iProperty carves digital niche in real estate
Ang Hui Hsien 
(From left) Malaysia’s general manager of Malaysian agents Leon Kong, Haresh, Kashif and IQI Global group executive director Sheila Tan at the signing ceremony of the commercial agreement

IN an age where technology is applied in practically every industry – prompting words like fintech (financial technology) and proptech (property technology) to be coined – iProperty Group has emerged as a strong advocate of the application of digital tools in the real estate sector.

And with household broadband penetration of over 82%, it makes sense for the group to shift its business focus in Malaysia to emphasise on digital technology.

“Digital is at the heart of the revolution we see in the marketplace, and Malaysia is doing great work at building a digital marketplace,” says REA Group-Asia CEO of Singapore and Malaysia Haresh Khoobchandani.

iProperty is no stranger when it comes to digital technology, being the owner of several property portals across Asia.

Its owner, Melbourne-based digital advertising company REA Group, also operates a number of real estate websites in Europe, Asia and the US.

“At the heart of REA, we are a digital company and with the addition of iProperty, we don’t want to just transact but also partner with agencies across the globe.

“We want to be able to serve consumers in a better, stronger and more experiential way – and digital allows for that,” explains Haresh.

However, he notes a major challenge with digital is that a lot of people may not necessarily understand how to leverage on it to get better results.


Interpreting data

For the past six to nine months, iProperty has been actively rolling out new website experiences and applications providing backend digital solutions, and even achieved a record 12 million visitors to its websites last August.

“When you think that 12 million people visited our sites, they are spending time across devices like mobile technology as well as desktops, and that is a lot of digital engagement. The question is; how do you understand their behaviours and patterns and translate them into quality engagement?” he asks.

Describing data as the new oil or currency, he highlights the problem of people lacking the ability and knowledge to capture, manage and translate data into insights and actions. “If you don’t know how to manage and clean data, it’s like garbage in, garbage out.”

Haresh believes technology will make the financing process faster and easier, citing REA Group’s collaboration with the National Australia Bank which allows people to apply for loans through the former’s website as an example.

“I think that’s the future. The idea is to help global audiences change the way the world experiences property, from financing to interior design to buying, selling or renting. The idea is to make it seamless,” he stresses.

Aside from developers and banks, iProperty has also moved towards roping in real estate agencies into its digital cause via a partnership between Malaysia and Dubai-headquartered IQI Global.

Under a commercial agreement, agents from the real estate agency will be trained on how to utilise iProperty’s range of solutions and platforms to better themselves in their engagements with clients.

“One big part is how do we enable IQI agents to use the right digital technology, products and data to be able to provide the right insights to customers to allow them to make the right decisions on buying a property,” explains Haresh.

IQI Global group CEO Kashif Ansari believes that as a market leader, the agency has a responsibility to constantly stay ahead of the curve by keeping its team digitally-advanced.

“The contract is about coming together and understanding the potential of property portals. That’s what we’re trying to tell our agents and team,” he says.

He adds that where before, such portals served only as online property listings, their functions have now evolved to include providing data which can be used by agents to generate leads.

“It’s not just the agents we’re empowering, it’s also what we can give to the consumers as they deserve the best as well. There are a lot of consumers out there who are not getting the proper products,” he notes.

The agreement has been hailed as the first of its kind, as it is a maiden collaboration between a digital company and real estate agency in Malaysia.

“One of the biggest reasons organisations don’t transform entirely into digital is due to a lack of collaboration with digital providers. We want to move away from transactions to partnerships,” explains Haresh.


The trust element

For IQI, partnering with a company as established as iProperty means credibility. Kashif admits it is helpful when customers trust the data they are provided with as it is important to hit the right people in the few seconds real estate agencies have to capture consumers’ attention.

Elaborating further, Haresh points out the engagement between an agent and a consumer boils down to trust – and data can enhance that by providing legitimacy.

“We’ve always had data, but the ability to translate that data has always been lacking. It’s here now, and that’s the investment we’ve made in Malaysia to provide that level of insight,” he explains.

Alluding to further collaborations between both parties, Kashif reveals the commercial agreement merely marks the start of a relationship which could extend beyond Malaysia, given both iProperty and IQI’s global presence.

Declining to elaborate further, he says more updates can be expected soon as two companies are currently working closely on other territories. “Whatever is the best practice for a particular location, we will bring it there,” he states.

Catering to the non-digital segment

DESPITE iProperty Group’s current emphasis on digital, it also has solutions catering to consumers who are not as technologically-inclined, says REA Group-Asia CEO of Singapore and Malaysia Haresh Khoobchandani.

This view is shared with its partner IQI Global which signed a commercial agreement with Malaysia that allows them to use the latter’s solutions covering both digital and non-digital aspects.

“We do emphasise on digital because the reality is it is leading the revolution we see today. When we were discussing this, we were clear about the need to embrace digital as well as non-digital in order to be holistic,” says Haresh.

On IQI’s side, while it recognises the advantages of going digital, the real estate agency is also mindful of providing training along the lines of interpersonal skills and marketing in non-digital ways to its agents as it believes property buying to be ultimately, an emotional choice.

“About 90% of our clients are technology-driven, but we do have those 10% who still believe in the old school ways.

“By embracing digital, we are not sidelining this group as we will continue to place advertisements in newspapers and organise networking sessions,” explains IQI Global group CEO Kashif Ansari.

While he admits technology plays an important role in real estate, he is of the belief it will complement rather than take over the property agent’s role.

“iProperty and all these other portals are here to make you better. They are not meant to push you out of the industry. If both portals and agents work together, it will definitely be a success,” he says.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 270.