Sina Afra of Tiko tells us how their customers value more and more the safety of their contactless solution.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sina Afra: We spent a lot of time at home and getting used to homeschooling, virtual meetings, and spending time with the closest circle. In 2019 I had around 120 flights. In 2020, the number was 6. So, on all levels, we experienced the change, the excitement but never lost hope for the better days to come.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Tiko.
Sina Afra: My latest endeavor is Tiko which I founded and serve as CEO. Before that, I was the Founder of Markafoni, the first Online Fashion site of Turkey, which also became the first Turkish internet company expanding beyond the borders. The Naspers Group acquired in July 2011 a majority stake at Markafoni and signed for one of the biggest deals on the Turkish internet.
The idea of Tiko emerged to fill an existing gap in the real estate sector: digitalization. There was room for improvement in the home’s buying and selling process, as it could be digitized and made it more convenient for customers. With Tiko, it is possible to sell a property in just a few days, at a competitive price and without stress. In short, Tiko is able to give instant cash to those who want to sell their home.
Also, I am an active investor in early-stage start-ups and, and believe in the importance of entrepreneurship, I held the position of the President of the Entrepreneur Foundation and Endeavor Turkey Board (2013-2017).
In relation to my personal acknowledgments, I have been elected as the “Internet Entrepreneur of the Year” and “Business Angel of the Year” by Webrazzi. I have been selected (2014 & 2015) to the Top 100 most influential tech people in Europe as well. In 2016 I was considered as one of the Top 100 most influential tech people in the World (Wired Magazine). Forbes Magazine elected me to the “Brightest Minds” alive in Turkey (2019).
How does Tiko innovate?
Sina Afra: Thanks to its technology, Tiko is able to reduce time average sales from eight months to just some days. After receiving some basic information, Tiko makes an offer in 24 hours. It is an objective and transparent economic valuation.
Madrid has been the first Spanish city where this service was launched in 2017 and it has had a great reception: currently 20 % of the sales that are made in the capital go through their hands. Because of this success, in 2019 Tiko started to operate in Barcelona and Málaga, and in 2020 arrived in Sevilla and Valencia. Its expansion plan includes other major European cities.
The beauty of our value proposition is not just that we provide a fast, easy and safe way to sell your house, but also that the price is a competitive one. Technology allows us to be cost-efficient and scalable, therefore, we can afford to take every reasonable margin over a high volume of transactions. This has been key to our success and rapid expansion.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Sina Afra: As other tech-heavy companies, Tiko has faced the pandemic better prepared than the average of companies. As an example, even during the lockdown, Tiko could continue its activity of making digital offers. We leveraged our machine-learning capabilities to conduct valuations and submit offers in just 24 hours and, more importantly, without the need of physically visiting the house. Tiko has more than quadrupled its year on year operations, showing that the digitalization of the real estate sector is more necessary than ever.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Sina Afra: We did not take drastic actions regarding human resources because we have kept 100% of our team. What’s more, as of March 2020 our staff has grown by 25% and people have joined both our teams in Spain and Turkey.
The lesson learned is that we are able to work remotely without losing the quality of our service and that we can do team building even in this situation.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Sina Afra: There is no doubt that our tech focus has allowed us to better cope with the current challenges. But it’s also made our value proposition even more appealing, for several reasons. First of all, with Tiko, homeowners can safely sell their house: we remove the dozens of visits necessary for finding a buyer traditionally, we enable digital signatures from anywhere, etc. Our customers value more and more the safety of our contactless solution.
Secondly, the economic slowdown will most likely increase the time to sell someone’s house, since fewer buyers will qualify for getting a mortgage. Here again, Tiko is well positioned; we already have the financing to be able to purchase in just a few days, giving homeowners the peace of mind that the purchase will go through without unpleasant surprises. We give so much-needed certainty in very uncertain times.
Finally, Tiko advisors accompany the client throughout the entire process, taking care of the paperwork and solving any issue that may arise. In Covid times, these issues are unfortunately more and more frequent (e.g. inheritance or mortgage cancellation-related matters take more time due and have additional complications).
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Sina Afra: No, we did not have any government grants.
Your final thoughts?
Sina Afra: Last year it was useful to see which new companies were strong enough to withstand such a crisis. It has been a real test for all the new European companies and now it will be noticed which ones have been able to attract the attention of investors.
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