THE MAN BE­HIND DUBAI’S AF­FORD­ABLE HOUS­ING BOOM

Con­struc­tion and real es­tate bil­lion­aire Rizwan Sa­jan de­tails his jour­ney to the top and where he plans to take Danube Group next

Gulf Business - - REAL STATE - By Robert An­der­son

Your story is of­ten de­scribed as be­ing 'from rags to riches', hav­ing started over in Dubai with noth­ing. Did you ever imag­ine you would be where you are today?

“I moved to Dubai post the Gulf War, in an at­tempt to rein­vent my­self and re­gain all that I had lost in Kuwait. At that mo­ment, in­vest­ing the money I had wisely, set­ting up a busi­ness and mak­ing it prof­itable was the pri­or­ity.

“I was quite sure I would suc­ceed be­cause of my busi­ness acu­men, the prod­ucts I was sell­ing and the mar­ket con­di­tions, but I def­i­nitely did not ex­pect to reach such heights. God has been very kind to me, bring­ing the right op­por­tu­ni­ties at the right time that have re­sulted in all that I have achieved to date.”

You have been one of the lead­ing play­ers in the trend of af­ford­able hous­ing in Dubai, are the days of lux­ury prop­er­ties num­bered?

“At present, more de­vel­op­ers are lean­ing to­wards af­ford­able hous­ing be­cause it of­fers good re­turns and there are a large num­ber of buy­ers in the mar­ket that are look­ing to buy af­ford­able homes. Be­ing the pioneers in af­ford­able hous­ing, we have seen over­whelm­ing de­mand, which has led us to be­lieve that the de­mand for af­ford­able homes will con­tinue to in­crease in the fu­ture. The lux­ury seg­ment def­i­nitely does have its own mar­ket since Dubai is be­ing in­hab­ited by so many na­tion­al­i­ties, but I am sure af­ford­able hous­ing is the fu­ture.”

Much of Danube’s re­cent prop­erty marketing has fo­cussed on Bol­ly­wood stars, has this pro­duced the re­sults you ex­pected and are there plans to change the strat­egy?

“In the gamut of ad­ver­tis­ing it is quite dif­fi­cult to mea­sure re­sults, but hav­ing a fa­mil­iar face such as a celebrity does help to build a con­nect with the au­di­ence and in turn draw eye­balls to our cam­paigns.”

In May last year Danube an­nounced plans to launch three to four hous­ing projects an­nu­ally, do you plan to stick to this goal and could you ex­ceed it?

“We try not to be over am­bi­tious when we launch our projects and en­sure that we sell one pro­ject be­fore we launch an­other. More­over, we don’t have a land bank, and have to con­stantly source new pieces of land to build on. At present, look­ing at the in­ter­est we have gar­nered through our nine projects, we will con­tinue to stick to our cur­rent goal of launch­ing three to four projects a year.”

Given the re­cent down­turn in the mar­ket, do you be­lieve Dubai con­tin­ues to be an at­trac­tive lo­ca­tion for real es­tate in­vestors?

“Dubai has es­tab­lished it­self as the cen­tre of the world and con-

nects the west with the east. The re­cent down­turn might have af­fected the mar­ket sen­ti­ment but I be­lieve this a tem­po­rary phase and every mar­ket needs to un­dergo a cor­rec­tion. In my opinion, Dubai still of­fers the great­est growth op­por­tu­nity for many in­vestors and will def­i­nitely of­fer good value in in­vest­ing in real es­tate at the low­est price amongst other de­vel­oped na­tions.”

How have cur­rent mar­ket con­di­tions af­fected your devel­op­ment plans and have you been forced to hold back any projects?

“Since the in­cep­tion of Danube Prop­er­ties in 2014, we have re­ceived very good re­sponses and have sold out eight projects and have cur­rently sold 50 per cent of our lat­est pro­ject, Bayz. All our projects are un­der con­struc­tion and are pro­gress­ing ahead of schedule. By the end of this year, we plan on hand­ing over four projects, which are Dreamz, Glitz 1, Glitz 2 and Glitz 3. Dreamz is on the verge of com­ple­tion and we will com­mence han­dovers by next month [July].”

Do you have any in­ten­tion to de­velop prop­er­ties out­side of Dubai in the wider UAE and Gulf re­gion?

“At present, we do not have plans to de­velop prop­er­ties out­side of Dubai but we are def­i­nitely eval­u­at­ing op­tions to ex­pand our pres­ence.”

What are your ex­pec­ta­tions for this year in terms of your com­pany’s and the wider real es­tate mar­ket’s per­for­mance?

“The out­look for the rest of the year is look­ing good and we are ex­pect­ing to per­form rea­son­ably well. Since the last quar­ter of 2016 busi­ness has picked up, es­pe­cially in the real es­tate sec­tor.

“As part of the com­pany’s op­er­a­tions in 2017, we launched two prop­er­ties val­ued at Dh­s750m ($204m), opened a new Danube Home Store in Oman and a 10,000 square foot busi­ness to busi­ness fa­cil­ity in Ajman. We in­tend on launch­ing two more projects this year and the han­dover of our first four projects.” GULFBUSINESS.COM\

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