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In Conversation with Benjamin Blackaby: Exploring the path to success through disruptive thinking in PropTech

Article-In Conversation with Benjamin Blackaby: Exploring the path to success through disruptive thinking in PropTech

Benjamin Blackaby
In this interview, Benjamin Blackaby, Head of Facilities Management,Savills KSA - highlights the importance of industry knowledge and disruptive thinking for success in PropTech. He sees Saudi Arabia as a promising market for PropTech due to its digital transformation goals. Collaboration between real estate and tech companies is crucial for growth, and Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will revolutionize PropTech with predictive maintenance and energy optimization.

What skills do you consider vital for success in the PropTech industry?

First and foremost, one should be very well versed with the real estate industry. This not only allows you to understand how, for example, the built environment operates, but also provides a clear understanding of some of the challenges and areas where PropTech can add value. Keeping track of the latest technologies that are defining the real estate industry is also crucial to building expertise. 

What does a successful career in PropTech in Saudi Arabia look like according to you?

It is important to be a disruptor and challenge the industry norm to identify the value that PropTech can bring to the market. This is not limited to new developments but existing ones too where systems can be seamlessly retrofitted.

One goal to ensure success is developing systems that incorporate all elements of the real estate industry, as there are a huge number of systems and technologies that are currently on the market, but not a single solution that meets all the needs of the real estate industry.

How important do you believe networking is in this industry, especially in Saudi Arabia, and what strategies would you suggest.

Networking in any industry is crucial. Personal connections can make all the difference and having a strong network can provide you with industry insights, partnerships, and growth opportunities and also guide you to valuable knowledge sharing. There are an abundant number of industry institutes, online platforms/social media, industry events and workshops that can be utilised effectively. Personally, I use all of the above, but I’m yet to fully engage on social media as I’ve historically prioritised face-to-face interactions.

What makes Saudi Arabia an attractive market for PropTech companies?

Saudi Arabia is going through a significant development stage and as such the real estate industry will continue to grow and develop much after 2030. An element of Vison 2030 is about embracing digital transformation, thus giving PropTech companies a huge platform to play a crucial role to contribute to the country’s economic diversification goals. The opportunities are huge in Saudi Arabia and in my opinion, they will be the leader in PropTech over the coming years, offering innovative, smart, efficient and Eco-friendly solutions that will transform the industry as a whole.

How do you see the role of PropTech evolving with Saudi Arabia's giga projects?

With all the Giga projects currently under construction, the intention is to ensure all of these are futuristic smart cities in their own right. And PropTech will play a huge role in realising this. We all are looking forward to seeing what new technology comes to the market not just locally but globally because of these giga projects.

These futuristic smart cities will undoubtedly create communities through digital layers and concepts such as digital twins, improving customer satisfaction and providing customers with solutions at their fingertips.

Savills have started to implement technologies across our portfolio Residential, Commercial and Retail assets. These systems/APPs can provide, Smart door access, Digital IDs, Amenity bookings, Asset information, Digital Surveys, Retail offers bespoke to the community, Proof of presence, proof of compliance and automatically identify trends – this is just a small example of the capabilities of the tools and systems that we are currently utilising. We have received exceptional feedback from customers on the ease of use of such digital platforms and the convenience they provide.

How important is collaboration between real estate and tech companies for the growth of PropTech?

Collaboration is so important, as the real estate industry companies have significant data, industry expertise and industry knowledge and more so a vast network of clients and properties. Whilst Tech companies bring innovative technology, data analytics, machine learning and AI. I have included a personal example of how collaboration can benefit both the real estate industry and PropTech companies.

I was managing a large Mixed-use development earlier and was pitched a PropTech product. This product met most of our needs at the time, however given my experience I was able to identify improvements specific to challenges we were facing, that would make the systems more valuable. As such I worked in collaboration with the company who developed their own system specific to my needs at the time. This not only resulted in added value to me and the asset I was working on, but also added value to the company who built the solution as the feedback helped improve their product. Following the collaboration, the PropTech company too has seen significant growth in market share, as a direct result of the improvement made through our engagement.

What impact do you think Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will have on Proptech?

AI and ML will have a profound impact on the Proptech industry. Both can analyse vast amounts of data from various systems, sensors and devices, allowing for predictive maintenance and early detection of potential issues which helps reduce system downtime and improves reliability. Having AI and ML optimises energy consumption, they can analyse usage patterns and making automatic changes to the system operation which will significantly reduce manual intensive processes, and lead to significant costs savings and environmental benefits. 


To gain a broader perspective and delve deeper into this exciting sphere of propTech, read the latest PropTech career spotlight guide.

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