Q&A: Lamudi CEO Says Africa’s Online Real Estate Business ‘Incredibly Diverse’

Q&A: Lamudi CEO Says Africa’s Online Real Estate Business ‘Incredibly Diverse’

Despite moving to Kenya at 24 and not knowing a single person, Nairobi is where she came into her own and challenged herself the most.

The journey of self discovery bore fruit when she – Aneesa Arshad, 28 – was offered the position of CEO and founder of Lamudi, East and Southern Africa (EASA) region. Lamudi is an online real estate marketplace under the Africa Internet Holding stable.

Unlike existent online property classifieds, Lamudi bridges the gap of inadequate or inaccurate property listings. The Nairobi-based company goes the extra mile by using their own professional photographers snap away clients’ properties to be listed and having their staff write accurate and detailed descriptions of it.

Aneesa, holds a master’s degree in business administration from INSEAD, France and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.  Aneesa was born and raised in the United States, but has been based in Kenya since 2010.

Aneesa who was born and raised in America, but of Pakistani descent, took some time to speak to AFKInsider about her role in delivering Lamudi towards its vision of providing Africans with the most reliable and diverse property offers available in their market.

AFKI: What was your first job?

Aneesa: My first job was with a boutique consulting firm in Chicago called Mission Measurement.  As an analyst I helped the firm’s corporate and government clients measure and improve their social and business impact.  For example, one of my first projects was helping Walmart determine the impact of providing low-cost prescription drugs on the company’s bottom line.

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AFKI: Just how did you end up working in the online property industry?

Aneesa: I have always admired the tech industry – the speed of execution, the collaborative and creative culture and the impact on day-to-day life – and was lucky enough to get exposure to Africa Internet Holding (AIH) while completing my MBA at INSEAD.

As a member of the Africa Business Club, we invited Jeremy Hodara, CEO of AIH, to campus to speak.  Through this invitation I came to know of opportunities in East Africa and was fortunate to get an offer to join AIH as the founder of Lamudi which is one of AIH’s many ventures.

While I have come to take a personal interest in the real estate markets in my countries, it was initially the challenge and excitement of building an online venture from scratch that attracted me to the role.

AFKI: Describe the first house you lived in after moving out from home.

Aneesa: It was a tiny dorm room at Northwestern University in Chicago.

AFKI: What is Lamudi all about?

Aneesa: Lamudi is about making the search for a new home, office or investment a breeze.  Lamudi’s top priority is connecting individuals to the properties they are looking for.  As such, we aim to have the largest, most diverse properties that are available in a country visible on one online platform.  In Africa, where there is often times scarcity of information we also aim to create transparency in the market.

AFKI: Why did you start Lamudi?

Aneesa: The first Lamudi was started in Nigeria as Africa Internet Holding saw a huge gap in the market in terms of quality online real estate classifieds.  After the successful launch of Lamudi in Nigeria, I was hired to launch Lamudi in East and Southern Africa starting with Kenya.

AFKI: What’s the catch? Why go through all the trouble of getting photos using your crew and putting together property descriptions for no commission?

Aneesa: As any user of a classifieds will attest, quality of information is of the utmost importance.  We work extremely hard to ensure that individuals have the maximum information available for each property they are viewing.  Having robust listings saves individuals and real estate agencies hours of time – as when an individual does decide to inquire about a property, they know exactly what to expect.

AFKI: How do you make money?

Aneesa: We charge anyone who lists on our site a monthly subscription fee. Our customers include real estate agencies, developers and individuals.  We also earn revenue from advertising space.

AFKI: Does Lamudi get to ride on the success of Jumia that’s also partly owned by AIH?

Aneesa: Being a sister company of Jumia definitely lends credibility to Lamudi when introducing the company to potential customers.

We are fortunate to share office space with all five Africa Internet Holding ventures in Kenya. They include Hello Food, a restaurant delivery company; Easy Taxi; Jovago, a hotel booking site; and Jumia.

We share resources, including personnel, coordinate marketing efforts and cross-promote the other ventures whenever we can.  Being part of a family of internet ventures in Africa allows us to learn from each other’s mistakes and set our goals even higher based on each other’s successes.

AFKI: What’s your take on African women in leadership?

Aneesa: African women are incredibly powerful leaders and I’m impressed on a daily basis by them.  Peers, employees and customers alike.

Of my ten Country Managers, four are women and I admire their confidence and leadership in delivering impressive results in challenging markets including Ethiopia and Madagascar.

AFKI: What do you look for before buying personal property?

Aneesa: While I have yet to buy my own home, I have recently invested in land in Kenya.  As an investment, I verified the track record of the developer, the growing demographics of the area and the activity in the surrounding plots.

As an area with a growing population of middle income Kenyans, I am confident that my investment will appreciate.

AFKI: How would you describe conducting online business in Kenya and EASA (East and Southern Africa) as a whole?

Aneesa: Incredibly diverse.  It is impossible to generalize the entire region as the countries and even cities are extremely varied in terms of internet penetration and understanding of online business.  Real estate agencies in Nairobi are definitely the most advanced and completely understand the value of online classifieds.  In cities like Maputo or Addis Ababa – not so much.

So there is a lot of education involved in our sales pitch.  In general, there is a lot of excitement in the online space as the statistics are very promising in terms of growth in internet and smart phone penetration.

AFKI: What do you do in your downtime?

Aneesa: During my limited downtime I make an effort to work out, spend time with family and friends, enjoy the vibrant cities I travel to for work and keep my creative juices flowing by brainstorming my next start-up.

AFKI: What do you love most about Kenya?

Aneesa: The people and the natural beauty.  These are the two things that struck me when I first moved here in 2010 and they have remained consistent over the past four years.  Kenyans are some of the most genuine, intelligent and passionate people I have met and I have made some of my closest friends here.

Additionally, my most memorable holidays have been along Kenya’s beautiful coastline and in the many national parks.  At times I have felt like I am running a small tour agency – but I have been lucky to share the beauty of Kenya with many relatives and friends.

AFKI: Wine, whisky, beer, or sparkling water? 

Aneesa: Sparkling water. Healthy and hydrating!