Bayut is one of the region's largest real-estate portals. In this thought leadership piece, the team at the company outline the lessons they learned during this pandemic
Over the course of human history, mankind has faced and survived many unforeseen situations and used the knowledge gained from these ordeals to emerge stronger, wiser and better prepared. Unlike economic depressions or financial fallouts, the impact of the pandemic has been far more intrinsic with fear and uncertainty driving decision making. But this situation has also taught us some important lessons and helped us to identify areas which we can strengthen to help us overcome such situations in the future.
As restrictions across Dubai gradually ease and businesses get back to normal operations, Bayut and a few of the brokerages in Dubai have looked back on this challenging period and shared their experiences and insights on how the UAE real estate industry has adapted to the unprecedented situation to ensure their businesses came out of this intact.
Whenever a business is faced with a challenging situation it is important to take proactive measures to avoid long-term negative impact. It is also important to avoid impulsive decisions and be responsible for and with your actions.
For instance, the mobility restrictions that were put into place created a need for new levels of digital transformation for all organisations in the region. Even before the initial lockdown was put in place, Bayut adopted proactive measures and expedited the launch of several virtual solutions to facilitate the new needs of property seekers.
At a time when physical property viewings had become increasingly difficult, agents and home seekers could turn to 3D live floor plans and interactive video tours to get a good idea of the property layout. This meant that those who needed to move immediately did not have to leave the safety of their homes to identify a good option.
DESIGN A CRISIS PLAN
One of the important lessons that the current situation has taught us, is that it is important to design an effective crisis plan quickly. At a time when panic pervades society, we need to take prudent measures to ensure business continuity. A key step to establishing efficiencies in any business is to begin by reassuring your employees and giving them the right support to ensure that they can continue to carry out their duties.
While many businesses have shied away from incorporating a remote work policy for their workforce, companies that already had such a system in place could quickly adapt and design efficient business continuity plans.
“As a business leader, I believe it’s important to support our workforce just as strongly as we support our partners. After the mobility restrictions were put in place, we were able to quickly adapt and facilitate safe and productive remote operations for our workforce, since we already had such systems in place," says Haider Ali Khan, CEO of Bayut and dubizzle.
MAINTAIN OPEN LINES OF COMMUNICATIONS
When the world is faced with difficulty, misinformation can be rampant. So it is very important to facilitate open dialogue and be transparent with your communications.
“When times are difficult it's more important than ever to have an open dialogue. When the first few weeks of the restrictions set in, there was a lack of clarity in terms of the best way to manage the situation. We decided then that it is important to keep communication lines open with both our users and our partners. We organised weekly webinars titled the ‘State of Real Estate’ where we discussed solutions to address the new and unforeseen issues brought by the pandemic, with leading experts from the industry, to support the needs of our partners and reassure them in this difficult period,” adds Khan.
John Lyons, the managing director of Espace Real Estate also highlights how Espace adapted to the changes brought by the pandemic.
“During the 24-hour Covid-19 sterilisation period, we recognised the difference between ‘adapting’ and adapting quickly. We now understand, to a deeper level, that it is not enough to simply adapt. It is essential to adapt more quickly than your competitors, particularly during a time of crisis when there is tremendous opportunity to be gained from market dislocations.
Furthermore, we understood that having constant communication with colleagues, clients and the wider market is essential. Another key learning was to reorganise our approach to office working hours. We previously assumed that a collaborative work environment was only possible in our open-plan office. We now realise that it is easy to create an additional virtual Espace marketplace, which we will use in the future to add variety to our working conditions to deliver more lifestyle value to our employees.”
One of the main things that we and the other real estate companies stress on, is the importance of staying positive. While it can be tempting to succumb to growing anxieties and uncertainty, staying positive can help you build clear strategies to overcome the challenges and emerge stronger.
Firas Al Msaddi, the CEO of Fam Properties highlights the need to identify opportunities from the most unlikely situations and stay positive in the face of adversity: “When we initially heard about Covid-19, there was only speculation about the risk of its global spread. Before we knew it, the global spread became a reality and we had to make contingency plans in the UAE. At that time, there was a lot of panic in the market and almost every business leader had to decide whether to downsize their businesses or to keep injecting new funds to keep their businesses afloat.
At Fam Properties, all the decisions we took during the lockdown became a great learning experience for us. It’s also important to remember that businesses are made of people, and every decision that is made must be done at the most human level possible.”
REMEMBER YOUR LEARNINGS
The past few months offered all of us the ultimate learning experience when it comes to navigating a challenging situation. It is crucial that the lessons learned during this period are used to find creative solutions to the challenges encountered.
The managing director of haus & haus, Luke Remington explains why we need to use this opportunity to create more robust processes and systems that will allow us to circumvent similar challenges and come out of this situation stronger and more informed.
“Ultimately we shouldn’t need a shock to make a decision. Change is scary but Covid-19 accelerated a question which we’ve all needed to answer - should we bury our head in the sand and wait for the situation to pass or take proactive measures to reinvent our life, business and career. As life settles back to some normality, let’s not forget the important lessons Covid taught us,” says Remington.