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Tuesday May 11th, 2021

Acquest: transforming Sri Lanka’s real estate market

Chandaka De Soysa, CEO and Founder of Acquest

Chandaka de Soysa, CEO and Founder of Acquest, is on a mission to bring transparency, visibility and accountability to Sri Lanka’s informal real estate market.

Tell us why you founded Acquest and the objectives you had for the company?

I ventured into this industry mainly because I have always been passionate about and interested in all things real estate, from property development to architecture. I started in real estate brokerage and transactions back in 2007, which still is a core part of what Acquest does.

I quickly realised that the real estate services space was very informal, and it was certainly not client-centric or service driven. This initial exposure helped me identify a massive gap in the market, an obvious opportunity to add real value to anyone transacting property, and to help clients make some of the most important decisions they would make.

Acquest was established with the objective of scaling our operations and leveraging our in-depth understanding of the real estate market to help our clients make informed real estate decisions.

How has the journey been thus far, and what sets Acquest apart?

The company has come a long way to become the undisputed market leader. The journey has been challenging at times. In terms of building a company I have made my fair share of mistakes along the way, but we are much better for it. I’m excited about the future and unleashing the potential that Acquest has to make a big impact on our real estate market. We have got to a position where we can scale aggressively because of capabilities and expertise we have developed over several years.

The biggest factor that sets Acquest apart is our in-depth understanding of the real estate landscape. Our unmatched market intelligence, derived from the visibility we have across the entire real estate market, is the foundation of the services we provide. This is something that cannot be replicated easily, this expertise has been built over several years because of the approach we have taken and the passion we have for what we do.

Our experience, gained over the last 14 years – completing over 1,500 transactions valued at over $250 million, handling numerous complex transactions and being involved in most of the large-scale real estate developments in an advisory capacity – gives us an edge.

The range of end-to-end services we provide allows us to service varying real estate requirements our clients have and our extensive inventory of over 8,000 property listings across every property type allows us to give our clients unbiased real estate advice.

My vision for Acquest is to responsibly guide the real estate market, be the real estate partner of choice for all stakeholders in the industry, and constantly strive to improve the way our industry operates.

What is the outlook for the industry and what’s your vision for Acquest?

Our real estate market has the potential to grow exponentially. The rate of growth of our industry is mainly dependent on macroeconomic policies that will allow for steady single-digit interest rates making it conducive for a non-existent mortgage market to grow. This, coupled with a growing middle class, will result in an exponential increase in demand for housing. Another key factor would be improving opportunities in Colombo resulting in increased urbanisation, which in turn will lead to an increased demand for housing in the western province as most high paying jobs will be created in Colombo.

Also, as Sri Lanka further develops as a tourist destination, we will see increased demand from foreigners looking at second homes or investment opportunities in Sri Lanka.

We expect improvements in infrastructure to gradually dilute value which is currently concentrated in central Colombo.

My vision for Acquest is to responsibly guide the real estate market, be the real estate partner of choice for all stakeholders in the industry, and constantly strive to improve the way our industry operates.

What’s the one leadership lesson you learned the hard way?

In the past we have structured our expansion on a model where we expected our teams to drive for results on their own initiative. This approach hasn’t proven to deliver the outcomes I expected. I have realised that structure, processes, properly thought-out targets, and detailed executable strategies are essential to move an organisation forward.

Our unmatched market intelligence, derived from the visibility we have across the entire real estate market is the foundation of the services we provide

As a leader, when you look back, what do you think will matter to you about your legacy?

Honestly, I’m not concerned about my legacy. What matters to me is constantly challenging ourselves and improving our services to add unprecedented value to Acquest’s clients. I want Acquest to be the trusted real estate partner for investors looking at investing in Sri Lanka by addressing the perceived risks of entering a frontier market, and facilitating FDI into the real estate industry and hospitality sector. Most importantly, I want to be able to look back and see that the real estate industry is better off because of the positive influence Acquest has had on our industry.

What are the trends shaping the property market in Sri Lanka?

Increasing land prices and the increasing cost of construction makes ownership of landed property prohibitive because of affordability. This, coupled with evolving lifestyles where convenience is important, leads us to anticipate an increasing shift towards condominium living.

As the founder and CEO of your business, how do you view your purpose?

I view my purpose as driving the company’s strategy, expansion, and vision by enabling a team of passionate and ambitious individuals at Acquest to achieve their full potential and deliver great outcomes for our clients.

I want to be able to look back and see that the real estate industry is better off because of the positive influence Acquest has had on our industry