The history and rise of Private Property

Private Property South Africa
Private Property Reporter

Reporter: When it comes to the rise of internet brands in South Africa, Private Property is most certainly one of the bigger players. But, how did they get to where they are today?

Simon Bray: Private Property was actually one of the very first online marketplaces, or websites of its kind, in South Africa. You're talking end of the 90s. It's the days of the cell phone that we still pull the aerial out of, and flip down the face. So, this was long before digital cameras and social media networks, and all the stuff that we've become so used to. Private Property started as a 'for sale by owner' website, so you could sell your own property on the website, and over a period of time, it's really grown into a comprehensive set of property listings from across South Africa. It's won awards for the best website, design and UX over the years, and it's a real Cinderella story. It started with our co-founder's dream in his basement and literally grew from there. It had franchises all over the country at one point in time, and now is a nationally relevant website. So very exciting history, that whole journey, and we're blessed to have had a lot of people come alongside us in that journey, a lot of key stakeholders, great international investors, and they've really helped us grow the business into what it is today.

Speaking about those key investors that helped build the group. I believe the scope of the group's business goes beyond property?

We sit on the tip of this great continent, here in South Africa, and the rest of Africa is going through the same sort of exciting growth that we've seen in South Africa over the last 10, 15 years. Private Property is actually part of the One Africa Media Group and that's got the largest portfolio of online businesses anywhere in Africa. The market that we serve is up to 400 million Africans so it's really exciting. Websites in East Africa that deal with cars and jobs, Checki in Kenya and BrighterMonday in Kenya, jobs in Nigeria. I mean, you're talking about 150 million people in Nigeria and a really big economy. So, it's exciting to be involved in a bigger group like that and there's a lot of opportunity to take what we've learned in South Africa and apply it in those new and exciting markets.

It is very exciting to be able to break those borders like Private Property are doing but honing in on the South African internet market, how do you guys see your role in the local market?

Our role has developed over the last few years to be specifically property related - to make sure that every single new listing that comes onto the market is there, ready for you to view. You can get on with your tablet or your smartphone and you can see exactly what is on the market at any time. But in order to do that, it's been about how we do that - and I think the role that we've played and continue to play is this idea of innovation. We're always looking for new ways to present these properties, these listings, to make it more convenient for people when they're online and that innovation journey is such an exciting one to be involved in with the business. You're forever challenging the norm. You're looking for new ways to do things and it's that creative energy that really drives us back at the office.

There's a lot that goes into creating a successful platform like this. What are some of the elements. What really goes on?

When people think of Private Property, they think of the website. They think of thousands of listings and how you navigate them. But there's so much more beyond that. I think when people come to our offices, they're just amazed to see how many people are actually behind that website. We've got technical teams that make sure that we can serve those millions of page views every month, and the site doesn't fall over. And that we can innovate with new features on a continual basis.

We've got our sales force across the country calling on the estate agents, making sure that we've got the right relationships in place, ensuring that we've got listings coming to the site, because that's ultimately what people need to see. I'll give you an example, our call centre, just in a normal run of the mill day, is taking 200 inquiries and trying to help solve those issues for our clients and with our consumers. So it's a full-time job, there's a lot of people. There's a great dynamic group of people that really make Private Property what it is.

What would be your philosophy when it comes to improving the website?

You've got to keep reinventing yourself. This world is changing so rapidly that you've got to keep innovating, you've got to keep looking for that next edge to stay relevant and to stay ahead of the game.

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