Relationship Manager, from The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE), said, “We are thrilled to partner with Releaf on their mission to improve efficiency and profitability for farmers and food factories in Africa. The founders’ vision and the team’s enthusiasm gave us confidence that Releaf will deliver real value for rural communities and create digital/technical jobs for women and youth. We are looking forward to their results and success over the coming years and continuing to support their work.”

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Fund Raising

54gene closes $25M Series B to Advance Global Drug Discovery Capabilities

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African genomics startup 54gene has secured $25M in a Series B round, led by Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund. The round also included participation from Adjuvant Capital, KdT Ventures, Plexo Capital, Endeavor Capital, Ingressive Capital and others. This round brings the company’s total investment to date to more than $45M since being founded in 2019.

The new capital raised will be deployed to expand 54gene’s capabilities in sequencing, target identification and validation, and precision medicine clinical trials enabling drug discovery in Africa for both Africans and the global population. The new capital will also enable the company to begin its expansion across the African continent.

Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO, 54gene, commented: “It’s truly incredible to witness the impact of African scientists in global research, and it is critical to global health that this continues. We want to scale our contribution to global drug discovery by extensively developing life science capabilities on the continent, and this additional capital will catalyse our endeavours.”

Dr Ene-Obong continued: “In this round, we have brought in partners that keep us true to our mission of equalising healthcare and who can help us replicate our success throughout Africa. We believe the world will benefit from an African global drug discovery company that leverages the deep insights found in genomics research in diverse populations and ensures true equity for the African population. It’s exciting to see our company shift into the next gear as it targets becoming one of the top global companies in genomics research.”

54gene will also be expanding its genomics and molecular diagnostics division across Africa, ensuring that African patients get access to accurate diagnostics and enabling the application of precision medicine in the clinical setting throughout the continent. To lead this new business unit, the company has brought in Michelle Ephraim as General Manager Diagnostics Pan-Africa. Michelle has held various sales leadership roles across Africa for Leica Biosystems, PerkinElmer, and Merck Millipore.

Yassine Oussaifi, Partner at Cathay AfricInvest, commented: “As a pioneer in genomics and precision medicine in Nigeria, 54gene has built a unique health technology platform leveraging African resources to unlock scientific discoveries for the benefit of African and global communities. At Cathay AfricInvest Innovation, we’re dedicated to backing innovative, inclusive solutions that connect African technology and research with global innovation ecosystems to help them scale. 54gene works across drug discovery, molecular diagnostics and clinical trials, boosting access and affordability of various healthcare solutions that will positively impact worldwide. We look forward to working with the 54gene team on their development on the continent and beyond.”

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Telecommunications

Nokia and African Telecommunications Union (ATU) to Speed up Digital Transformation and the Knowledge Economy in Africa

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Collaboration to leverage the power of ICT including 5G for Industry 4.0 (IR 4.0), connecting the unconnected and transforming lives; Both organizations reiterate commitment to shape policy, develop talent, and promote inclusion and diversity in Africa.

Nokia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) to drive digital transformation and the knowledge economy for socio-economic development across the continent. The two parties will leverage the power of telecommunications, including 5G networks, to connect the unconnected and identify innovative use cases, as well as business models. In addition, the MoU will lay ground for both organizations to better help governments shape telecom policy, develop talent and promote inclusion and diversity. This includes women, as well as the underprivileged in both rural and urban areas.

The MoU was signed in Nairobi, Kenya, by John OMO, Secretary General at ATU and Rajiv Aggarwal, Nokia Representative and Head of Central, East and West Africa Market Unit at Nokia.

Announcing the partnership, Rajiv Aggarwal, Head of Central, East and West Africa Market Unit at Nokia, said: “We remain keen on supporting Africa’s digital transformation journey and by collaborating with the ATU, we strengthen this commitment. We will leverage our global technology expertise and insights on policy matters to positively impact the universal socio-economic development in the continent.”

Co-signing the MoU with Mr. Rajiv, John OMO, Secretary General of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), said: “Our vision is to make Africa a full and active participant in the global information and knowledge society by enabling universal access to ICT systems and services across Africa. Collaboration with a global industry leader such as Nokia is therefore crucial in this regard and will help us accelerate towards a digital transformation and knowledge economy.”

The MoU framework is guided by six tenets designed to facilitate this acceleration. These are:

  • Sharing of best practices on telecom technology trends and developments
  • Identification of innovative industrial use cases toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Recommendation on implementation of emerging technologies and business models
  • Promotion of connecting the unconnected with broadband
  • Development of emerging talent for digital innovation
  • Promotion of inclusion and diversity

Nokia has a long history of collaboration with international organizations and bodies across the globe. Regionally in MEA, Nokia recently partnered with UN Women to promote inclusion and diversity in Middle East and Africa. Nokia is also working with UNICEF as part of a shared-value partnership in Kenya to connect schools with broadband and empower children in rural as well as disadvantaged urban areas. In November 2020, Nokia supported the Forge Academy in South-Africa with the launch of a fully inclusive artificial intelligence (AI) laboratory to help students to become entrepreneurs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the global digital economy.

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