We’re No 1, claims PropertyGuru
By Lum Ka Kay April 20, 2016
- Says it is crushing it in most markets, but is in no hurry to go public
- Tech roadmap includes smart data and multimedia content, perhaps VR
SINGAPORE-headquartered PropertyGuru Group is claiming that its market share in Malaysia has grown from 20% to 42% in the past year, making it the top property portal in Malaysia – and it is also claiming to be the No 1 online property platform in South-East Asia.
Malaysia is in fact its tightest market. Its group chief executive officer and cofounder Steve Melhuish (pic above) said PropertyGuru’s market share in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia are 90%, 60% and 50%, respectively.
“In Singapore, we’re about 20 times bigger than the No 2 and it has been the same for about two years.
“In Thailand it’s about three times the No 2, and for the Indonesian market share, ours is twice that of the No 2,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) on the sidelines of a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur on April 19.
According to Melhuish, the results have been verified by digital measurement and analytics firm comScore Inc.
In total, over 16 million property seekers use PropertyGuru on a monthly basis to find homes, and search out market trends and insights for property research.
The company also claimed that its 1.5 million regional listings have enabled property transactions that are worth US$12 billion annually.
Melhuish attributed the 22-point growth in Malaysia to his local team of 70, as well as the ‘considerable amount’ of investment PropertyGuru has poured into the market.
“We’ve been investing very heavily in marketing and brand building, but the most important aspect for us is innovation,” he said.
“Malaysia was the first market to get the new version of our website, new mobile app, pricing trends and mortgage calculators.
“Malaysia is kind of our centre of innovation – it is the first place for us to push out new products,” he added.
But what is so special about Malaysia, and why is it getting all this special attention?
“If you look at the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Malaysia, the contribution of the property or real estate sector is one of the largest – if not the largest – of the markets that we are present in,” said Melhuish.
“It’s also the second largest in terms of online penetration and online growth after Singapore, so Malaysia is our second largest market in terms of revenue,” he added.
According to Melhuish, PropertyGuru is growing 30% yearly in terms of website traffic. The company now has 420 staff across the region.
In the pipeline
When it comes to PropertyGuru’s longer-term technology plans, Melhuish said he was giving serious thought to virtual reality (VR).
Citing the New York Times as an example, he noted that the newspaper recently introduced VR content that simulates immersive scenes from the warzones in Syria.
He said the same could be done for the property sector.
“I was sceptical at first, but after I did some research and saw some examples, I now believe that in perhaps five years’ time, some developers might not spend a million to build a show flat.
“This would not only help developers reduce cost but also help them in terms of concept testing.
“How do you know whether this new project is going to take off? Before developers spend a huge amount of money on architecture design, they can use VR to test if consumers like their upcoming project.
“It is difficult to test property concepts like the way we do with our websites, but VR may enable concept testing for developers in a faster and more cost-efficient way, allowing them to build properties that are more successful,” he said.
In the shorter term, PropertyGuru will invest heavily on data and multimedia content, as well as smart tools for consumers.
“We are working on an exclusive partnership with Malaysian credit reporting agency CTOS in coming out with a tool to help consumers check their credit scores on our website before proceeding to apply for a loan,” Melhuish said.
When asked if PropertyGuru is looking into new acquisitions, Melhuish said that he was in no hurry to do so.
“We’ve done three acquisitions in the last six months, so we’re now really focused on immersing these companies into our organisation to ensure we’re working well with them.
“In the long term, yes we will be doing so, but we’re not in a hurry for that,” he said.
That no-hurry sentiment also applies to the company’s plan for an initial public offering (IPO), according to Melhuish.
“We just raised funding about nine months ago, so we will only be looking at this [an IPO] in the next two years or so. It’s one of the options, obviously,” he said.
Last June, PropertyGuru received a US$129-million investment from a strategic consortium of three investors – global private investment firm TPG, Indonesian media group Emtek Group and Asia-Pacific-based tech venture capital firm Square Peg Capital.
Last December, it acquired Indonesian property website RumahDijual.com. In January this year, it acquired the real estate media assets of Thai-based Ensign Media – luxury and lifestyle magazine Property Report and the Asia Property Awards.
But it is not going to be an easy journey for PropertyGuru, with Melhuish admitting that one major challenge is finding good talent, an issue facing a lot of companies.
“Another challenge would be the mismatch between media consumption and marketing spending,” he said.
“The eyeballs are on online media, but most of the marketing spending goes to traditional media,” he added.
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