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How Lamudi Became Kenya’s Leading Online Real Estate Classifieds Website In A Year

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Lamudi Kenya’s General Manager Dan Karua (L) & Public Relations Manager Susan Mumbua (R)

This is my second blog post on an Africa Internet Group (AIG) business in Kenya after I wrote about Easy Taxi earlier this week. Lamudi is the online real estate classifieds business from AIG that operates globally in 29 markets (as of this writing) and commenced operations in Kenya just over a year ago. In that time, what is really impressive is that Lamudi has somehow managed to overtake much older and better established competitors in Kenya.

I recently had the benefit of meeting Dan Karua (Managing Director) and Susan Mumbua (Head of Public Relations) at Lamudi in Kenya so as to better understand what are the key factors driving their unprecedented growth in this space. In addition, I also attended their first anniversary cocktail last month where I managed to ‘glean’ some interesting data from their decks on how well they are performing (key metrics shared at the end of this blog post).

Unique Visitors & The Competition

Lamudi Kenya had 65,000 unique visitors in the month of September 2014. This number dropped from an impressive 75,000 unique visitors to their website in the month of August 2014. This makes Lamudi the most visited online real estate classifieds website in Kenya. In second place was Nasper’s Property24 with 50,000 unique visitors whilst in third place was the One Africa Media backed BuyRentKenya with 45,000 unique visitors. These numbers suggest that although Lamudi is leading at the moment their major competitors are not too far behind – they are NOT yet(?) dominating this space.

Acquiring Real Estate Listings 

As of the end of September 2014, Lamudi had over 20,000 active real estate listings. These are listings of properties that are actually available to buy and rent across the board. These listings are more or less split 50/50 between real estate thats either for sale or rent. According to Dan, they spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring that their listings are pretty accurate at all times by checking them regularly and verifying them.

One of the innovative ways that they have secured listings from the informal real estate market is by rolling out a Lamudi Ambassador program that recruited ‘informal’ real estate agents. Lamudi Ambassadors were sent out into the field and they secured over 3,000 listings. They equipped the Ambassadors with smartphones and mobile internet bundles so that they could upload real estate listings ‘on the go’ using the Lamudi mobile app which is a multi-platform offering for Android and iOS.

This required them to also train the Ambassadors via workshops on how to do real estate listings properly in terms of good photos, detailed property specifications, etc, so that they would be comprehensively presented. The Ambassador program is quite reminiscent of the highly successful one that the now defunct online business directory ‘Mocality’ had in Kenya that acquired a massive number business listings countrywide in a relatively short period of time.

Roll-Out Initiatives & Product Differentiation

According to Dan, one of the things that Lamudi did when they launched a year ago is that they focussed on securing a large number of the better known real estate agencies. This involved paying them visits in person to share their value proposition for Lamudi and then had their teams source verified listings from them on a regular basis at no cost. Each real estate agent gets a detailed profile page of their business on Lamudi that has some background information as well as their respective real estate listings.

Dan says that once they got a critical mass of regularly updated and ‘curated’ listings after a number of months and the ‘supply-side’ was sorted, they then started to focus on creating awareness with customers on the ‘demand-side’. Most of the marketing that Lamudi engages in is highly targeted (performance) digital advertising through platforms like Google and Facebook. They also leverage social media for better engagement with existing and prospective customers, as well as agents – Facebook is their main platform in this respect.

Why Real Estate Agents Are Signing Up 

One of the key differentiators as to why Lamudi is doing really well is that they give real estate agents detailed analytics on how their listings are performing on a regular basis. They also show them how to ensure that they can maximise their business visibility via the website. Real estate agents can use different types of marketing products on Lamudi so as to achieve much better awareness for their offerings on the website beyond basic listings. Indeed, basic listings on Lamudi had been mostly free for the year they had been operational but now they are charging for that too. Dan impressed upon me that some agents are making as much 25% of their sales via the Lamudi website through the good leads that are being delivered. Speaking of leads, Lamudi generated 55,000 leads to agents during the year with one third coming in via email and two thirds via mobile contact (calls, sms, etc)

Building Trust & Retaining Customers 

Dan emphasised to me that they have spent a lot of time building a trusted network of real estate agents on their website. Real estate in Kenya is a huge business area but one that is often plagued by fraudulent transactions. For this very reason, Dan who himself is a trained lawyer who used to do property conveyancing (giving him the edge of domain expertise) has a team of in-house lawyers who advise customers on transactions that are realised from the leads generated. In my view, this suggests that Lamudi is offering more than just a real estate listing proposition – they are getting involved in ALL the real estate logistical issues for the benefit of the end-user.

This is a potentially game changing strategy as they could also start generating commissions on the transactions which could yield a massive windfall in future revenues. Indeed, Dan assured me that one of the main foundations of their expedited success is that through all this effort both real estate agents and customers are really happy with their performance to-date. – they get results which ensures they keep using their website. If they were not delivering they would not be hanging around!

