Modernising the real estate sector


Catering to every need: (from left) Ong, Saw, Quek and Ding are bringing all the stakeholders in the property transaction ecosystem onto its platform.

EVERYBODY wants to be a property owner, but few enjoy the process of acquiring one. From securing a bank loan to signing legal agreements, a property sales cycle involves multiple parties and manual processes that require months to complete.

What if that lead time could be significantly reduced and the transactions painlessly performed on your smartphone?

After an unpleasant experience in property purchase, Quek Wee Siong banded with friends Jason Ding and Joshua Ong to develop a solution that could do precisely that. They formed TRB Ventures Sdn Bhd and in 2017, launched a suite of apps called MHub.

To date, MHub has generated over 12,500 property bookings worth RM8bil. It currently has RM50bil’s worth of properties on the platform.

Nearly 40 major developers, including IJM, MKH and Perbadanan PR1MA Malaysia, subscribe to MHub.

As further proof of their positive street buzz, MHub raised RM2.5mil in just eight days when their equity crowdfunding (ECF) deal went live on pitchIN early this month.

While the market has other property technology (proptech) products, none offer a truly holistic end-to-end solution, according to MHub’s founders.

Leveraging powerful artificial intelligence technology, MHub digitises manual and inefficient processes and brings all the stakeholders within a property transaction ecosystem onto a single platform where they can interact and communicate with ease. As a result, the entire sales and purchase lead time can be reduced to days – even minutes – in future.

“The real estate industry is long overdue for modernisation,” says chief executive officer Quek.

“From Grab to Netflix to Tinder, every other industry has been revolutionised by digitalisation. But in real estate, we’re still using stickers on the wall and manual booking forms.”

The team’s initial plan in 2015 was to develop a portal for agents to matchmake banks with prospective buyers, but the idea was discarded when they failed to get buy-in from financial institutions.

“Back then, financial technology was still in its infancy. When you’re a startup with low capital and no track record, the possibility of working with a financial institution with all their regulations and policies is near zero,” chief strategy officer Ong says.

Undeterred, the team pivoted to a business model that targeted developers as a starting point.

MHub uses a Software as a Service (SaaS) licensing model, whereby a subscriber pays an annual fee for user rights to MHub’s suite of apps whose tools include live sales charts, report generation and digital booking forms, among others.

This is a huge step up from current practices, whereby developers rely on manually crunched reports which may be outdated by the time they access the information.

“With MHub, developers can now make data-driven decisions based on real-time information,” adds chief experience officer Ding.Which is why when MHub was pitched to developers, the reception was overwhelmingly positive.

“Most big players already have some kind of technology so they are open to it. Moreover, they see real estate digitalisation happening overseas and know it’s going to happen here eventually,” says Ding.

“In fact, some of them become our champions and give us ideas on how to improve the app,” says chief technology officer Jon Saw, who joined TRB in May 2016.

MHub’s ECF campaign is ongoing till the end of the month. It hopes to hit its maximum limit of RM3mil.

Capital raised from the exercise will be used for marketing and to grow its team. A portion of the funds will also be used to finance its fifth and newest app, MHub Buyer. Targeted to roll out in the third quarter of 2019, it will enable prospective buyers to conduct their own credit check, calculate their borrowing capacity and receive loan offers from banks.

The team believes that when its suite of apps is completed, TRB Ventures will be uniquely positioned to become the platform of choice for end-to-end property transactions.

But there is a bigger potential yet for the team to tap into lower downstream.

“Our next big move is to go into the secondary or sub-sale market. It is valued at four to five times more than the primary market, which makes it even more valuable for the banks,” says Ding.

Clearly, data drives dollars in the digital age. But making money is not the only thing on the founders’ minds.

“We’d like to think that we’ve created an enabler that helps businesses run better,” says Ong.

“Ultimately, by promoting a sharing economy, we want to democratise the property market.”


   

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