CapitaLand to boost digital efforts with technology stalwarts as members of its newly formed Technology Council

Below is a press release from Capitaland, one of the companies that I respect the most because of its foray in China over the years. The Singapore listed giant recent move into the use of technology to boost its real estate business would definitely help to give the company competitive edge in China. It is interesting to note whether such trend would take place in Singapore.

CapitaLand Limited has formed a new Technology Council consisting of high-calibre digital visionaries to boost its digital efforts to drive its real estate business. The council members are notable venture capitalists Foo Jixun, Managing Partner of GGV Capital and David Su, Managing Partner of Matrix Partners China, both of whom have strong tech focus and a keen eye for the next tech game-changers; as well as Gabriel Lim, CEO of the Media Development Authority of Singapore, the agency key to Singapore’s Smart Nation vision in mapping innovative infocomm media solutions. Together, the council provides strategic critique of CapitaLand’s operations and insights to the digital universe.

Mr Lim Ming Yan, President & Group CEO of CapitaLand Limited, said: “CapitaLand’s technology drive is part of the Group’s efforts to sharpen our customer-centric focus to develop real estate of the future – integrated and interconnected smart communities through smart buildings as well as seamless online and offline customer experiences. We are privileged to have stellar tech visionaries join us in the CapitaLand Technology Council. With the wealth of experience and fresh perspectives of the council members, CapitaLand will gain much insight on using digital technology to decode the art of human needs and wants, so that we can create smart buildings for smart customers.”

Lim Ming Yan, President & Group CEO, CapitaLand Limited

“The council will also identify tech trends, challenges and opportunities to sharpen CapitaLand’s smart focus. This includes offering advice and guidance on how we can drive our growth through strategic collaboration with strong technology partners, such as International (Tujia) – China’s largest and fastest growing online apartment sharing platform, which has been dubbed as the Chinese equivalent of U.S. home-rental website Airbnb. CapitaLand’s investment in Tujia through Ascott, gives us the opportunity to expand into a new vertical which will augment Ascott’s core strength,” added Mr Lim.

To boost CapitaLand’s digital offerings, its wholly owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), is leading a consortium to invest S$67.69 million (US$50 million) in Tujia. Ascott will also form a joint venture with Tujia with an initial capital of S$54.15 million (US$40 million). This joint venture led by Ascott will operate and franchise serviced apartments in China. It will also provide Ascott with a pipeline of apartments units to expand its portfolio in China where it targets to achieve 20,000 units by 2020.

Ascott Heng Shan Shanghai_3BRM Executive_Diningrm

Beijing-based Tujia’s apartment sharing site, valued at more than US$1 billion, caters to travellers looking for alternatives to hotels, for vacation as well as business travel within and outside of China. Its website features more than 310,000 apartments covering 388 travel destinations across China as well as overseas destinations such as Bangkok, Singapore and Tokyo for Chinese outbound travellers. Besides its online capabilities, Tujia operates some apartments for owners for a fee and franchises its business to third-party operators.

Mr Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s CEO, who has also been appointed to the board of directors of Tujia, said: “China’s lengthening list of billion-dollar technology startups is an indication of investors’ confidence in the country’s booming internet sector, including O2O (both Offline-to-Online and Online-to-Offline) commerce. The growth of mobile internet connectivity via devices like smart phones and tablets has enabled O2O commerce to thrive and establish itself as a mainstream market at an exponential rate, especially in China where the size of the market is considerably greater than just physical transactions. By investing in Tujia, a frontrunner in the online apartment sharing platform, Ascott is now well positioned to benefit from this growth.”

Ascott Heng Shan Shanghai_Facade Entrance

Mr Lee added: “Ascott has the world’s largest serviced residence network in 92 cities across 26 countries, with a target of 80,000 units by 2020. This investment will also allow Ascott to better integrate our offline resources with Tujia’s online capabilities to participate more strategically in the O2O space. We plan to make our three internationally recognised brands of serviced residences – Ascott, Citadines and Somerset – available on Tujia’s website for booking, expanding our reach to more customers online. Through Ascott’s joint venture with Tujia, we will be able to quickly scale up our presence in China to 20,000 units by 2020. With the rapid increase in Chinese travellers overseas and Ascott’s presence in many of the tourist and business cities worldwide, our penetration of the Chinese market through our partnership with Tujia is also expected to contribute to Ascott’s business globally.”

As part of its joint venture with Tujia, Ascott will operate serviced apartments located within the key growth cities of China using a new brand. This will include newly sourced properties and Tujia’s serviced apartments in China that are deemed suitable for conversion. Ascott is the largest international serviced residence owner-operator in China with over 14,000 apartment units in 77 properties across 24 cities.

Mr Justin Luo Jun, Co-founder and CEO of Tujia, said: “We welcome Ascott onboard as a strategic investor and a key joint-venture partner. Ascott has an established track record for over 30 years and is renowned for its strong capabilities in managing over 200 properties globally under three award-winning serviced residence brands that enjoy recognition worldwide. We expect to have more than 400,000 apartments to be listed on Tujia’s website by the end of this year so as to cater to the market demand. Our collaboration with Ascott will allow us to tap on Ascott’s expertise to offer more world-class serviced apartments and strengthen Tujia’s position as the leading online apartment sharing platform in China.”

Mr Lim said: “As a leader in real estate, we continuously seek to innovate and test new ideas to ensure that CapitaLand remains at the forefront of the industry in the digital age. CapitaLand is embarking on a technology drive to develop real estate of the future, characterised by integrated and interconnected buildings and experience; including the connecting of our physical real estate with online space. This digital drive will fuel pilot initiatives, internal seeding programmes and innovation incubation to accelerate the Group’s adoption of technology to future-proof its business.”

To optimise CapitaLand’s unique position as a real estate owner and operator, the Group will continue to offer its valuable physical platforms for technology partners to explore solutions that will benefit customers. In China, in May this year, CapitaLand partnered with, China’s leading renovation, furnishing and home services e-platform. Homebuyers of CapitaLand’s New Horizon residential project in Shanghai are able to create their dream home and access the best deals with a click of a button on their digital devices. The partnership provides a one-stop solution for homebuyers, bringing greater cost savings and convenience with bulk discounts and standard renovation packages for New Horizon residents which will be showcased at the show suite.

In April this year, Ascott partnered with Samsung Asia Pte Ltd to jointly develop Internet of Things-ready smart solutions customised for its serviced residences, making Ascott the first global serviced residence company to embrace smart home technologies. Further to initial studies and a joint innovation workshop conducted with Samsung in July 2015, Ascott is working towards test-bedding at selected serviced apartments by 1H 2016.

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