Thai real estate firms recast their future in property technology

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A wind turbine developed by US startup firm Semtive, in which Sansiri Plc invested last year. THE NATION (THAILAND)

INVESTMENT in proptech and start-ups show the path to sustainable growth for Thai property firms, as they look for both additional revenue sources and digital innovations that will help them meet the needs of their customers.

“Property firms have to shift from being developers of residential projects to providers of living solutions, by finding as many ways as we can to serve the demands of customers,” Sansiri Plc president Srettha Thavisin said recently.

“Customers need more after-sales services to match their new lifestyles.”

Meeting that need, even as residential sales face some short-term challenges, has led Sansiri to budget 1.5 billion baht ($48.015 million) to invest in property tech from last year through next year.

The money is mainly going to start-up businesses in Thailand and overseas, said Srettha. It is difficult to predict the return on investment in start-ups, he added, but the company in any case has made it a priority to add to the solutions it can offer customers.

Its top-priority investment at the moment is in developing a robot to serve its clients and the company will then consider developing a commercial version.

“If our proptech enjoys success on a commercial scale, it would generate long-term income for our business,” he said.

Alternate measures

Other property firms are taking parallel paths.

Origin Property Plc has set up Primo Service Solution Co Ltd, an arm for investment and collaboration with start-ups as the company develops its “digital butler service” and others applications, along with artificial intelligence to serve its customers. It also wants to provide the service to other property firms.

“We believe in innovations and technology that will change the business model of property firms from property development to providing services offering smart living solutions,” said Origin CEO Peerapong Jaroon-Ek in a recent interview with the Nation. The company plans to apply for the listing of Primo Service Solution Co Ltd in the Market for Alternative Investment as soon as the business generates revenue of one billion baht, which could be reached this year.

“We expect our investment in technology is the way to differentiate ourselves from other property firms in the market,” Peerapong said.

‘Living-solutions provider’

SC Asset Corporation is also turning to investments in start-ups and technology, through its new investment arm, SC Urban Co Ltd which has invested in Fixzy Co, a start-up firm providing home renovation and repair services through the “Fixzy” application.

“Our business strategy is to be the living-solutions provider,” SC Asset CEO Nuttaphong Kunakornwong said recently.

Like Peerapong at Origin, Nuttaphong sees technology as the means to create services that differentiate the company from its competitors.

JLL Asia Pacific CEO Anthony Couse noted that though real estate has been viewed as a traditional business, the time is now right to embrace technology, digitisation and collaboration.

“We’re taking an agile approach to technology that will allow us to meet our clients’ needs today while preparing for the opportunities of tomorrow,” he said.

“We believe in big corporations being part of the larger tech ecosystem, engaging with the start-ups and academic researchers, and learning from entrepreneurs and innovators,” said Couse.

“Proptech is an opportunity for us all to work together, and that’s really exciting.” Proptech has been described as a burgeoning new sector whereby technology solutions are used to solve real-estate problems, added Couse. THE NATION (THAILAND)