Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Real estate online

Published in Nov-Dec 2014
Profiling Zameen.com and Lamudi.pk.

According to the World Bank, the size of a country’s real estate assets constitutes between 60 and 70% of the country’s total wealth; if applied to Pakistan, the estimated size of the real estate sector would be $300 to $400 billion (although this is a figure that many real estate experts agree on, there has been no formal research on the subject), and despite the economic and political challenges, the real estate market outlook remains positive, especially in cities like Lahore and Islamabad where the security situation is better.

In recent years the real estate industry has managed to modernise the way in which it reaches out to buyers thanks to the internet. With more than 30 million internet users and 15 million mobile internet users, the medium has become a part of daily life. Much like the banking, travel and food sectors, real estate now has a major online presence as buyers search for easier ways to look for real estate options.

Although the majority of buyers still use the services of real estate agents, they use online sources to conduct research and look at properties first. Online real estate portals, such as Apnaplot.pk, Bastee.pk, Lamudi.pk, Wall.pk and Zameen.com among others, specialise in property listings for the specific purpose of sale and purchase; other portals such as Kirayadaar.com specialise in listing for rental purposes only. Of the many real estate portals, Zameen.com and Lamudi.pk are the two most prominent players in the online real estate market.

Zameen.com

Realty online: Zameen and Lamudi are the two most prominent players in the online real estate market.
Realty online: Zameen and Lamudi are the two most prominent players in the online real estate market.

Zameen.com was co-founded by Zeeshan Ali Khan with his brother Imran Ali Khan in 2006, when the two bought the Zameen domain in an auction for a few thousand dollars. Within eight years, the brothers have developed a team of over 180 employees. Their head office is in Lahore and offices in Islamabad and Karachi respectively, have recently been inaugurated.

In 2012, Gilles Blanchard, the co-founder of France’s largest property portal SeLoger.com, came on board as an angel investor and took on the role of chairman at Zameen. The website recently closed a venture with Frontier Digital Ventures and Catcha Group, both of which are highly successful venture capitalist firms in the ASEAN region.

“With these investments, you could say that we have further consolidated our position as the leading property portal in Pakistan,” says Khan.

With a monthly traffic of one million hits, Zameen caters to anyone with a real estate concern: investors, home-buyers, tenants, landlords, developers and even architects. In terms of user profile, about 41% of the website’s total traffic has an average monthly income of over Rs 100,000 and reside mostly in large cities like Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi. Forty percent of the traffic comes from overseas Pakistanis, mainly in Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK and USA.

For real estate agents and agencies, Zameen.com offers subscription-based services with the option of additional exposure through paid advertising, whereas individual users can upload a limited number of listings free of cost, after which they must pay for each listing.

There is, however, more to the website than just listings; including a section dedicated to new real estate projects and developments in the country, which Khan says has become “a launching pad for new developments as developers receive excellent response from property buyers.” The website is also the largest online resource for maps of real estate developments and societies in Pakistan.

Zameen has further extended its presence with a mobile app and a monthly magazine (also called Zameen) which Khan says has a readership of about 15,000.

However, Khan knows that the success of real estate portals is not just dependent on providing information; it is about having an in-depth knowledge of the city and its residents because “the real estate landscape of Pakistan is such that every city is very different from the other.”

Another area in which Zameen excels in is SEO, an essential part of marketing an online portal on search engines that are cluttered with many other real estate websites.

“We have a definite lead on pretty much everybody in the real estate sector when it comes to online marketing. Our Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing teams are extremely competent, and we work closely with companies such as Google Asia to increase our online visibility.”

Lamudi.pk

Realty online: Zameen and Lamudi are the two most prominent players in the online real estate market.
Realty online: Zameen and Lamudi are the two most prominent players in the online real estate market.

Lamudi.pk is a part of the Rocket Internet family and was launched in Pakistan and six other countries in October 2013; it currently operates in 28 countries.

Despite being a relative newcomer in the Pakistani market, by virtue of its strong backing Lamudi has already become a serious player in online real estate. Lamudi hit 250,000 real estate listings and 17,000 page views in April 2014 and these numbers have doubled since. Although 70 to 80% of the website’s traffic comes from within Pakistan, international traffic figures grew by 142% in the first six months of 2014.

According to Imran Choudhry, Business Development Manager, Lamudi, the website got a further boost earlier this year when it received seven million dollars in investment to grow its Asian operations. Since then, Lamudi has released Android and iOS apps to “allow house hunters in emerging markets to rent, buy and sell property on the go.”

Unlike Zameen, Lamudi does not allow individuals to post listings due to authenticity concerns. As far as listings by real estate agents and builders are concerned, the website’s team collects the information and then formulates the ad, only allowing vetted and trusted partners to post their own ads. Choudhry says that all listings remain on the site for no more than 120 days unless the agent wants them to remain for a specific reason.

According to Choudhry when Lamudi started in Pakistan, one of their main KPIs was to create awareness among the real estate sector. Besides visits from the sales team, Lamudi arranges training events and get-togethers where real estate agents are made aware of the benefits of online marketing.

Currently Lamudi.pk has a presence in Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi however there are plans in the pipeline to expand to other cities. The website recently launched a property magazine called Property Now which contains an interesting mix of property insights, city guides and interviews of real estate agents.

Humera Fatima is a freelance writer. humera.fatima@hotmail.com