Lamudi, the online real estate classifieds venture from Rocket Internet, is now in 29 countries since its launch in October 2013. Its expansion sprint started with the consolidation of real estate services in countries including Nigeria, Mexico and Pakistan. Now Lamudi’s services can be found in countries such as Tanzania, Cameroon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Indonesia and Peru.
According to Paul Philipp Hermann, this is just the beginning of Lamudi’s reach. We sat down with Hermann to discuss how Lamudi tackles the challenges of expanding into developing markets and gathered his advice for other startups who have expansion ambitions of their own.
Tell us more about Lamudi.
We are an online real estate classifieds site. Lamudi is pretty much a site where those who have real estate properties can list them either for rent or for sale. And people seeking properties can go to the site and look at properties and then contact the broker or, if someone is selling something privately, a private person. Our difference from other sites is that we are aiming at the developing markets, so we aim at markets worldwide where there is no such service as of yet or no such service which has a really strong or clear market leader.
Lamudi is growing at a rapid rate. What are the main drivers of this growth?
The people. It is always the people (laughs).
It is also the scalability of the platform. We have built the product to translate and offer it in other countries. The second thing is the people. We have a team of really, really strong people working with us. We have people in all of our countries, and we have managing directors for each country that all very bright people coming from top jobs beforehand. And then here in Berlin, we also have a team that is very eager to make Lamudi a huge success. They are experts in their field.
And the last thing: we have the advantage of getting a lot of support from Rocket Internet. They have history and experience in scaling businesses at a really fast pace, and we can really leverage that by reaching out to them whenever we have questions or need support.
You mentioned people as an important asset at Lamudi. What types of recruiting challenges do you face internationally?
The challenge of hiring in the different countries is different really from country to country. So, in some countries, it worked really well. We get a lot of talented and interested people who are very tech savvy. In other countries, we have to train the people a bit more, since they haven’t worked in the online world so much. This is, for instance, in places with lower internet penetration, where the internet is not such an everyday thing as it is in our culture.
Many of the managers are coming from across Europe. We have some local managing directors already, but when you are hiring from here it is easier to send someone to build a local team, and then they are there to focus on getting the right people on board. But I have visited and see that they managed to get really young people there who are smart.
This kind of working environment, meaning a flat hierarchy and responsibility even if you are really young, is a unique selling point of what we are doing for the people there. It is something they wouldn’t have or be able to do in most of the traditional jobs in their countries. And since in some of the countries the internet startup scene is pretty new, this is something that people really enjoy. They can learn a lot and get a lot of responsibility during their time with us.
Besides recruiting, what other expansion challenges does Lamudi face?
In general, what we see in some countries is that the brokers and agents really need to be convinced that the internet is the next thing for them, and it is the way to sell properties in the future. A lot of them are still listing in newspapers. Educating the market is our challenge in some of the countries. But again, the challenges are really different from market to market. I can’t generalize about it. Some countries are already very tech and internet saavy. And in some countries it takes more market education to explain what we are doing and how we believe we can bring them additional value.
How do you choose which markets to enter?
We look to see if there is a strong player who is doing something similar. That is one of the most important questions. Apart from that, we are looking at the growth rate of internet penetration, general growth rate of the economy and the current situation of the real estate market.
What is your advice to startups looking to expand internationally?
Evaluate the market that you want to expand to and, based on that, decide where to go first. Don’t be scared to go somewhere where you have never been. Don’t be scared to go out there. Also, don’t go there by yourself. Send someone who knows the set up back in your home country to go there, and stay in very close contact.
What is next for Lamudi?
We have a few more countries we are planning on expanding to in the next couples of months, and we are about to improve the platform. We are taking it to the next level to have the leading real estate classifieds platform. We want to be market leader in most of countries in a very short time. We are currently market leader in two countries, but we want to be market leader in all of them.