People with money in Pakistan do not invest in startups as compared to the investments made in real estate. It’s not yet the culture here because investors too need an understanding of the IT act booming up globally as well as in Pakistan. Zeeshan Ali Khan and Imran Ali Khan have found an innovative way with Zameen.com to transform the real estate market in Pakistan as well as grab the attention of investors as well. With 4,500 real estate agencies registered, the website gets 20 to 50 thousand new property listings every month –the total number of property listings is touching a million figure. The website receives 500000 visitors every month where 40% of total traffic comes from abroad.
Zeeshan Ali Khan, CEO of Zameen.com, started an e-commerce site after doing Masters in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College of London. Imran Ali Khan joined him after earned his Master’s degree from University of Oxford. This is how things actually began. When they returned to Pakistan to set-up their offices for managing most of the operations abroad, they observed that there were hardly any online real estate portals in Pakistan with professional approach and valid listings.
That was the time when online real estate portals were starting everywhere in UK, France, Germany and other countries. Even though it was challenging, there still was a huge space for a digital trade of properties in the near future of Pakistan. Zeeshan Ali Khan says, “We understood very clearly that it would be a very long journey with an online real estate website in Pakistan, but we saw the long term prospects. We conducted some market research surveys and the market wasn’t ready for property portals, especially for the estate agencies, as they weren’t tech-savvy to have listings on a website. So we started this property portal in 2006 and went onto educating the agencies.”
Zameen.com team had to go out and educate agencies about using the web platform and put their listings online for maximum exposure and a bigger market. The site is getting a great response because the team is very tech oriented business-savvy. It also has a mobile version and its adding new tools and services in the future to keep up with the changing trends in the market, making sure everyone who wants to find a property – to rent, sale or purchase – should be able to access Zameen.com via desktop, tablet or mobile phone.
Zameen gets 25% of its traffic via mobile phones
The success of internet business ventures highly depends on the number of online users utilizing the provided services. The real estate business is always active in Pakistan – and technology is helping in accelerating it. However, there is still more to do for further expansion of businesses in Pakistan using online platforms. In Imran’s view, “The internet penetration in Pakistan is 30% at the moment, but this number will significantly increase after the launch of 3G. It has been seen in other countries as well. In 2009, there was more money spent on online advertising than other mediums in UK. And the very same shift is happening here.” Mobile revolution also took over China’s desktop trends with mobile phones, where most of internet penetration in China happened owing to the increased turn to cell phones. There are some inherent advantages of this technology that deeply improve the market.
User Friendly website is accessible from anywhere from mobile, tablet, iPad and PC
Zameen.com gets 25% traffic from mobile phones in Pakistan and it is looking forward to further integrate it for mobile users, tablets as well as touch pads and iPads. Zeeshan Ali Khan further explains it, “We consider tablets as another medium which is a part of ambiguity in most of the figures quoted abroad and over here. So we gave clear instructions that the website should be touch-friendly, allowing access with ease to anyone from a tablet, who should be able to log onto the website. Moreover, we also made sure our user-interface is simple and friendly. The website is professionally done, keeping in mind the eye-ball-tracking of the user; and paying attention to where a particular tool or option should be placed – it has been designed after extensive research and survey on customer’s experience and inclination when they visit a website.” Major chunks of the website design are outsourced but the most of the stuff at Zameen.com is developed in-house.
Online real estate – is it reliable?
There are dedicated teams at Zameen.com for Quality Assurancewhich also checks for customer service management which respond to the customers’ emails and calls immediately. The agencies registered at the portal are thoroughly checked for their reliability and for other legal issues. These checks are made manually by visiting the offices of the particular agency that applies for registration; the visiting team makes sure the agency has a market repute and actual office setup. Moreover, the property listings are also checked. The reliability and quality is the key thing that Zeeshan Ali Khan and Imran are focused ob. Imran Ali Khan adds further, “We do manual checks. If there is a property advertised in DHA, we even go and see if the price of that particular property is within the range of that area or city. We also educate users how to search through our portal for property and get to the desired results. But yes there could be a fake property once in a while and it’s removed as soon as it’s spotted.”
Key Venture Investment Deal With Two Singaporean Groups
Zameen.com has also closed a deal with Singapore-based Catcha Group and Frontier Digital Ventures allowing Catcha Group and Frontier Digital Ventures considerable interest in Zameen.com. Catcha Group is one of the top entrepreneurial corporations that invest in New Media ideas. It has heavily funded in ASEAN region and has a brilliant portfolio of listed as well as unlisted assets reaching $1 billion. The company owns iProperty Group, iCarAsia, iBuy and Catcha Media.
It takes a lot of energy, effort – there are a hundred employees working on this portal. So making sure that things are done in a proper manner, the team is fully focused on improving and expanding its services. The team intends to reach out to and implant roots in other countries but for the next two years. Zeeshan Ali Khan and Imran are fully focused on Zameen.com and merging it with local market investors as well as Pakistanis living abroad.