Insights from Data Sciences & Technology Round table at GCC PropTech Time 2019

The GCC PropTech Time 2019 summit was held in Bahrain on the 17 September 2019. It was organized by HexGn in partnership with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), the event was sponsored by the industry stalwart Diyar Al Muharraq as the platinum sponsor, and Oxfordcaps, a leading student housing startup based in Singapore and India, as the Gold Sponsor.

This Proptech event by HexGn for the MENA region brought together leading experts and decision makers from all sectors of real estate, along with startups and technology companies from 20 plus countries. The event had five roundtable discussion, each focused on the specific influencers in the real estate life-cycle, in this article we are bringing insights from the Data Science and Technology Panel.

Data Science and Technology Panel at the GCC PropTech Time 2019

Data sciences and technology is deeply impacting the way real estate is done and managed, this panel was moderated by Leo (Ming Yan) Lo (Founder of Asia PropTech, Hong Kong) and was joined in by Abel Samaniego (Founder & CEO, DABBEL – Automation Intelligence, Düsseldorf, Germany), Ben Jackson (Head of Project & Development Services, MENA , JLL),  Sanjay Goyal (Founder & CEO – Estater, Bahrain), and Punit Chandra (Founder and Joint MD, Skootr, India) as panelists.

The roundtable began with the panelists introducing the attendees to the various technologies being used in their respective fields and what is the driving factor for the tech adoption. Most of the technologies that came up during these introductions held data as an important element for effectively executing them. Technology is being used not just for offering newer and smarter range of solutions to customers but also for understanding the various market. It has especially come in handy for concepts like flexible working and living spaces to understand and cater to under-served markets. Data is directing real estate companies to micro-markets that can be leveraged for capturing new target audience.

Proptech Adoption Rate – Current Scenario

When asked about what they felt about the proptech adoption rates in their respective ecosystems, all of the responses indicated real estate in all of these ecosystems were still developing, with a long way to go for technology in real estate to reach its pinnacle. The reasons for this varied with the regions. Punit Chandra commented on the proptech landscape in India saying, “There is a lot of traction in the Indian proptech segment. The real estate market is still scattered and underdeveloped making the Indian market complicated. Fractional real estate and IoT are becoming common trends among startups. Investments too have picked up with investors and real estate across the globe turning their attention to the Indian markets.

Proptech has made an entry to the various regional real estate industries but is yet to take over a significant share of it. A robust digital infrastructure and better governance in the real estate industry seems to be two of the areas that needs to be focussed on to increase the adoption rates. The foundation required for executing property technology is still underdeveloped in most regions. Paying attention to setting up the stage at the grassroot levels will play an important role in helping strengthening this foundation. Sanjay Goyal added that “Despite there being no major roadblocks to proptech adoption, real estate players still hesitate to adopt technology because startups are not approaching these players actively. Startups need to reach out to real estate companies as well and showcase what main issue they can help in solving, instead of relying any external factors to work as a bridge.

Change in Trends in Real Estate Management and Investments

Geolocational intelligence and other data is helping segments like asset management reduce their dependency on human capabilities in taking care of properties. The entry of artificial intelligence applications is making asset management more efficient especially for multi-property management. “Facility managers are falling short of efficient building managers to help with the job. The proptech segment in its very early stages is helping take care of such issues. Technology is helping asset managers do the job of multiple managers without any hassle”, commented Abel Samaniego.

The discussion also brought to light about how data is helping not just the service providers but also the ones consuming it to make better decisions. Technology is helping in the creation of heatmaps of localities, these heatmaps are ideal for getting a good idea of a locality that can help real estate and purchase decisions. For example, someone looking to rent an office space can use a heatmap like this to find a location that can bring convenience to those who work there. Connectivity and access to medical facilities or restaurants are some of the factors that help in the decision making here.

Data sciences and the technologies driven by them are playing a notable role in changing investment trends. Technology is yet to be used fully in this area as well.  Data about a space or real estate market over the years, and the impact it could have in the future, can be powerful tool for helping in the right real estate avenue to invest in.

Effective Data Governance becoming Key Requirement for Proptech Growth

The proptech segment is yet to find ideal sources or means for acquiring data to transform real estate. A large part of the data available is about the various real estate transactions. This data, however rich, is not enough. Information based on consumer behaviour can also be crucial and needs to be tapped for achieving new laurels in the real estate industry. The discussion also touched upon the need for transparency in the data collection and storage processes especially in the Middle East. Ben Jackson said, “There needs to be some kind of legislation in the MENA region when it comes to data transparency to help data science led growth in proptech in the regional real estate industry

The panel concluded with the members suggesting that governments and real estate players can help in the growth of proptech. Real estate players need to take an active part in shaping and fostering proptech startups through exchange of ideas as well as by aiding in the investment part of it.

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