GVS: Tell us about your journey of becoming the Senior Director of Sales (South) of Zameen.com.
Taha Mehmood: My professional journey started some 18 years ago when I stepped into sales, like many aspiring sales executives, without knowing how long will I last. I was fortunate enough to grow vertically in TPL Trakker, where I stayed for almost a decade, during which I served in multiple roles and scopes from retail to corporate sales, customer services, credit control, and finally, account management as a departmental head.
Before joining Zameen.com, I dabbled in the world of media as well. However, in 2015, I got referred for a job interview at Zameen.com, and after a few sessions with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Zeeshan Ali Khan and Country Head Ahmed Bhatti, I was inducted to serve in the capacity of a Regional Head, a region consisting of around 20 people. Signing up has proven to be an unforgettable experience so far.
In my seven years with Zameen.com, I have undergone horizontal and vertical growth. I am heading the entire South region, primarily responsible for two revenue divisions now, and have worked my way up to Senior Director with around 450 people employed in my region. All of it has been a vastly superior experience as compared to my previous endeavors in learning and mastering the art of management in its literal sense.
GVS: What are some of the challenges that Zameen.com faced and conquered?
Taha Mehmood: There have been multiple challenges in our line of work, which is only to be expected. My personal belief is that every challenge presents a new opportunity. The real estate market crash of 2016 hit the industry pretty hard when unprecedented taxes were levied. The new taxes affected businesses of classifieds which used to be the only revenue source for Zameen.com. As we dealt with real estate agents and brokers under B2B business arrangements back then, whatever affected them also affected us. I recall some 80 percent of realtors didn’t work for months in hopes of getting the decision reverted. However, at Zameen.com, we held our heads high and powered through with minimal-to-no adverse effects.
Again in 2020, we went through a struggling time when the world was reeling from the unprecedented threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. With overseas and local investors pulling out of real estate investment in favor of cash security, it was a trying period all over the world. Zameen.com hustled through that period as well and came out stronger.
Even now, in times of global recession, as well as uncertain local political instability and currency devaluation, the first-world countries undergoing downsizing (Twitter, Amazon, etc.), the ripple effect has been reaching Pakistan gradually. We are, however, hopeful that this period shall be endured gracefully by the company as well because of the sheer lucrative appeal of the real estate industry.
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GVS: How is Zameen.com contributing to the real estate sector of Pakistan?
Taha Mehmood: The magnetism of real estate in Pakistan is undeniable. Not to mention the huge gap in the demand and supply being experienced in the housing sector has added fuel to the fire, so to speak. Presently, there is a gap of some 10-20 million houses in the country, and it is bound to increase until some solid counteractive measures are taken. There is a need for professionally-formulated solutions to the root issues, and that’s what Zameen.com is all about.
Before Zameen.com, a profession in real estate had a status of a hobby or a part-time endeavor that wasn’t taken seriously. Even at this company, we faced trouble in recruitment initially because professionals were unconvinced of the formal structure of the sector. Zameen.com revolutionized the stereotypes attached to the property market by bringing in highly organized professionals with a versatile experience from known organizations to give the industry the richness that we are experiencing today. We are the first local company that turned international and then achieved unicorn status.
GVS: What are the roadblocks hindering real estate growth in Karachi, and how can these be overcome?
Taha Mehmood: In Karachi, there is an insistent need for a transparent, accessible, and authorized platform that can provide a feeling of confidence to the buyers before investing. Since there is no forum, buyers hesitate to invest and are left with no option but to rely on their luck and word of mouth, considering the property market is flooded with hearsay and smear campaigns. We need an authority that can authorize and promote reliable real estate developers based on credibility, so people can be sure where to turn to when seeking legitimate investment opportunities.
Having a proper check and balance on developers will ensure timely project deliveries, which is the biggest challenge faced by Zameen.com while selling a property for a particular developer. Moreover, realtors should be issued licenses to formalize their operations. Also, since real estate is a commanding industry vertical, it should be taught in educational institutions.
GVS: What is Zameen.com’s vision for 2023?
Taha Mehmood: Since we are resolved to the growth of the real estate sector in Pakistan since day one, we will be adding on to the milestones already achieved and delivered. I see that the company will be realized as the largest real estate enterprise in Pakistan, as opposed to simply ‘getting there.’ Our vision is to bring new talent and professional structure to the genre, and we are committed to providing the seamless quality that our consumers have come to expect from us, despite our growing operations in multiple countries. We will be becoming an unstoppable force in the years to come.
GVS: What are some of the real estate development opportunities in present-day Karachi?
Taha Mehmood: Present-day Karachi is dissected into two major parts, and people living on the fancier side of the bridge are unaware of the ripe opportunities being presented by the underdeveloped side of the fraction. Areas like Surjani and Scheme 33 are undergoing rapid expansion, and vertical residences are being introduced there every day to a flattering market response.
Moreover, since Bahria Town has reinvented community-oriented living in Karachi, the demand in the market for such projects has increased. Already popular in Punjab, these societies hope to reduce the congestion of the vertical mushrooming of Karachi and bring a better quality of life.
Another angle of this picture has to be the distance. The sheer size of the city is calling for a spread out in employment opportunities in these communities to enable people to keep up with fuel costs.
GVS: What are some of the unexplored real estate ventures that Zameen.com aims to explore?
Taha Mehmood: Zameen.com has recently marketed several hotel apartments and serviced residencies, which is a new and unexplored dimension in Pakistan. Already immensely popular worldwide, these projects are being brought in Lahore and Islamabad and are being received well. As these are mostly affluent developments, they are being built and maintained to last for decades. The vertical developments in Karachi have been poorly maintained, which is why they lose interest in the market sooner. However, the hotel apartment complex comes with in-house maintenance teams who ensure that the life quality in these dwellings doesn’t depreciate. There are also insured complexes, which secure investments against unforeseeable calamities.
GVS: Tell us about some of the measures exercised by Zameen.com to secure investments made by average individuals in its ventures.
Taha Mehmood: Our company has an elaborate process that scrutinizes and screens potential ventures before our acquisition department onboards them. We check developers’ histories, their legitimacy, and the fiscal health of their operations to secure buyers’ interests. This is one of the reasons that we have earned the market’s trust.
On the other hand, to secure developers’ interests, we have a system to screen buyers that arrange to pay a decent downpayment so that the remaining payments can be secured. Bad cash flow is just bad business for construction firms. Selling fast for a low deposit is a dangerous practice in the real estate sector. Most developers actually take a hit because of the lack of thorough profiling and neglect to set benchmarks. We ensure to sell our projects gradually to investors who will not delay payments and consequently delay the pace of development.
Also, I believe having escrow accounts for developers is important to ensure that cash inflow goes into development to ensure timely deliveries.
GVS: Tell us about Zameen.com’s trusted developers in Karachi and their low-bracket ventures.
Taha Mehmood: Our company deals with all top-tier developers in the country who have earned their reputation, which is why we market their projects in the first place. To name a few in Karachi, the Falaknaz Group has been our long-standing partner as well as Taloo Builders and Sum Sum Builders are also names of quality. The ventures of these builders have gained immense popularity among consumers.
However, the dampening effect on the pace of the construction industry is a justifiable reason for some recent delays in the timelines of the developers. In view of the increasing costs of materials and disrupted supply lines, investors are advised to allow room for these complications.