The Silicon Review
It’s important to acknowledge that the digital boom started in 1995. While that seems like ages ago, it still has a severe impact on the way we communicate, purchase, interact, and live. The same applies to Property Finder, the leading real estate portal covering the sales and rental marketplace with operations across Egypt, KSA, UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar.
Property Finder might have started in 2007 as a property search portal, but it has now transformed into a 360 digital platform. It is not only capable of connecting customers with their dream home, but also sheds light on the best deals and governmental laws across the MENA region (UAE, KSA, Qatar, Egypt Bahrain) and Turkey: all accessible right at your fingertips with the app and website.
Helmed by Michael Lahyani, Founder and CEO, Property Finder has evolved splendidly under his leadership. We recently interviewed him to know more about his journey and vision, which has helped the company carve its own niche in the Real Estate space.
Q. What was the motivation behind starting Property Finder? How has your journey been so far as the Founder and CEO?
I moved to Dubai from my hometown of Geneva back in 2005 and had a very hard time finding a place to live with my family – the city was still new to expats and didn’t have some of the vital tools when it came to home rentals. After searching extensively for our soon-to-be ‘home’ and yielding next to nothing in favored results – it was clear that there was a gap in the market: real estate advertising, and this came down to one goal: I wanted to connect renters and buyers with landlords, sellers and real estate brokers – removing the traditional newspaper classifieds and listings and creating a seamless journey for holders and seekers.
Having an entrepreneurial mindset gave me an advantage in imagining and launching the digitization of Property Finder, by ensuring that all decisions – small or big – are driven by our data and position our consumers at the forefront of the business. Together with the entire Property Finder team, we continue to learn from our industry insights and adapt to the market’s ever-changing environment – I believe it’s important to remain flexible and agile in any consumer-facing enterprise and this mentality continues to push the company even further than I could have ever envisioned.
Q. How is Property Finder motivating and inspiring consumers to live the life they deserve?
One thing that we pride ourselves in at Property Finder is providing options, options and more options. We never want to pigeon-hole ourselves into providing similar types of listings or an unachievable lifestyle for our clients. Instead, we aim to provide these options for our consumers to choose from for themselves – at the end of the day, they are the decision makers, we are the facilitators.
We want them to be able to dictate the kind of lifestyle that genuinely appeals to them and would never force a masked identity. Each of our properties have personalities and we work very hard to bring forth all the unique characteristics that we know will appeal to the different audience – whether to find a home or grab the right investment.
We understand, however, that certain qualifications apply to different consumers at different stages of their lives - a family might be leaning more towards a villa, a young couple towards an apartment, pet owners towards a pet-friendly community, and the list goes on. The way we ensure their needs and wants are met is through data forms, surveys, customer service and our real estate agents; we rely on their professionalism in ensuring the happiness of our consumers. They are the faces of our brand, and we make sure to implement necessary protocols, trainings and management to help them achieve their personal goals , but also to work toward our collective organizational ambitions.
Q. What does innovation mean to you?
Personally, I do not think that innovation is directly tied to success. Success can come after you’ve provided solutions and yielded impactful results. However, innovation to me means delivering solutions to problems that haven’t even arose, yet: predicting consumer behavior and adapting to them efficiently with the right tools and mindset.
Having said that, we have been at the forefront of tech innovation and advancement. Through 2020 and 2021, the company welcomed a fresh leadership team to accelerate its journey to becoming a lighthouse tech company for the region. Each of the key appointments (President, Chief HR Officer, Chief of Strategy & Transformation, Chief Commercial Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Product Officer) come from leading international companies and bring with them a wealth of knowledge and decades of experience across varying industries and departments that helps provide cutting-edge solutions.
Q. How do you help the culture of innovation thrive at Property Finder?
We are extremely fortunate to be based in the UAE, where professionals are steeped in the rich culture of the region that inculcates strong attributes like loyalty, pride and innovation in the work they do, as well as possessing a collaborative nature that instinctively compels them to think of their colleague’s growth, alongside their own. These are qualities that are hard to come by, and therefore a great foundation – especially at Property Finder.
We strive to nurture entrepreneurs and leaders, rather than efficient employees. We make sure to communicate an open-door policy and encourage our employees to come to us with solutions or ideas to better streamline our business, or perhaps to present an exciting new idea that can help us expand the current services we provide.
It is also important to recognize the importance of professional growth, particularly to the younger generation. We adopt a 70:20:10 approach; a conventional learning methodology that indicates people grow most when 70% is learnt on the job, 20% is learnt via focused training, and 10% is learnt through coaching. In our case, given the life stage of our organization and talent strategy, we seek talent that possesses high potential with headroom to grow into the job, covering the 70%. For the 20% focused training, we have invested in a learning platform that provides unlimited access to the entire team to learn and sharpen their skill-set required for their specific role, or even additional courses that pique their interest, and finally to cover the coaching aspect, we (as most established companies) inculcate a culture of continuous feedback and mentorship as part of our performance cycles.
Furthermore, more than a decade after inception, Property Finder has still maintained its start-up culture and has steered away from transitioning into a hierarchical organization, like most corporates tend to. Minor practices and processes that fall under the start-up culture significantly help boost employee morale and attitude.
Q. What does the road ahead look like for Property Finder? Do you have any plans for expansion?
For the moment, we are focusing on consolidating our position. We have a strong presence in the markets we currently operate in, and it is important that we really solidify and build top tier teams and products across these existing countries. We have witnessed a healthy organic growth across the GCC and we will continue to invest in our existing markets, where we see significant potential.
From a business perspective, we are excited that in markets such as Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt, we are still very much the sole player, and these countries prove to have great growth prospects in the future. 2022 is going to be an exciting year – a lot of new changes, a lot of new so a lot of our vision is going to come to life. I look forward to seeing the results of our hard work and I am quite excited for the upcoming year.