By leveraging Zoom videoconferencing tool, PropNex transformed its business to beat the COVID-19 pandemic and Its benefits were highly established.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across multiple industries. Yet, the rate of change is not consistent across all industries.

In Singapore, for instance, despite 94% of companies realising the need for digitalization and the availability of government support and grants, sectors such as real estate and property (not counting emerging PropTech companies) are lagging behind in digital transformation.

Clearly, the stumbling block is not the lack of a digital-first mind-set or support, but other factors such as lack of familiarity with digital solutions, as well as talent. Real estate businesses might feel overwhelmed, believing they need to embark on long and arduous digital journeys to truly become a digital company.

However, sometimes, digital transformation can begin with a single tool. By leveraging videoconferencing tools over Phases 1 and 2 of Singapore’s ‘circuit-breaker’ pandemic measures, PropNex was able to capture close to 50% of the market share for new project launches, continue training their staff regionally via virtual meetings, and even engage with new and existing customers – all without having to meet F2F.

DigiconAsia finds out fromIsmail Gafoor, Executive Chairman & CEO, PropNex and Raagulan Pathy, Head of Enterprise APAC, Zoom, how PropNex was able to enjoy lower costs and greater sales – all by adopting a tool across multiple functions.

Ismail Gafoor, Executive Chairman & CEO, PropNex

During the COVID-19 pandemic, what is the one digital tool that PropNex found to be most invaluable for business continuity? In what ways did it prove its value and usefulness?

Ismail: When we first learnt that staff would have to work remotely due to the circuit breaker measures, we knew we had to act fast, and secure a platform that would enable us to continue communicating with our 8,600 salespersons as well as their clients.

Face to face communication is invaluable in establishing trust between agents and customers, and we felt Zoom was the perfect platform for that. We enjoyed the following benefits, namely:

  • Virtual company-wide training
  • Virtual showrooms
  • Virtual events

Virtual tours of new property showrooms used to be a simple teaser for viewers. We took this one step further with video communications, so that potential buyers could explore every corner of a potential home, from the comfort of their own home.

We also scheduled webinars, masterclasses, and even group fitness sessions that were open to the public – allowing employees and even their families and friends to connect with one another across the circuit breaker period, while saving costs as we no longer needed to fly staff from the region in.

That’s not all – PropNex was able to transact over 540 units of Project New Launches, capturing close to 50% of the market share based on PropNex’s appointed 41 active projects with units transacted during the Phase 1 and 2 (10-week) Circuit Breaker period. This was despite social distancing measures resulting in fewer showroom visits.

We’ve enjoyed lower costs and greater sales – all by adopting a single digital tool.

What major changes did the pandemic create in the property landscape, and how has it accelerated PropNex’s digital transformation journey?

Ismail: The pandemic is impacting companies across the globe in a manner that was unimaginable just a few months ago. There is a strong need for companies to accelerate digital transformation, and mobilise huge sections of their workforce that are operating from home.

Against such a backdrop, the property industry, which has traditionally been an industry that has been slow to transform digitally, is finding that they urgently need to create go-to-market strategies that are digital. That’s not all – they have to contend with a workforce that is almost entirely remote and unfamiliar with the platforms they need to be productive away from the office. This has made many realise that digital transformation has to happen now.

For PropNex, we looked at all aspects of our business and thought carefully about how we could quickly and efficiently digitise our business. It’s clear that connecting via video has revolutionised the way we communicate in daily life – and with our business relying heavily on face to face communication, we realised all we needed was a single video conferencing tool – Zoom.

We were convinced that Zoom was the right partner. Their extensive training, ease of use and ability to scale rapidly and on board new users meant we could transition smoothly into remote work in a short span of time.

Raagulan Pathy, Head of Enterprise APAC, Zoom

A tool is only as good as the skill of the user. How were PropNex staff equipped and trained to use the digital tools made available to them?

Raagulan: One of Zoom’s core values is “Delivering Happiness” to all of our customers, and doing so means enabling their everyday business success.

With PropNex, in light of their urgent need to work remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, our focus was to rapidly on board them onto the platform, ensuring business continuity and ability to work remotely effectively.

For enterprise clients such as PropNex, we also have customer success managers that work hand-in hand with our customers to ensure their staff are well equipped to use the platform in record time, and we have free webinars available on our site for those who needed a quick refresher.

Ismail: In just 2 days after the circuit breaker commenced, we worked closely with Zoom to have our salespersons and staff trained, giving them a head start in learning how to use the platform to conduct training, webinars and meetings. It was key to us that our staff had the devices, software and training to be effective, and the skills and knowledge to resolve any simple issues that face in using the platform.

Additionally, for those who were unfamiliar with usage of the platform, we had Zoom trainers conduct in-depth training. This meant that our salespersons and staff understood the ins-and-outs of the platform, and could utilise all its features to full effectiveness.

How does PropNex and Zoom foresee the use of digital technologies in the ‘new normal’? What other possible transformations are expected?

Raagulan: We have always believed, since founding Zoom in 2011, that the future is video communication. This crisis has shown companies that working from home is not only feasible, but productive.

In fact, we are no longer limited by geography, and this opens their doors up to global talent pools and allows companies and employees alike to eschew the traditional office workplace, instead moving to remote working practices. For a diverse, fragmented region such as South-east Asia, this presents greater connectivity across regions so that businesses can expand within the region, and perhaps even beyond with sales and support teams on the ground.

This goes beyond work as well – video communication bypasses the barriers of geography, allowing people from all over the world to connect with one another. From education, events, to personal calls, there are just so many use cases – with the proliferation of devices capable of accessing the internet and apps, it’s safe to say video conferencing is here to stay.

Ismail: This ‘new normal’ has accelerated the pace of digital transformation, and we believe this will only continue in the future. Companies have realised the benefits digital solutions bring in terms of flexibility, efficiency and growth – and that transforming can begin with just a single solution.

In fact, we recently pushed the boundaries, conducting PropNex’s 20th Anniversary Virtual Celebration, as well as our first-ever Virtual Property Expo in July online. The expo had over 30,000 viewers attending – an astounding number made possible due to the virtual function of this event.

This online event that was enabled by Zoom, hosted a series of 29 webinars, with a mixture of guest and in-house speakers. It showcased virtual open houses, local and overseas projects, with over 1,000 listings. Despite the sheer number of listings, attendees could view any listing they wanted – all in the comfort of their own home.

Additionally, we recently condensed our webinars onto a single platform for viewers to access, an easy one stop solution for viewers to access a mixture of listings such as new project or resale launches that best suit their needs.