GVS: Please tell us about yourself and how you entered this field?
Chaudhry Layeeque Iftikhar: I have done my B.COM (Honors) from Hailey College of Commerce Lahore, and after that, I did my CA Foundation and ACCA Inter from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP). I was in the finance department of the World Call Group and was an investor in real estate. From there, I developed an interest in the property sector, and I did research on how the vertical real estate sector works. I started my real estate career in 2005. I first joined Chohan Real Estate’s vertical building sales department as a Head of Sales. I then joined Pace Group of Companies and sold pace projects such as Pace Model Town Link Road Shopping Mall and Pace Woodlands. Then I joined Orbit Developers and looked after their Springs Islamabad project as a Sales Director. I sold most of the projects by marketing through Zameen.com. I then started the Lahore Springs project on Canal Road. I was a client of Zameen.com then and after joining Zameen.com as a permanent employee we took Springs Lahore on sales by Zameen.com.
GVS: How has your journey with Zameen.com been so far?
Chaudhry Layeeque Iftikhar: It’s been lovely. I was a client of Zameen.com in 2010 and 2011. I realized that the company has excellent clients from all over the world. We sold a project through Zameen.com’s campaign in Islamabad in no time which we were earlier trying to sell for three years through print, digital and electronic media. Then a lot of other developers also started working with Zameen.com. I joined Zameen.com in 2015, and in the last seven years, we have expanded to 38 cities, and we have a lot of success stories. In Lahore alone we are doing more than 40 projects right now. We have a monopoly in the market because, unlike our competitors, we have all the support departments while the leadership has set the working standards of Zameen.com well above the rest. Whenever a developer plans of investing in vertical real estate, Zameen is the first name that comes to mind.
GVS: Can you share some achievements that make you feel proud to be a part of Zameen.com?
Chaudhry Layeeque Iftikhar: When I joined Zameen.com, I came with the vision of CEOs Mr. Zeeshan Ali Khan, Mr. Imran Ali Khan, and Mr. Haider Ali Khan, who basically are the mentors for all the youngsters working in the real estate industry of Pakistan. The first project we did, Icon Valley 1, is approximately 15 kilometers away from Thokar Niaz Baig. Let me tell you, the way you present a property is a major reason behind the success of any real estate company. We go crystal clear without keeping any caps or margins, and we offer good payment plans to both buyers and sellers which cover the cost of everything. We give a very balanced payment plan. People can’t afford to buy property in one payment so we offer them very reasonable installment plans. We give them post-possession plans as well. Zameen has always something to offer to buyers according to their earning hand capacity. In the last few years, people have doubled their money with Zameen which highlights that capital gains with our organization are excellent.
GVS: Zameen.com has proved to be a great success for the transformation of Real Estate sector in Pakistan. How confident are you that your company can carry on with this momentum in the future given the economic challenges faced by the country?
Chaudhry Layeeque Iftikhar: Pakistan has seen economic and political instability many times since its inception but it hardly ever affects the property business. The gains in property are unmatchable in any part of the world. Even if we talk about the last few months since the change in government, we have excellent numbers. Our sales are growing and we are witnessing higher achievements across all regions. If you are building your own home then you would be affected by changing economic variables like changes in the price of cement, iron, and steel. But if you buy an apartment from Zameen.com, the impact of such variations is minimized. Even if escalations hit the earlier units, the leftover inventory prices will cover the expenses of sellers on Zameen.com. Price control gives good capital gains which gives freedom to people from market stress where prices are continuously fluctuating. As a result, people are continuously buying properties from us. Lahore was not once vertical like Karachi, Zameen.com is the one who brought this trend to Lahore and Lahore is going to be the future’s Manhattan.
GVS: With global warming becoming a reality, how does Zameen.com inculcates climate resilience in its projects?
Chaudhry Layeeque Iftikhar: Every project that is coming into the market is coming with a complete lifestyle package catering to the changing needs of time. We are talking about green projects, plantations, rooftop gardens, solar glass and solar energy. We are incorporating the new environment-friendly technologies in our projects. We are offering the most modern structures with innovative climate-friendly amenities.
GVS: How do you see the prospect of Pakistani cities shifting towards vertical growth in the coming years? What would be the benefits of that for your industry?
Chaudhry Layeeque Iftikhar: Suppose you are buying a five Marla house in Lahore at a decent vicinity – it will cost between 20 to 25 million and then definitely will have to make arrangements for security as well as power backup because such issues persist in the country. When you come into a gated community, you get a lavish lifestyle with club, gyms, cinema, swimming pools, sauna, rooftop garden, kids play area, meeting rooms and for power backup you get generators as well. So you get all the facilities in one place which has no match. Now the people, who are coming to Pakistan after living abroad, want to experience enjoyable lifestyle in their own country as well. That’s why many developers are coming to the Central Business District area with the high-end vertical buildings with high-end servicing to give a better lifestyle in Pakistan.
GVS: Buying property or house is one of the biggest decisions made by an individual during his life. How does Zameen.com help in making the right decision and what would be your personal advice for future investors?
Chaudhry Layeeque Iftikhar: Most of the property dealers are not educated enough, there are some educated people who are dealing in a good manner but majority of the property dealers try to hide things from the purchaser and they keep margins. At Zameen.com, we try our level best to give a crystal clear picture to the end-user. We tell the consumer about the developers, their credibility, and what they have delivered in the past and about the end product. So now it’s easier for people to understand. We have more than 5,000 people working with us all over the country and they are known as the doctors of property as they will answer every answer that comes into a consumer’s mind. They show the SWOT analysis of the project thus enabling an individual to make a right and informed decision.
GVS: Recently, Zameen.com has tried to engage with overseas Pakistanis by hosting events abroad. How do you evaluate the response at those events and are there plans to expand in other countries across the world?
Chaudhry Layeeque Iftikhar: Alhamdulillah we get an overwhelming response every time. We saw an unbelievable response in Dubai just like we see in our property expos in major cities of Pakistan. The space fell short in Qatar for our event due to immense response. Zameen.com is committed to delivering valuable properties to Pakistanis working abroad and will ensure that larger and better facilities will be made in future events to cater for the growing number of overseas investors.
GVS: Please highlight some of the projects that are being lined up that should get investors excited?
Chaudhry Layeeque Iftikhar: We have various services to offer, like service apartments, and hotel apartments where you get guaranteed rental returns and on top of that we offer locations in every part of Pakistan. People like guaranteed returns, like you can get a hotel apartment where you can get 10 to 15 percent of guaranteed rental returns and you get thirty days to stay for free. Most of the expats who come to Pakistan only on Eids or important occasions, they come for only a week, so rather than buying and then locking the property for the most part of the year, it’s better that you stay in your hotel in any room free of cost with about 10 to 15 percent annual gains.
GVS: Rising fuel costs are the biggest concerns faced by Pakistanis these days and the location of property would be a more critical determinant ahead. How do you think this will impact Zameen.com’s future plans and are you considering including any sort of transport service for your residents?
Chaudhry Layeeque Iftikhar: In most localities nowadays, there are good hospitals, markets, schools and universities. So I don’t believe it will have any significance on Zameen.com’s future strategy because people usually subscribe to plans which are suitable to their spending capacities. At the moment, there are no such discussions within Zameen.com to provide transport but the government is working on transportation, like in Lahore, we have Metro buses, Orange train and other similar projects of public transportation. The infrastructure is largely the government domain but we have asked our developers to provide pick and drop facilities for the major areas.