With its ‘smart’ cloud architecture UAE property portal Homely.ae’s founders claim they surpass competitors with the latest, most technologically advanced platform in the market.
Launched 18 months ago by former UK e CTO Mohammed Ali Syed and two others, Homely.ae is also the only portal in the UAE market with verified only listings.
“We provide fully tracked phone calls to the agents for their reporting, so they can use this data to improve their service,” Ali Syed says.
Additionally Homely.ae touts itself as the only UAE property portal which transcends location based searches for lifestyle parameters such as properties near a specific school, a metro station or your office location.
Ali Syed, who describes internet technologies as his “mother tongue”, proudly points to other current developments including a Data Warehouse to help gain valuable insight into users' behaviour and choices.
“We are also utilising machine learning in predicting an individual's journey on the website and pro-actively steering them to the relevant content,” he says.
Self funded by its three co-founders since launch, Homely.ae recently closed an initial seed round of Angel Investment from a UK-based investment house which manages tens of millions dollars of assets.
“It specializes in several industry sectors including technology, so they bring a wealth of relevant industry knowledge and contacts,” Ali Syed enthuses.
With around 60 clients Ali Syed says the business is growing steadily.
“Our focus is not on quantity but rather quality of the content,” he asserts.
“Being the only UAE portal with verified only listings involves manual and to some extent automated sanity checks on the content."
Ali Syed says Homely.ae’s engagement-to-visit ratio is just over 10 per cent and revenue is consistently growing at around 20 per cent month on month.
“Our traffic is increasing at around 23 per cent month on month,” he says. “We aim to grow the homely team further this year to help us sustain if not increase these numbers.”
Up until now, Ali Syed says the UAE property portal market has been dominated by a handful of portals which have “taken advantage” of real estate agencies, developers and brokers.
“But the market is now evolving and more options are becoming available to generate leads,” he says.
“Consumers, brokerages, individual agents and property owners all seek better options and services than they've been getting. This has opened up opportunities for the likes of Homely.ae.”
He adds, the real estate market is becoming more regulated, developed and mature which means property portals will have to be more consumer and customer centric, including leveraging the latest technology and product offerings.
Overcoming the challenges
Like other startup businesses getting Homely.ae off the ground required a lot of hard work, perseverance and dedication.
Ali Syed says some of the challenges included establishing the brand, ensuring that the platform’s products and services were exactly as required by the market and kick starting sales and marketing.
“We have overcome these challenges by having a clear strategy and business plan from the onset, “ he maintains.
“Our three founders are completely in sync and not losing focus. We have also hired very skilled and professional help so the overall team we have created has been a key factor."
Ali Syed adds the platform also has an advisory board consisting of a group of successful entrepreneurs around the world who provide guidance, mentoring and networking opportunities to enable the homely vision to be achieved.
Years of experience
“Just within the top level management team we have over 15 years between us in the real estate portal industry and know exactly what is expected by our end users as well as real estate agencies,” he points out.
“I personally have extensive insight into the technology arena of the property portals in UAE, specially which was gained during my time with propertyfinder.ae.
“ I designed and migrated it to the cloud and made it the best portal in the region. But that was over three years ago.
“Since then, cloud technologies have evolved much further and there were many things that I could do, technically to enhance the performance of the business while adopting new technologies.
“So I thought why not create a new portal? This was purely out of curiosity of this technical challenge. And now, it is a reality,” he enthuses.
In terms of growth Ali Syed says Homely.ae plans to expand both in terms of international footprint and its offerings.
“Unlike most of the other portals in the UAE who tend to only focus on the surrounding markets, we are looking further afield in terms of international expansion and at larger markets,” he says.
“This is something already in progress. In terms of product and service offerings, we are also on course in terms of broadening our portfolio.
“We will develop our core technology in house and also enter core markets ourselves.
Ali Syed reveals raising additional capital is also on the agenda as soon as it’s needed.
“Our initial investor is ready and prepared to do this and we also have a number of ready investors to inject capital as they believe in our vision, the team, the opportunity and our growth plans.”