Helping Multi-Housing Residents Stay on Top of Repairs: A Conversation with Travtus’ Tripty Arya

tripty thumbnailTravtus, an Indian construction company with offices in Mumbai, New Delhi and Singapore, specializes in design/build services and is a key player in the emerging infrastructure and development industry in India. The company’s portfolio of projects has ranged from road infrastructure to industries and from high rises to institutions in both remote and metropolitan regions of the country. An architect by training, who understands the perspective of the international real estate development community, Tripty Arya, vice president for projects at Travtus, also understands the critical role played by technology in the multiple dwelling business environment. So it’s no surprise that Arya has been tasked with setting up the “dream team” that will spread the word about Travtus Advantage, a software product created by Travtus for property management and facility maintenance. Using the latest in customer apps, automated emails, texts and online payment processing, Travtus Advantage connects multi-housing residents with property management back office and maintenance staff enabling prompt service for a range of home repairs. Before accepting this leadership position in India, Arya got her feet wet as vice president of operations at Urban American in New York. According to Arya, her relationship with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) began during her student days at Cornell when, she says, “[the architecture students] were ‘hired’ by the cool real estate kids on campus [to help with] ULI competitions. My interest in real estate germinates from those experiences.” Arya later pursued an MBA at Columbia Business School. During that time she interned with Seacom as a project associate to help strategize development of IT centers in Tanzania. Arya recently talked to Diana Mosher, editorial director, MHN, about her interest in global real estate and her current position rolling out Travtus Advantage.

MHN: Tell us about your parent company and how you became involved in this project. How did a construction company get involved in technology?

Arya: Travtus is a construction company with operations in Singapore and India with expertise in civil construction, infrastructure and design/build. I returned to Travtus after my MBA and was faced with some labor over-staffing issues. As a result, we created a unique workforce to cater to the home repair needs of consumers in Mumbai and Singapore. In order to better manage our operations, we leveraged the new possibilities with evolving mobile technology. Thus, Advantage was developed as an in-house app to track our workmen across different geographies and make our operations paperless.

MHN: What does this task force management system do to help U.S. multifamily owners and their operations teams?

Arya: Since our launch in January 2014, we have 4,000 apartments being serviced through Travtus Advantage and the feedback on its utility has been very encouraging. The most important aspect of the system is how it ties together the different parties involved in a task. With our Tenant App or online dashboards, the tenant can place requests on the go and is notified of the process with mails and texts at every step. Similarly, the dispatch team can push jobs into the field through our integrated workman apps which allow for daily schedules to be available on your super’s phones. Our time stamp features for each job and GPS tracking of the workman gives a real sense of control to property managers sitting in the office. Our system has a direct impact on the assets ROI. Imagine saving over three to four hours a day for your supers and dispatch team as well as getting detailed job completion reports with photos and digital signatures from clients all from implementing a single system.

MHN: How are you currently rolling this out to the marketplace? Are you offering free demos? What has the reaction been from potential clients?

Arya: We have been fortunate to have happy clients who have been promoting our product by word of mouth. The ease and efficiency that it brings to the process has given them a lot to discuss over industry cocktails and events. This has helped us tremendously. In addition to this, we have now started reaching out to larger landlords in cities like New York and London. We offer free demos online; and, in fact, landlords can sign up their company in minutes for a one-month free trial. We have a support team that helps potential users through the integration. Our apps are available for download on Google Store and App Store, thus making the process very quick and smooth. We have also started establishing a #houseproud campaign over social media which resonates with our commitment to helping tenants and landlord create a high quality and well-maintained asset. We don’t want to market ourselves as “software,” but as a tool of improving the quality of a tenancy.

MHN: Was this product developed with condo property management in emerging markets in mind? Can you share lessons learned that can apply to rental business?

Arya: The product was developed in the emerging markets where strata ownership is the norm. As a result our offering was primarily direct to consumers, who sign up for maintenance service. Thus, the technology was a product of service. For example in Mumbai and Singapore, the unit can be registered by either the landlord or the tenant since the responsibility of the maintenance of the condo is always a gray line. As a result, the system that we developed gave a lot more control and transparency to the actual user in the apartment. Moreover, since the system was developed for multiple units not aggregated in the same location, it is flexible and addresses factors like travel time to job, directions, no access to units etc.

In the rental market, with large scale landlords, often this process can be lost in paperwork and call centers. You have a tenant call with a request for repair and then receives a job order ticket in the mail. This process is currently being presented as a “paperless” process. But it doesn’t give the tenant transparent information like location of their super or the ability to explain the job with videos or photos. Information can lead to accountability, and our lessons from the emerging markets tell us that people want to manage their own repairs. We just need to give them the tools to do it.

MHN: What features can be customized by individual properties/apartment companies? Describe the user interface and walk us through the set up process when product is first purchased.

Arya: When you sign up online, you can customize almost all the functions to reflect the operating process in your company. These customizations start from your ability to place your logo on all display and communications, to accepting credit card payments, to customized emails at different triggers. You can also add third party vendors and have their schedules synced even if they are working for another company. The system has three main interfaces: 1. The Central Dashboard (back office staff are able to manage the end-to-end maintenance process); 2. The Workman App (workmen view their schedules, get directions and complete the job—from checking in at the address, to capturing customer signature and feedback); 3. The Tenant App and Portal (from here tenants can create and track requests, upload images of the problem, approve/reject quotes and even make online credit card payments).

MHN: In your opinion, what are the best features of this product?

Arya: The reports! I think the reporting tool is the most powerful feature in the system. The system is designed to capture data in ways that can be used to really analyze the performance of your staff in the field. Our clients can literally drop down the name of a super and generate reports about his average customer rating, his average time to complete a job and track this performance over time and against the performance of another super.

MHN: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Arya: We are currently curating content for training forums and libraries which will be made available to all workmen who are signed up for our apps. Our aim is to help the home repair process not just from an IT perspective but from a holistic view of improving service standards worldwide. Our upcoming training module is a step towards this mission.