- Zameen.com was established in 2006. Since then, the market's journey has been towards integration, expansion and technological innovation.
Often even the most fragmented, inefficient markets provide opportunities for companies to grow. By introducing transparency and internationally recognised best practices, individual companies can help remove inefficiencies (and often some undesirable practices) from entire sectors. In this way certain companies, with clearly defined objectives and approaches, are able to grow just as industries are revived.
Pakistan's real estate market, for example, has long been disjointed, associated with the undocumented economy, and dominated by flipping: aggressive speculative transactions for quick profits.
These trends began changing one-by-one as the country's first real estate portal, Zameen.com, was established in 2006. Since then, the market's journey –although a slow one – has been towards integration, expansion and technological innovation.
It is, in many ways, a unique story of a small start-up with a handful of initial members expanding across the country and beyond, while providing buoyancy to the entire real estate sector and the wider economy.
Below is a brief chronology of the company's growth:
2006:Founded by two entrepreneur brothers, Zeeshan Ali Khan and Imran Ali Khan, in circumstances similar to what all start-up companies face: limited resources and a long road ahead.
2007-8: Zameen.com wins CNBC's ‘Best Property Portal Pakistan' award andgoes on to win CNBC's ‘Best International Portal' award within two years of its inception; an accolade which helped it get international attention.
2012: Gilles Blanchard, the co-founder of France's leading property portal called Seloger.com, comes on board as an angel investor and officially joins Zameen.com as its chairman.
2013:Zameen.com goes nationwide following the launch of its offices in Karachi and Islamabad, in addition to the already established Lahore office; effectively covering all three regions.
2014: Monthly Zameen.com Magazine and the company's mobile apps are launched. Moreover, two venture capital firms, Catcha Group and Frontier Digital Ventures, finalise major investment deals with the company.
This was also the year when Zameen's property expos began taking place, with the holding of Zameen.com Property Expo 2014in Lahore.
2015: Monthly traffic on the website hits the 1.5 million visitors mark as Pakistanis begin to rely more and more on the portal for their real estate searching.
The same year, Zameen.com and its sister concern Bayut.com, the UAE's top portal, are consolidated under a UAE-based parent company Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG), starting off a new era of regional expansion for the company.
The year ends on a strong note for the group, with a $9 million investment round finalised.
2016:The company mark sits first decade of existence with a $20 million investment deal shortly after the previous round, and goes on to launch the first Real Estate Index of Pakistan – starting a legacy of technological innovation.
Two expos each are held in Lahore and Islamabad, and one in Karachi, all of which see unprecedented public response.
Zameen.com is then named one of the top five property portals in the world by Property Portal Watch (PPW) –an achievement which helps cement the brand's international prestige.
Other notable achievements include crossing 3 million monthly visits and crossing the 3.5 million property listings mark. The company also expands its presence to 30 cities nationwide, firmly establishing itself as the real estate industry leader in Pakistan.
The year 2016 also sees Zameen.com launching its exclusive sales and marketing services, better known to the public now as ‘Brought to you by Zameen.com'. This revolutionised real estate marketing activity in Pakistan, and has so far brought numerous innovative and high quality projects to the forefront.
2017:Zameen.comorganises the first-ever Pakistan Property Show at the Dubai World Trade Centre, attended by more than 14,000 overseas Pakistanis and visitors of other nationalities residing in the Emirates. According to Zameen.com, this is the first time ever that an exclusively Pakistani event is organized at the prestigious venue.
2018: Zameen Developments is launched as the company formally steps into the development sphere (an interesting case study in business integration, for the BBA/MBA students out there). Its first project, Zameen Opal, is announced in Lahore.
In the same year, the Zameen Affiliate Programme takes off formally, giving agents the chance to earn commissions on selling project inventories exclusively marketed by Zameen.com.
This programme's ease-of-use also makes it possible for laypersons to participate and earn a respectable income, much like ride-hailing giants who are also hitting the market around the same time.
2019: Zameen's Plot Finder tool is launched, which is a unique product that serves as a search and inventory tool for plots. This web-based tool facilitates agents and buyers in their property search and dealing efforts.
They year 2019 ends with Pakistan Property Show Dubai 2019, which pulls a record 20,000 people despite the slow overall property market in Pakistan.
2020 and onwards:
Going forward, Zameen is working towards lifting the market out of the gloom it has been languishing in, says Zameen's Country Head Ahmad Bhatti.
“Our aim is the collective uplift of the entire Pakistani real estate market, and the easier we make it to navigate for everyone, the sooner that can happen. Among the tech-intensive, innovative products set for launch this year is also Zameen's Property Bank, a tool that will cater to tens of thousands of seller leads that are wasted due to market inefficiencies. Such initiatives are meant to benefit all industry stakeholders – buyers, sellers and agencies alike," said Bhatti.
“We are also laser-focused on promoting the trend of vertical, multi-storey development in the country through Zameen Developments, in line with the international sustainable development goals for reducing urban sprawl," he added.