Innovation As A Competitive Differentiator

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The recently re-launched Lamudi Kenya website which has been designed to be more user-friendly and functionally more advanced

In terms of innovative practices that leverage technology extensively, Lamudi recently re-launched their website so that its more user-friendly for both the real estate agents and customers on the website. They also have mobile apps that enable both agents and customers to do all that they could normally expect to do via the website. Another neat trick is having an API so that real estate agents can automatically update and synchronise their listings from their own real estate agency management softwares to their website and vice versa. Indeed, some real estate agents actually use the Lamudi website to run both their front and back offices on an end-to-end basis.

Lamudi Kenya Data Insights

Some of the interesting metrics from Lamudi Kenya in terms of how their users interact with the website and its mobile apps are as follows:

  • Global Traffic Sources: 77% Kenya, 2% UK, 5% US, 3% Germany, 2% Tanzania
  • Kenya Traffic Sources: 73% Nairobi & 27% Rest of Kenya
  • Traffic Interest: Rent is 71% & Sales is 29%
  • Search Categories: 53% Houses, 38% Apartments, 2% Commercial Property, 7% Land
  • Most Popular Real Estate Locations Searched (Descending Order): Westlands, Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Lavington, Parklands
  • Most Popular Rental Real Estate Locations Searched (Descending Order): Rental: Lavington, Westlands, Kilimani, Karen, Runda, Kileleshwa
  • Most Popular For Sale Real Estate Locations Searched (Descending Order): Karen, Runda, Westlands, Kileleshwa, Kitusuru & Muthaiga
  • Most Popular Land Real Estate Locations Searched (Descending Order): Karen, Kitengela, Runda, Lavington, Kileleshwa, Gigiri
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11 Comments

  1. November 22, 2014 at 8:47 am — Reply

    Actually Moses this is not true. I monitor all the real estate portals and the biggest guys are the quiet ones.

    • November 22, 2014 at 8:50 am — Reply

      @sam thanks for the comment. Kindly elaborate? Who are the big ones & what do their numbers look like?

      • November 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm — Reply

        There’s a time I physically counted all the listings on four major property sites in Kenya. None of the figures they say is correct and some of the listings are expired (have been sold or rented out already). And I could am bigger than my competitors because its me saying and its me releasing all their stats. I could biased if I was asked to comment on my competitors.

  2. Anthony
    November 22, 2014 at 11:21 am — Reply

    @Moses, thank you for the article. However, I feel this is hugely biased and one sided, I don’t think this is based on any facts. I’m the owner of a real estate agency that uses all these online portals including OLX, Nsoko and Anza and while I have no preference of these sites, infact I still find print to be more effective, I find your distortion of the truth to be quite extensive.

    1) I can tell you for a fact that I get more leads from buyrentkenya and P24. I also request the stats of all these companies and I can assure you that again you have the order wrong in terms of most visitors. Perhaps you can show us how you are arriving at these figures?

    2) The Lamudi app is only for viewing properties. There is no app whereby an agent can upload a property. (surely you must check this before printing this?)

    3) Lamudi is a free service. Hence their ability to sign clients is not due to their strong ‘ambassadors’ but frankly because it’s free so why wouldn’t Is sign up. Mocality already showed us the ambassador model does not work. I doubt this is what is contributing to Lamudi’s listings.

    4) Also they have been know to copy listings from other portals and upload without permission. (again there is an article of this on TechMoran with detailed screen shots) Surely this is a more likely source of them getting listings.

    5) Their Facebook leverage is just a trick to con people. They accumulate all their facebook likes and then sell it as though they are the biggest. So if you go to https://www.facebook.com/LamudiKE and then to https://www.facebook.com/LamudiMU you will see it’s the same number of likes. They are adding all the likes of every country together. Their Facebook reach in Kenya is probably less than 20,000.

    6) Last but not least they are many outdated listings on their site. They never remove things that are sold or let. Also if they check so many I have a tip for you. Here is a 4 bedroom house in Karen you can buy from my competitor that is listed at 300,000/= Does that seem realistic to you?? http://www.lamudi.co.ke/4-bedroom-house-karen-1342-21.html?s_sort=oldest&s_page=2&s_location_region=20&s_location_city=1512&s_attribute_option=offer_type%3Abuy

    Or how about this house for 280,00/= http://www.lamudi.co.ke/nairobi/nairobi-central/for-sale/?sort=oldest&page=2

    In conclusion Moses, I’m hugely disappointed by your article. It is poorly researched and quite frankly a sham. I notice you wrote a glowing report on Easy Taxi, I assume you will be writing wonderful things about Jumia, HelloFood and Kaymu as well which are all Rocket Internet Companies.

