Let's face it—finding houses to rent is a hassle. It costs us a lot of time and money which could have been otherwise saved if we did not have to run around the city looking for houses.
What if instead, we could find affordable deals for renting houses online - just like most things we can find online.
Keeping this in mind, Nesrullah Shohag and co-founder Sheikh Ananya came up with Rents--a prop-tech startup which is Bangladesh's first dedicated online platform for finding both residential and commercial rental deals.
Talking with The Business Standard, Shohag said he came up with the idea of Rents after he witnessed the ever-increasing demand for house rentals and commercial property.
"We started Rents in 2017. Initially, we started off with 'officebhara.com' as a commercial rental solution platform. Then we realised that the demand for housing rents was higher than office rentals, the former possessing much more market potential than the latter. So, we merged the two concepts of housing and commercial renting and came up with Rents," Shohag said.
As of now, Rents provides its services in Baridhara, Banani, Gulshan, Tejgaon, and the Bashundhara Residential Area, the latter two which are new additions to this list.
Although Rents officially provide their services in these areas, proprietors or homeowners from other areas can also place ads on the platform. If a client has particular requirements for office spaces, Rents' specialised team is there to help them out. This specialist team even looks after clients across the entire country in such cases.
Residential flats and commercial space rentals are the two services Rents offers. For home rentals, Rents also provides options for furnished apartments which are fully customizable. In these cases, the prices vary depending on the apartment and furnishing the client opts for.
"The deals we have for furnished apartments are made exclusively with property owners. Our responsibilities don't end with signing the deal closed, we also take the responsibility to look after any fixing and repair work by third-party repairmen once tenants have moved in," Shohag said.
Till now, Rents has provided commercial retail spaces to different super shops and fashion houses, such as Agora, Shwapno, Roar, Infinity, Ecstasy and more.
The business model of Rents works through homeowners who place their houses for lease directly on the website. Homeowners can also call Rents' call centre directly to place ads.
Detailing the process, Shohag said, "We then negotiate the prices with them and proceed with the deeds and documentation without troubling them with paperwork."
Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, when most businesses went through a rough patch, Rents was still performing well as it is a fully online-based business.
"Most people took an objection to visiting houses in person due to the pandemic. So we sent out our teams instead, who visited selected houses and filmed them to be sent to our clients," Shohag said.
He added that the weather has also played an important role in Rents' growth as many people preferred to search for houses online as opposed to roaming the streets in the scorching heat and heavy downpours.
What sets Rents apart from similar platforms
Rents is so far the only dedicated online housing and commercial rental platform in Bangladesh.
Shohag said, "Rents is different as it is completely focused on renting. On the contrary, similar existing platforms are not dedicated and their focuses fluctuate from time to time. At Rents, we are trying to create a rental ecosystem where clients will be able to rent not just homes but also furniture and home appliances."
"Platforms such as Bikroy place rental vacancy ads through brokers and not the property owners. Most times these brokers are not very educated or knowledgable. We communicate with the property owners directly, which keeps the whole process very transparent and the platform trustworthy," Shohag said. "And at the end of the day, we accept client feedback and complaints which we feed into the system to improve it further."
The future of prop-tech startups in Bangladesh
Online businesses are gaining traction in Bangladesh. After the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, many brick and mortar businesses incorporated a large part of their activities online.
Similarly, many businesses trying to venture out into the market launched online first. Shohag thinks that the concept of Rents will also be widely popular in Bangladesh; one, because physically visiting places has become a safety hazard and two, because people have started to prioritize time over money—online alternatives making headway and aiding the latter.
Providing some industry insight, Shohag said, "In the next two to three years, the concept of prop-tech will also gain large-scale traction as an industry. Moving cross-country will be made easier via prop-tech services where you will be able to rent a house beforehand to minimize accommodation hassle upon reaching another city."
Shohag added that foreign clients have taken a liking to Rents' furnished apartments.
"We have a pool of foreign clients who come to Bangladesh and live here for a few years, for which they need fully furnished homes. The ease of finding a home immediately after landing in an unknown country is something they heavily appreciate," he concluded.
To learn more about Rents and its services, visit www.rents.com.bd.