We all know of Zameen.com.

We’ve heard the name, we’ve watched the company’s Fawad Khan-starring TVCs, and we’ve passed by their – very noticeable, M.M Alam Road-adorning – office building in Lahore.

If anything, all of us recognize the website as a household name – and as a real estate marketing giant bar none; given the Pakistani and larger South Asian contexts that it continues to operate in.

Most of us first came across the company a few years ago when it began branding itself as the country’s pioneering real estate portal; allowing its users to commit to all types of property options: residential or commercial; both for rent and purchase.

Through its working emphasis on ‘clarifying’ the local real estate field (in terms of putting all its offered rental and sales property options in virtual relief), the company – helped along by its now-wildly-popular mobile app – totally revolutionized Pakistan’s property industry by propelling it headfirst into the digital age.

Anything ‘digital’, of course, comes attached with the string of a lot of visibility; meaning that it isn’t long before the concern digitized comes under full public scrutiny.

Starting from first principles

Before Zameen’s penetration of the market, the field had continued to remain stifled under the yoke of tradition; under a system of loosely regulated property transactions where both buyers and tenants were forced to make do with the walk-on-foot routine to discover and make sense of the real estate options available to them.

The website, by virtue of its basic functional model, came as a third entrant to the domain; imbuing it with greater transparency, and as a result, allowing its users to deliberate on a holistic picture of market conditions by the numbers.

But this above-board description of the ‘historical conditions’ which led to Zameen’s genesis merely scratches the surface of the complete story behind this real estate game changer’s development.

The true ‘tale’, as it were, behind this multimillion-dollar local start-up, launched by two brothers from their house’s living room in Lahore, is a decidedly Pakistani epic worth relating to aspiring entrepreneurs across the land – and beyond.

And the story goes…

The said British-Pakistani brotherly duo, comprising Zeeshan Ali Khan and his younger sibling Imran Ali Khan, had been trying their luck with the blooming tech industries in various developed countries across the globe; testing their skill sets in the e-commerce fields of the US, UK, and Canada. This entire journey, which brought with it a series of financial successes, turned out to be a foreshadowing of things to come.

Between 2004 and 2005, during one of their frequent visits to Pakistan, the brothers realized the market need for a single online platform to facilitate real estate buyer-seller interaction – which had become concretized due to the buyer-mobility/access issues mentioned above.

Market prices, most dangerously, and as a further determinant of this trend, were subject to tremendous speculation. Increased market exposure and access to data – as the two came to prominence through the platform’s efforts – served to reorient this ongoing, historical trajectory.

By 2006, the brothers had successfully identified the whatnots of the realty industry and were all set on transforming the marketplace – in the very image of their blueprints. Their years of experience of working in the global digital sphere served as their guide – and it wasn’t long before Zameen.com entrenched itself into the national real estate discourse.

On the fast track to success

Soon afterward, the efforts put in by the company’s team of experts earned them international recognition.

The company won CNBC’s Best Property Portal Pakistan Award in 2007, and the Best International Portal Award in the year that followed.

Zameen.com had already accumulated impressive traffic stats during its initial years of operation – figures which came as no surprise given the unique opportunities for real estate marketing that this new venture offered to a public that was fast catching up. By the time the company entered its third year of business activity, the website had garnered a total of 7.4 million views registered against 844,726 annual user visits.

In 2012, the company took a tremendous leap forward when Gilles Blanchard, the co-founder of France’s largest property portal, decided to come aboard as the chairman of the then six-year-old venture.

In the following year, the group’s management launched new offices in Karachi and Islamabad as part of its business expansion efforts. This increased its universe manifold, and coupled with the incoming streams of international funding, enabled the company to grow at a rapid pace. So it didn’t come as much of a surprise when in 2014, two venture capital firms, Malaysia-based Frontier Digital Ventures and Singapore-based Catcha Group, announced their decision to invest in the portal.

At the same time, the company hosted its inaugural Zameen Expo property event; which was met with a lot of critical and commercial success in both the media and local real estate circles.

Increased Public Outreach: The Property Expos Saga

Less than 10 years into its official launch, Zameen accelerated its courtship of real estate consumers.

In 2015, the organisation hosted its largest property expo at the time; in addition to organising the DHA Lahore Property Festival in collaboration with Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Lahore.

During the same year, the website launched its ground-breaking Pakistan Real Estate Price Index feature: the first of its kind in Pakistan; changing the way in which property market trends could be monitored.

Towards the end of 2015, this once-nascent startup attracted two major rounds of investments; amassing a total of USD 29 million in their wake.

A reworked strategy

The next step in Zameen.com’s journey was a critical one: introducing a new business model aimed at facilitating primary real estate transactions. Since this reorientation, the company has reported consistent growth in all its undertakings; with this observation being borne out in full by the following series of milestones that it has achieved:

• It was listed among the Top Five Portals of the World in 2016 – exactly 10 years after its official launch – having expanded its operations to 30 Pakistani cities; with the company’s staff consisting of over 1,500 employees at the time.

• In 2017, the company introduced the country’s real estate industry to the residents of Dubai when it organised the Pakistan Property Show in the emirate – and has continued to hold this event on an annual basis.

Along the way, Zameen also brought on board celebrated Pakistani musician and actor Fawad Khan as its brand ambassador, further widening its reach and brand recognition among Pakistanis everywhere.

Later, the organisation launched Zameen Developments, the real estate development arm of the Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG): Zameen’s parent company. Zameen Developments has successfully launched 3 projects already, with several more reported to be in the wings.

Together, its rapid upward trajectory puts the brand on the path towards becoming the country’s first homegrown unicorn company; a feat that doesn’t seem to be too far off in the making, not when one considers the impressive slate of the brand’s accomplishments that it continues to bag. – THE NEWS