    Anthony

    • November 22, 2014 at 11:33 am — Reply

      @anthony thanks for your feedback – you clearly went through a lot of effort to validate certain details, which I appreciate. The data I have used came directly from Lamudi Kenya’s team and decks so its not in any way biased – its what they gave me or shared publicly. Rather than cross-check the findings of your feedback, I will let them respond directly to you here? Which I am sure they will. I would like to see a healthy discourse play out, in the process. One last thing, I am always impartial as a blogger and there is no hidden agenda here in favour of Rocket Internet or AIG backed businesses – its just that I met many of their business leads in Kenya recently and in the process had a basis for a number of blog posts.

      • Anthony
        November 22, 2014 at 11:43 am — Reply

        Thank you Moses.

        I appreciate the honest feedback. Thank you for clarifying the information is from the Lamudi team. This makes a lot more sense. As I have pointed out there are gross misrepresentations here. I know this as they have used the same ‘facts’ when they pitched to us.

        I appreciate that you are impartial blogger, and apologies if I suggest otherwise, but the tone of the article suggests that this is your opinion of the online property portal space. The word in the headline should be changed from ‘became’ to ‘claim to be’ Lamudi especially if you are taking the figures they present at face value but without researching it.

  3. Anthony
    November 22, 2014 at 11:25 am — Reply

    @Moses, thank you for the article. However, I feel this is hugely biased and one sided, I don’t think this is based on any facts. I’m the owner of a real estate agency that uses all these online portals including OLX, Nsoko and Anza and while I have no preference of these sites, infact I still find print to be more effective, I find your distortion of the truth to be quite extensive.

    1) I can tell you for a fact that I get more leads from buyrentkenya and P24. I also request the stats of all these companies and I can assure you that again you have the order wrong in terms of most visitors. Perhaps you can show us how you are arriving at these figures?

    2) The Lamudi app is only for viewing properties. There is no app whereby an agent can upload a property. (surely you must check this before printing this?)

    3) Lamudi is a free service. Hence their ability to sign clients is not due to their strong ‘ambassadors’ but frankly because it’s free so why wouldn’t Is sign up. Mocality already showed us the ambassador model does not work. I doubt this is what is contributing to Lamudi’s listings.

    4) Also they have been know to copy listings from other portals and upload without permission. (again there is an article of this on TechMoran with detailed screen shots) Surely this is a more likely source of them getting listings.

    5) Their Facebook leverage is just a trick to con people. They accumulate all their facebook likes and then sell it as though they are the biggest. So if you go to https://www.facebook.com/LamudiKE and then to https://www.facebook.com/LamudiMU you will see it’s the same number of likes. They are adding all the likes of every country together. Their Facebook reach in Kenya is probably less than 20,000.

    6) Last but not least they are many outdated listings on their site. They never remove things that are sold or let. Also if they check so many I have a tip for you. Here is a 4 bedroom house in Karen you can buy from my competitor that is listed at 300,000/= Does that seem realistic to you?? http://www.lamudi.co.ke/4-bedroom-house-karen-1342-21.html?s_sort=oldest&s_page=2&s_location_region=20&s_location_city=1512&s_attribute_option=offer_type%3Abuy

    Or how about this house for 280,00/= http://www.lamudi.co.ke/nairobi/nairobi-central/for-sale/?sort=oldest&page=2

    In conclusion Moses, I’m hugely disappointed by your article. It is poorly researched and quite frankly a sham for someone with your expertise and intellegince. I notice you wrote a glowing report on Easy Taxi, I assume you will be writing wonderful things about Jumia, HelloFood and Kaymu as well which are all Rocket Internet Companies.

    Anthony

  4. Marc
    November 25, 2014 at 5:49 pm — Reply

    @ Anthony: Regarding the Traffic Numbers Moses wrote about. They seem to be right, since similarweb is showing the same numbers (and this is actually a company that is owned by the same company as p24). So this seems to be right at least. On all the rest I cannot comment, since I don’t know the facts.

    • November 25, 2014 at 5:52 pm — Reply

      @marc thanks for clarification.

    • Anthony
      December 1, 2014 at 7:58 pm — Reply

      @Marc, according to Alexa buyrentkenya is top followed by P24 and then Lamudi. But to be honest I don’t really believe the numbers of what Alexa or Similar Web say. I’m just making a point that third party websites like these are not accurate and contradictory.

      I have my own website and can say that SimilarWeb are consistently wrong with my numbers. I’m sure if you have a website you will concur that the stats you receive from either SimilarWeb or Alexa do not measure up to your google analytics.

      It’s a nice PR gimic for Lamudi but that’s all this is. There is no fact based in any of this.

      • December 1, 2014 at 8:09 pm — Reply

        @marc and @anthony one big caveat is that Alexa or SimilarWeb are largely desktop driven whereas the majority of users in Kenya are on mobile devices? However, they do give a sense of who is where, even if somewhat inaccurately – its not a perfect science for sure.

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