June Loh, Joan Alcock, Nandita Bangera & Ned Gerrard
Directors of UPMKT
Charlie’s Angels was an American television series set in the late 1970s and early 1980s. There have been several reboots of the series, as well as a film adaptation in 2000, featuring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu as the angels.
The plot has three glamorous women working in a private detective agency fighting crime in Los Angeles, USA. Their activities were directed by a male counterpart called Charles Townsend.
The parallel between this storyline and our featured guests in this article should be more than obvious to the global audience familiar with the Charlie’s Angels franchise.
Fast forward to present day Melbourne, Australia, we find three smart and glamorous women fighting an uphill battle against a stampede of overzealous sales agents. Conventionally a male-dominated field, these superstar performers have carved a niche for themselves in the project marketing of residential developments.
In our modern version, the fictional cast has been replaced by June Loh, Joan Alcock, Nandita Bangera and Ned Gerrard. Together, they own and operate the technical residential company, Ausurban Pty Ltd, project marketing business Upmkt Consulting and online property management platform OPS.
To better appreciate their success, we have short-listed some of their achievements:
- Sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars in a few short years
- Hosting projects for some of the biggest national and international developers
- Meeting pre-sales quotas to secure development finance where much bigger competitors had failed
- Troubleshooting projects with under-performing sales teams
- Assisting clients in brand development
- Managing major projects exclusively with a work in progress of more than $600 million in value
With this impressive background, we invited June, Joan, Nandi and Ned to share their story and to give us an insight on what separates them from the pack.
EZ : How did the four of you get together?
June : Joan and I worked together in a real estate agency before we started our own. We connected with Ned through family and friends and got him to help us run and grow our business while we concentrated on sales. He is a finance and marketing specialist with an MBA from Monash University and experience at the highest corporate levels.
On the other hand, Joan and Nandi have known each other in prior employment and when Joan introduced her to Ned and I, we felt that she was the perfect fit for our group. Fortunately for us, she agreed and we were all thrilled to have her join us as an equal partner.
EZ : Being in sales, you ladies are at the frontline of your business, interacting with a vast number of people from different ethnic backgrounds. Given that all of you come from diverse geographic and cultural backgrounds yourselves, do you find it an advantage or disadvantage? June, you are from Singapore, Nandi is from India via New Zealand and Joan, you are a home-grown Melbourne girl.
Joan : First and foremost, we are women with similar values and goals. The net effect is that our dynamics seem to resonate with all types of buyers. We are equally proficient at selling to all racial, cultural and demographic profiles.
EZ : Is there a special characteristic that sets you apart from your competitors?
Nandi : I would say it is understanding. Understanding our client, understanding the market and understanding the buyer.
June : What really shaped us, is that we all started at the bottom. We ‘cut our teeth’ selling leftover stock that nobody could get rid of, after the big players had sold all the prime units (most notably to the Chinese who couldn’t settle eventually) and had virtually exhausted all their clients’ marketing funds. It’s not a good look for our industry when they plaster their 70% or 60% SOLD stickers on site hoardings when up to half of these sales will fall through and there is little or no marketing budget left to move the remaining stock.
EZ : Who are your major competitors?
Joan : There are too many to name, but the best way to explain is that there are two tiers of actual project marketeers. The rest are small real estate agencies or independent individual agents. The first tier are the residential divisions of the multi-national commercial firms and the second are the larger traditional real estate agencies extending their reach to off-the-plan sales, particularly with the recent trend toward higher density living.
Ned : Having a large cost base and many mouths to feed means that our competitors must adopt a quantity over quality approach. Securing exclusivity to as many projects as possible becomes a priority. Often, they represent multiple projects in the same street, despite the obvious conflict of interest.
What then is the guarantee that all projects will be given equal priority? What happens if one project sells better than the other? Would buyers enquiring on the poorer performing project not be directed to one that requires less selling effort?
June : Another major issue is that no organisation has the depth of sales talent to stretch over a multitude of projects. It is also highly unlikely that a sales employee of a large project marketing firm working on a major project would have the same drive to perform as if they were the owners of the business.
The critical question all developers should ask themselves when their project is ready to go to market is “Who can best sell it?”
As sales and marketing is not in a developer’s skill set, the tendency is to assume that ‘big is best’ and therefore, to appoint either a tier one or tier two firm as master agent, depending on the size of the project.
We are all too familiar with this thinking, having been called in on many occasions to salvage a project from inertia or to improve a poor sales performance.
EZ : Now, a question on the current state of the market?
Ned : That is probably a question for me. We have auction clearance rates coming down from very high levels in the traditional market. We have a credit squeeze with banks applying much tougher lending criteria to borrowers.
The foreign investor market has just about dried up and the effects of the banking Royal Commission are still to be felt. Obviously, if the Labour Party wins the election in 2019, negative gearing will be seriously impacted. Many projects are not going ahead. According to the media it’s all doom and gloom for the high-density apartment market.
EZ : What strategy have you adopted in such an unfavourable market environment?
Ned : We had the foresight to switch our strategy and target owner occupiers well before our competitors realised that foreign investor buying would not continue unabated.
Nandi : Our current projects are in blue chip locations where we found the sweet spot in the market, to be downsizers aged 55+. Through Ausurban, our technical arm, we can provide buyers with architectural services enabling the merging of 1×2 and 2×2 bedroom apartments into three and four-bedroom units that can also be customised.
June : Of course, every one of our competitors is now targeting owner-occupiers with developers being asked to offer ridiculous incentives and unprecedented agent commissions. Working against this background means that we have to be innovative by creating marketing strategies and plans that no other project marketeers have adopted.
EZ : Where to from here then?
Nandi : We are looking to establish a base in Sydney, another in Singapore through June’s connections and I am optimistic about being able to develop an emerging market in India for Australian properties.
Ned : We are also improving our business offering with a B2C portal for off-the-plan sales and property management.
EZ : Sounds exciting. We wish you all the best on your journey.
“查理的天使” 又名“霹雳娇娃”，是以上世纪70年代末到80年代初为背景的美国电视剧。这部影片有不同的重拍版本，其中在2000年的电影改编版是由女演员Cameron Diaz、Drew Barrymore和刘玉玲主演。故事情节是叙述3名美丽聪慧的女人们任职于一家美国洛杉矶的私人侦探社，并与罪犯进行斗争，而她们的工作编排是由一位名叫Charles Townsend的男性所主导。对于熟悉这部影视系列的全球观众来说，故事主线角色和本文中我们的特邀嘉宾状况具异曲同工之妙。
EZ : 你们4位是怎么聚在一起的?
EZ : 关于目前市场所面临的问题？
EZ : 那谈论下你们的后续计划?
Photography by Layzhoz Yeap