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Digital Transformation in Real Estate
15th October 2018
Technology innovation in real estate

Technology innovation has become one of Dubai’s primary objectives, as evidenced by Smart Dubai 2021, and the focus on technologies like AI, VR and IoT. With Expo 2020 around the corner, these efforts have been ramped up manifold, and it is becoming imperative for all businesses, including the real estate industry, to accelerate their digital transformation to align with Dubai’s objectives of being the world’s leading digital economy.

An interview with Anilesh Kumar, CEO of Levtech Consulting, covered in The Gulf Today

Q: Where does the real estate and property market stand today? What are the key drivers for the sector to adopt technology on a war footing? Is the upcoming Expo 2020 a driver for the digital transformation gripping the market?

A: Property and real estate are the ubiquitous assets that continue to occupy a place of pride as an investment class. However, despite the disruptive changes the business landscape has experienced over the past few decades, property and real estate have remained relatively traditional and conservative in their adoption of technology.

There have been several drivers why the real estate sector has been ripe for a major technology overhaul — changing customer needs, more demanding and informed millennials, increased focus on customer service as a business differentiator and the explosive growth of the digital era that affords maximum choice to consumers, all within the confines of their mobile device – has necessitated a greater focus on customer convenience. At the same time, rising competition in the face of increased supply, with digital being the great business equalizer that it is, has made it imperative for real estate developers, brokers, and agents to reimagine the way they ‘stock, sell, rent’ their properties, while remaining differentiated from competition.

Also, Digital solutions provide what has historically been missing or at least ‘manual’ in the Real Estate sector — integration among various players and stakeholders involved in the property supply chain which connects investors, developers, brokers and end-users in a seamless and convenient manner

Additionally, the UAE, Dubai in particular, has been leading efforts to transform the real estate sector and infuse tech at the core of the industry. Initiatives like REST, the ‘Real Estate Self Transactions’ portal announced by the Dubai Land Department (DLD), as well as its smart digitized platform and the facility of accessing mortgage online, are all digital game changers for Dubai’s real estate & property market.

Technology innovation has become one of Dubai’s primary objectives, as evidenced by Smart Dubai 2021, and the focus on technologies like AI, VR and IoT. With Expo 2020 around the corner, these efforts have been ramped up manifold, and it is becoming imperative for all businesses, including the real estate industry, to accelerate their digital transformation to align with Dubai’s objectives of being the world’s leading digital economy.

Q: So how does this link back in to the Real Estate space and the real estate experience? How can technology help?

A: Well real estate is an emotional experience for most homebuyers. And it is important to understand, that no two investors, or buyers or renters, are the same, because no two people are the same. With that realization, it is becoming important for agents and developers and property managers to capture details of the customers’ journey, through the various stages of the purchase or rental process, as well as post purchase experience, to ensure their unique needs and challenges during those phases are being addressed. Basically, “one-size-no-longer-fits-all’. Every sales pitch, every home-show, needs to be tailored to the personality and persona of the buyer or investors, taking into account the various motivations, cultural nuances, aspirations and fears that drive these customers.

While the industry has harnessed technology to a large extent in recent years, most of this has been focused on process and transaction improvements. What has been missing, and what today has become the buzzword for all consumer interactions, has been Customer Relationship Management. And this is not the erstwhile former version of CRM that would include feeding customer contact details into a form on your screen. It is a new-age, sophisticated digital tool that serves to truly understand customer segments, by creating indicative unique personas that list everything from lifestyle choices to lifestyle preferences, food or travel habits, or saving and spending styles.

Q: What solutions is Levtech offering to addressing this growing need of the Real estate sector?

A: Many property developers and real estate managers are already managing multiple functions and processes, from buyers’ and rental inquiries to investor relationships, project information, and liaising with government authorities and adhering to regulatory frameworks. A customer relationship management system such as our Property 365 solution based on Microsoft Dynamics 365, can provide you with the industry tools to manage sales, leads, rental, marketing and facility management, in a centralized fashion, and leverages Power BI to provide you with access to customizable dashboards, reports and insights.

What we offer our customers is Property 365, a Microsoft Dynamics 365 based end-to-end solution for the real estate industry, which helps them build a customer centric approach, streamline property sales or leasing, marketing, post sales and service process, as well as improve their brand image, efficiency and ensure effective collaboration between departments – basically a comprehensive suite that addresses the major challenges and need gaps faced by the industry. Property 365 is also powered by the in-built AI capability on offer from Microsoft, helping various scenarios from lead rating to predictive maintenance of real estate assets.

Q: What are some of its features? And what key benefits can the real estate industry look forward to if they adopt such a solution?

A: There are several key benefits, but being a local, homegrown brand, Levtech is able to localize the solution as per the needs of the regional real estate market. Thus the industry benefits from a standardized product built on a global CRM platform, that takes into account the unique regional sensitivities and dynamics of managing a property business, from sales to customer service and back-end operations.

Apart from that, Property 365 helps developers, owners and agents to satisfy their regulatory requirements, which is a big pain point for most real estate brokers and developers, what with laws and rules changing rapidly.

For developers and real estate broker, being on-the-go comprises much of their day. Plus they are serving customers who are also highly mobile and expect real-time responses, instantly. Therefore the ability of Microsoft Dynamics 365 to securely integrate with Office 365 and become available on mobile devices is a big boon, as it provides field workforce, whether it is a broker or a service technician, with immediate access to all the information that is needed, when it is needed.

The sales and marketing module of the solution helps enhance communication with customers in a personalized manner, while the service module helps in addressing customer complaints and maintenance issues quickly and flawlessly in a truly digital manner through mobile apps, online service portals and integrated, CRM-driven call center operations, bringing a single view of the end user or tenant.

Q: How has Levtech adapted to help its customers manage VAT implications in real estate?

A: In some ways, I would like to say, all the solutions we offer are built on Microsoft Dynamics 365, which is a global business applications platform that keeps pace with local regulatory requirements such as VAT. The flexibility that these solutions bring to enterprises and businesses provides them a distinct advantage to adjust to new business conditions —like the introduction of VAT or other regulatory changes, and we have the consulting expertise to deploy the required changes in line with local needs.

With the imminent announcements about the onset of VAT, we had already started working on developing capabilities to service our local client base, operating across industries, to help them seamlessly transition into the VAT era.

We provide the software support and the services required for our clients to manage VAT. and ensure compliance with VAT obligations and reporting, while minimizing the risk of fines, penalties and reputational damage.

For real estate businesses, they have to be able to consolidate large amounts of data and document their income, costs and associated VAT charges – in the correct format and error free. Our Property 365 solution is tailored to the exact format and specifications required by the FTA for VAT reports.

Q: Looking at the future, what other emerging technologies do you think will power the real estate sector moving forward?

A: With the growth explosion in the Real Estate sector, next generation technologies such as Blockchain, AR, VR, Big Data, AI and Machine Learning are all finding increased adoption in this increasingly competitive and customer-oriented space.

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