From humble beginnings in 2017 to participating and successfully graduating as one of seven selected startups in the second cycle of Flat6Labs Tunis; a prominent accelerator program in MENA, just over a year later, Riadh Ellouze’s creation appears to be pulling down all the stops, surmounting the hurdles, beating the odds, and heading in the right direction.
Logis; the Tunisian entrepreneur’s startup, is looking to blaze trails and navigate uncharted courses in its bid to pioneer the creation of Africa’s very own property haven. And with the features and tools it has so far developed and delivered with aplomb, the odds may never be better.
Being the brainchild of Riadh; an alumnus of Higher Institute of Management of Tunis, and former employee at Citigroup, who currently holds the reins at the company as its CEO, Logis has its sights trained on leveraging technological innovations with a view to revamping the real estate sector in the MENA region and beyond.
The platform is founded on the vision of helping real estate agents/agencies work smarter in a digital world. It harnesses advances and innovations in modern technology with a view to assisting both real estate professionals and customers in the area of finding, selling, and buying properties; a feat that can be considered one of the first of its kind on the continent.
Thought to be something of an unfamiliar territory and perhaps a dicey case in some quarters, MENA’s real estate sector yet holds promise. The development of the real estate sector within MENA markets may be related to the recent improvement of fortunes in terms of socioeconomic, demographic and regulatory factors, which are central to the economies within this region.
As pointed out in a recent publication, the region is witnessing an upward surge in the demand for properties and realtors. This trend appears to have been buoyed by a combination of factors which border around such details as partial diversion of petrodollar liquidity into MENA real estate markets post 9/11, improvements in the regional regulatory and institutional frameworks, and increased demand for housing and office space driven by job opportunities in the context of economic diversification.
Also identified as responsible for the current trend are such factors as a shift in the onus of property development from the public to the private sector, the emergence of mixed-use ‘community’ development concepts as opposed to dense and poorly-planned residential and business areas, the development of leisure centers and the popularity of the shopping mall concept as a retail and leisure destination, as well as the emergence of apartments and townhouses that are targeted at high income segments in the wake of decreasing household sizes and evolving living patterns.
These factors are touted as having, in many ways, inspired a region-wide boom and an upheaval of the dynamics in real estate development and investment throughout MENA, with a 2008 study placing the total value of real estate projects under construction at somewhere around USD 2.4 Tn in the GCC alone.
There exists a problem, however, as the economic progress and demographic growth that has thronged most MENA real estate markets have been largely greeted with a shortage of suitable real estate products. From primary-grade office spaces and shopping malls to middle-income housing and five-star hotels, MENA’s real estate market supply have hardly kept up with the demand. And these unsatisfied demands have translated to inflated real estate product performance; a development that has taken a cue from the dynamics and resulted in the bullish investor sentiment and extensive development activity that the region is currently witnessing.
Given the luxury of options and the range of opportunities that are on offer to MENA’s real estate investors, access to reliable and consistent information is placed at a premium as it is pivotal to investor confidence and also of paramount importance to realtors, hence, the need to fill that information gap – which is an area in which Logis seems well-placed to deliver, amongst others.
“Logis provides different sets of tools designed for the real estate industry to help real estate professionals manage their business effectively and consumers find their home easily,” said the CEO and Founder of the startup in an exclusive interview with WeeTracker. According to him, Logis also provides information on such aspects as the average price per square meter in different specific areas to bring more transparency and fairness into the real estate market.
For Riadh, the entrepreneurial journey began shortly after his return to Tunisia having successfully completed a Masters Degree Program at the University of Westminster, U.K., as well as a diploma course at UCLA, in the U.S. The CEO revealed to WeeTracker that during his stint in Europe and North Africa, he experienced firsthand the importance of established western real estates platforms such as Zillow, Trulia, and LoopNet when he was trying to land a suitable apartment for the period of his academic sojourn.
On his return to Tunisia, however, it hit him that there was a need that was yet to be met with, mostly because it hadn’t been identified until then. According to him, “When I returned to Tunisia, I realized that there weren’t any such platforms which could help both real estate agents and individuals find, buy, and sell properties with ease. This inspired me to create Logis.”
And so the startup was born. It first began as a property listing and valuation portal but it wasn’t long before tweaks in the business model became necessary. “Logis real estate portal was launched in May 2017. It was designed mainly to support property listings but I was quick to realize that there wasn’t substantial revenue to be made from just listing properties since realtors will rather post their listings for free on classified websites instead of paying to post on Logis. That was when the idea hit me to introduce a different perspective, one they would be happy to pay for since it holds a lot of importance and meets the immediate needs of both professionals and individuals.”
Riadh’s new proposition was the creation of Logimo; a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Since its introduction in September 2017, the CRM system has been something of a game-changer for both the company and the growing list of subscribers on the platform. With Logimo, real estate agents/agencies can easily keep track of available properties and the demand for them; thus, helping them do their jobs better.
