A deep dive in Real Estate, what is the current situation of the Sri Lankan market?

We sit down for an interview with the Regional Head of Lamudi South-Asia, Anne Maria Hermans.

Lamudi ranks as one of the fastest growing global real estate platforms. The online marketplace currently operates in 13 countries around the world and helps to facilitate matches between millions of property seekers, renters and property owners. We met up with Lamudi’s Regional Head of South-Asia, Anne Maria Hermans who recently took over the duties of managing Lamudi Sri Lanka. We had a discussion about her experiences, the company, and what she expects for the future. Visit Lamudi Sri Lanka’s website – https://www.lamudi.lk/

Anne, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career background?

Currently, I serve as the Lamudi Regional Head of South-Asia. However, my journey started at PVH Corp., the parent company of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. Over the course of three years, I worked on various projects in Hong Kong, London and Amsterdam.

I oversaw the expansion of Tommy Hilfiger in different South-East Asian markets and worked on the re-acquisition of the franchise in Australia. As the wave of E-commerce swept Europe, I was able to help develop the online strategy for both Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein and was closely involved in the brands’ shows at the fashion weeks in New York, Shanghai and London.

PVH Corp. nurtured my entrepreneurial drive and inspired me to discover different sides of the multibillion-dollar company. Still, the desire to run my own company meant that when Rocket Internet offered the opportunity to spearhead Lamudi, I couldn’t resist. The brief was simple, I had to expand the company, capitalising on the growing internet use in South and South-East Asia.

My arrival in 2016 coincided with a difficult phase for the real estate sectors in some of the emerging countries Lamudi had established its business. This provided the perfect moment to re-develop the website and strengthen it from the inside out. We have been working a lot on our core business, to increase the usability of our platform, to improve our reach and of course to grow the number of leads. We are, after all, a data-hub. We see it as our duty to share that data, creating synergy for developers and customers alike.

What will you do first as the Managing Director of Lamudi Sri Lanka?

As regional head South Asia, I approach the role in a more global manner. I will have a large focus on leveraging the knowledge of other countries and tightening up our operations. Furthermore, I see Lamudi as a data-hub, and with that, I feel the responsibility to share the information that we have with local stakeholders. I look forward to making the industry more accessible through our platform.

What are the challenges these days in maintaining Lamudi in Sri Lanka?

I would slightly change the question, by saying that maintaining an E-commerce platform in general, is all about continuous improvement. Our challenge is to notice our customers’ needs and bring that into our plans on how to develop the website, which is constantly evolving. Our recent implementation of Facebook chat, for example, allows us to help the customer from start to finish. In Sri Lanka, we have come a long way, and 2018 has been a lot about optimizing internal processes. For 2019, we expect to reap the rewards of our investments and growth in knowledge capital. https://www.lamudi.lk/

Lamudi recently partnered with the Subdivision and Housing Developers Association (SHDA) for The Outlook in the Philippines. How do you think public and private partnerships could affect the progress of the industry?

I think public-private partnerships are important for bringing stakeholders together, so that you get different perspectives and qualities, improving the industry as a whole. Particularly for the built environment, it’s important that different voices are heard so that everyone has a say in how a city or a country develops. I also think it’s important for public and private organisations to communicate as much as possible; often private companies are generating useful data and insights, this type of data sharing will become an increasingly important part of public-private relations moving forward.

It is said that the local real estate industry lags behind when it comes to using new technologies. For example, the use of data-driven predictive analytics to match buyers with sellers or the use of virtual tours as a convenient way to stage a property. Do you have plans to promote such technologies in the local market?

The use of data in real estate is just beginning. There are a few ahead of the curve, but we see that many stakeholders make business decisions in the same way that they have done for years. What is important is to have an almost real-time sensitivity to the needs of the end consumers, the buyers. What we are seeing is that social and demographic changes, such as smaller family sizes, are leading to increased demand for smaller apartments, but these are undersupplied by the market. Data can help to address these mismatches by giving up to date information that is gathered at a larger scale. Our customer interactions give us a clear picture of the market as a whole, and we have produced a number of research reports to be used as a resource by developers for their strategic planning.

Could you tell us a bit about your strategy for 2019?

I believe that trust is a central part of creating a sustainable business model. With mutual trust, there is a drive to grow together as businesses, improving the sector as a whole – everybody benefits. Building relationships are therefore one of the most important aspects of my job. Ever since I started at Lamudi, I made it my top priority to have an open dialogue with developers, brokers and agents. I frequently have invaluable conversations with our clients, where they give me their thoughts and recommendations for Lamudi, and I respond with ideas about how to set their properties apart from the rest. This new way of doing online business takes a bit of getting used to. At Lamudi, we pride ourselves on helping customers get comfortable with the online platform. I invite all stakeholders to just try, and see if our services work for them.