In our latest ‘5 Minutes With’ series we caught up with Suraj Bist, Chief Technology Officer at SimplyPhi to discuss how technology is tackling the current housing crisis, and how data, if used correctly, can help shape the future of housing in the UK for the better.
Could you talk us through your current role with SimplyPhi?
In my role as CTO at SimplyPhi, I play a pivotal role in shaping the company’s technology direction, spearheading product development, nurturing essential partnerships, and strategically allocating resources to propel the firm’s growth and success within the investment sector. I have a wealth of experience in technology, finance and real estate which uniquely positions me to excel in an influential leadership capacity.
In your own words, could you describe the business mission of SimplyPhi?
SimplyPhi is a B2B proptech platform, speeding up the process for institutional buyers of residential property to acquire or rent homes in volume and at pace. Our customers are primarily local authorities and other central government bodies (Home Office, MOD etc), and real estate funds and investors. As a Certified B-Corp (https://bcorporation.uk/) we have a clearly defined mission to develop technologies and services to help eliminate the housing crisis in the UK.
Having understood there is a gap in the market for this type of product, what are the biggest challenges with filtering a particularly disorganized data set like the one we see in the housing industry?
Trying to cross reference the vast amount of fragmented data available on the housing sector and then deliver relevant data sets to the many different stakeholders involved in property acquisition processes is our key challenge. Our technology is literally “simplifying” and speeding up the process of assessing individual property transactions at a very granular level, to the detail required by institutional acquirers and renters of property at scale.
What are the other big challenges in the housing industry at the moment and how do you feel SimplyPhi can help solve them?
Affordability is probably the biggest key challenge in the housing sector right now. With financial obligations on landlords to address issues like decarbonisation, fire safety, cladding, damp and mould to name a few, this translates into more expensive rent or higher cost of delivery. By collating the data we do through our tech platforms, we provide clarity on what is happening in local markets, and improved efficiencies to ensure transactions are more certain and quicker to complete, giving our customers more of a commercial edge in negotiations.
Our customer are institutional by the very nature of their makeup (local and central government and real estate funds). These type of organisations are accustomed to dealing with large transactions and given housing is very granular, it is difficult for institutional buyers to manage, source and acquired portfolios on a property by property basis. By cookie cutting and digitising the property acquisition process, SimplyPhi allows its customers to carry out a greater degree of diligence on individual properties almost instantaneously, making the overall investment process viable.
We also experiment with new technologies, particularly with the advent of AI, to automate the process of valuing and surveying properties. This sort of technology will become of particular value as net-zero targets get closer, and retro-fit programmes gather pace. Digitising the makeup of a property allows for much more advanced analysis on the ongoing use of a property, such as monitoring fuel poverty, and picking up on risks of damp and mould.
From a personal perspective, what do you most enjoy about your role as CTO?
In my role as CTO, I find immense satisfaction in the opportunity to shape and lead the technology strategy of SimplyPhi. It’s fulfilling to be at the forefront of innovation in the Proptech space, where we are addressing critical challenges in the housing industry. I particularly enjoy the creative aspect of my role, exploring new technologies to streamline processes and create solutions that have a positive impact on the market. Additionally, being part of a mission-driven organization like SimplyPhi, with a goal to help eliminate the housing crisis in the UK, adds a deeper sense of purpose to my work.
Moving forward – what are your hopes/ambitions for the product and where do you see it ending up in 5 years time?
We are perfecting our technology in the B2B space, where there is already huge demand, but there is still a long way to go… particularly around pricing up works and managing net-zero retrofit programmes (there are over 15m homes that need upgrading in the UK) as well as monitoring property usage whilst lived in. Once we have a tried and tested end-to-end B2B solution, we will open up our technology to the retail market in a B2C platform, with plans to then make our systems available in international markets as well.