The CRM system utilizes a learning algorithm to match search criteria by harnessing Machine Learning, Big Data Analytics, and Artificial Intelligence so as to sort, sift, clean and analyze large volumes of data, which serves to offer best predictions on prices of properties in different areas. Essentially, with the features of the CRM system, real estate agents can keep tabs on a large number of customers and their property demands. It also allows for quick and easy valuation of houses since it can predict the value of a property.
To solve some of the challenges associated with finding and purchasing the right properties in the MENA region and beyond, what Riadh and the rest of the team at Logis have developed is an all-in-one real estate site that gives prospective buyers the local scoop about homes for sale, apartments for rent, local real estate agents, as well as real estate market prices and trends. This is with a view to helping users of the platform figure out exactly what, where, and when to buy, rent or sell.
The CEO also revealed that inherent in the company’s operating blueprint is the analysis of data to identify relationships within a specific geographic area between home-related data. Also, by virtue of the platform’s design, home specifications such as area-size, location, or the number of bedrooms, are given weights according to their influence on home sale prices in each specific geographic area over a specific period of time.
This is what gives rise to the set of valuation rules that are applied to the generation of the value of a given property. With this business model, the platform is hoping to eliminate the often long and arduous processes that form the most parts of today’s real estate valuation and purchase transactions, which will make the acquisition of properties a lot easier for both the property owners and the prospective buyers.
Logis currently boasts a number of products and services some of which include a real estate portal which enables searches for properties via web or mobile, Logiweb; a responsive real-estate website designed for industry professionals, Logis Ads; which enable real estate professionals to enhance their online presence while also facilitating real estate data analytics and consulting services for real estate professionals, as well as the much-talked-about Logimo; a Software-as-a-Service (CRM software) designed for real estate professionals to enhance the management of listings, measurement of performance and grooming of a broader clientele.
By design of the SaaS model, services on Logimo are offered for a monthly subscription of DT 99 (equivalent to USD 36.00) for locals and USD 99.00 for real estate firms and individuals in other parts of the world. The platform also allows firms to add up to 10 real estate agents on a single subscription.
As revealed by the CEO, the growth of Logis has been somewhat boosted by the company’s participation in the second cycle of the Flat6Labs Tunis earlier this year. “We entered the accelerator program as a local company. During the program which provided us with USD 50,000 K in seed-funding, mentorship, office space, and education, we were exposed to the big picture. That was when we made the decision to take our Tunisian solution to the global market. We want to prove that we are capable of innovating and developing solutions to our own problems as opposed to what could be considered the norm of waiting for other people to swoop in and save the day. We are working taking the business to France, Egypt, Oman, and the rest of MENA and the GCC.”
It has been anything but a completely rosy journey for the Tunisian startup, though, as there have been challenges. As Riadh remarked in the interview with WeeTracker, it hasn’t been entirely a smooth ride for the company as unfavorable policies on the part of regulatory agencies in spite of the earlier reported Tunisian Startup Act, as well as the underdeveloped Tunisian Tech scene, still poses a problem for growing Tunisian startups. But despite the militating bottlenecks that have made for a topsy-turvy experience, the CEO remains determined and resolute in his bid to accomplish his entrepreneurial vision.
Logis currently serves as many as 125 local real estate firms who are using the properties portal for free and 10 paying clients on its CRM platform. The real estate portal is still being accessed free-of-charge and utilized for property listings and searches by customers and agents, although there may be plans to incentivize it through the incorporation of a mortgage simulator in the future.
Riadh also disclosed to WeeTracker that the company is looking to partner with telecommunication giants, Orange, in a move that will see Logis launch two mobile applications on Android and iOS. According to him, “Advanced talks are in progress and we look forward to agreeing to terms in the coming days.“ The startup is also believed to be in talks with two of Tunisia’s largest commercial banks who are looking to leverage some of the platform’s resources in the area of mitigating credit risk.
“We help real estate professionals to have a forward view of their businesses by providing them a CRM and a real estate website,” said the CEO. “We help make their businesses more efficient and increase their revenue per employee, and capture the interest of customers that are becoming increasingly sophisticated and ignoring the old methods that have always been used to market and sell them.”
With a team that brings together some of the brightest minds in the Tunisian Tech climate which includes Sumeesh Chawla (CTO), Karamjeet Laur (Product Lead Developer), Faten Tabka (Design Specialist), and the duo of Oumaima Bali and Balam Mellouli as Data Scientists, alongside the CEO, Logis appears to be in good hands in its bid to provide property solutions to real estate agents, agencies, developers, franchise networks, banks, and even governments.
Logis is looking to revolutionize Africa’s real estate market and with Riadh and his team calling the shots, pulling the strings behind the scenes, and keeping the business on course in its current trajectory, it just might pull it off.