IN­VEST­MENTS HAVE MADE ME THE PER­SON I AM TO­DAY

▶ Lon­don-born en­tre­pre­neur Shahzad Bhatti tells Keith Fer­nan­dez why ev­ery­one should buy a home to se­cure a sus­tain­able in­come

The National - News - - BUSINESS MONEY -

Shahzad Bhatti is the founder of two home­grown start-ups, The CoDubai – one of the UAE’s first pri­vate main­land in­cu­ba­tors ap­proved by the Dubai gov­ern­ment – and Share This Space, a book­ing plat­form for short-term rental lo­ca­tions. The Co- Dubai was set up in 2015 with the sec­ond ven­ture launched a year later. Mr Bhatti moved to the UAE from the UK in 2009 to work in real es­tate but soon re­alised his pas­sion lay in en­trepreneur­ship. The Bri­ton, 32, lives in Bar­sha Heights and spends a week each month in Lon­don to ex­pand his busi­ness.

Q How did your up­bring­ing shape your at­ti­tude to­wards money? A

I grew up in East Lon­don at an ex­cit­ing time in the early 2000s. I’ve seen such huge progress and change in this part of Lon­don over the years, from the de­vel­op­ment of the Strat­ford Olympic Park to be­com­ing home to the city’s cre­ative and tech com­mu­ni­ties. This re­ally helped me look at the world in a dif­fer­ent way.

How much were you paid for your first job?

My first job was work­ing for Don’t Panic Me­dia in Lon­don. It was a pack handed out at events, fes­ti­vals and clubs and was full of amaz­ing art­work, posters and sam­ples. It was a new way of con­nect­ing with au­di­ences out­side the tra­di­tional me­dia chan­nels such as print. I used to cre­ate their monthly re­ports on Pow­erPoint for £20 (Dh95) per re­port.

What is your big­gest fi­nan­cial mile­stone?

Be­ing able to pur­chase my first home in Dubai in 2015 was def­i­nitely a mile­stone. It’s a one-bed­room flat in Bar­sha Heights that I con­verted into a two-bed. Be­ing able to pur­chase ad­di­tional prop­er­ties as in­vest­ment was the big­gest mile­stone though. Since 2015, I’ve ac­quired an­other five be­tween Lon­don and the UAE that are a mix of res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial. Be­sides the homes I live in – in Dubai and one in Lon­don – the res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties are rented out, as are the com­mer­cial spa­ces. These in­vest­ments and fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions have helped me be­come what I am to­day.

Are you a spen­der or a saver?

Un­for­tu­nately, a spen­der. I spend a lot on travel. Like most peo­ple, I love to travel and ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent cul­tures. This year, I spent some time in the coun­try­side of Italy, in a re­gion called Um­bria which was a lovely get­away and felt like I was trans­ported back to a much sim­pler time. Since I am based in Dubai, it’s great that so many lo­ca­tions are within a short dis­tance. How­ever, I spend at least a week ev­ery month in Lon­don since we ex­panded The Co- Dubai to The Co- Dal­ston in Lon­don.

What prompted you to launch you own busi­ness?

It’s some­thing I’ve al­ways known I wanted to do. Even at a young age, I launched a school mag­a­zine and sold it for 50p an is­sue. Then through­out high school, I dab­bled in early web­site de­vel­op­ment for some lo­cal busi­nesses up un­til univer­sity, when I launched my first real es­tate agency sell­ing Dubai prop­er­ties in the UK while still study­ing. There’s never been a spe­cific point where I de­cided to launch my own busi­ness – it was all au­to­matic for me.

What has been your best in­vest­ment?

I stick to good old-fash­ioned real es­tate. One of the best in­vest­ments is my Lon­don prop­erty, where I still live to­day and have a lot of won­der­ful mem­o­ries. It was a two-bed­room flat in East Lon­don which I pur­chased for £350,000. This is a ma­ture mar­ket which gives a con­sis­tent re­turn on in­vest­ment and even dur­ing tough eco­nomic times isn’t as af­fected as other real es­tate mar­kets around the world.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?

Yes, there’s been times when bills have piled up. It’s im­por­tant to keep on top of bills. I would rec­om­mend keep­ing credit cards to a min­i­mum. In fact, I keep my credit card limit to Dh5,000 so it’s only used in emer­gen­cies.

Do you have any fi­nan­cial re­grets?

This would be launch­ing a sec­ond busi­ness at the same time as The Co- Dubai. This sig­nif­i­cantly ate up re­sources and funds which had a neg­a­tive ef­fect on both busi­nesses. In hind­sight, it was per­haps a lit­tle too early to launch that as the funds could have achieved a lot more had it been in­vested in the one busi­ness.

Do you plan for the fu­ture?

Of course. You have to, es­pe­cially when you have a rel­a­tively young busi­ness. The in­ter­est­ing part is when the lines be­tween dream­ing for the fu­ture and plan­ning for the fu­ture meet. One of my dreams for the fu­ture is to cre­ate co-work­ing and com­mu­nity spa­ces for small busi­nesses and en­trepreneur­s in un­der­de­vel­oped coun­tries. There is so much ta­lent in ev­ery hu­man that needs a sup­port sys­tem to grow and evolve.

What fi­nan­cial goals have you al­ready met?

To be able to pur­chase a home and stop hav­ing to rent and to have a sus­tain­able in­come. This is al­ways one of the first key mile­stones we should strive for.

Do you use a fi­nan­cial ad­viser?

I haven’t met the right fi­nan­cial ad­viser yet. I think this comes down to build­ing a re­la­tion­ship with some­one who un­der­stands you and doesn’t have a spe­cific agenda of sell­ing you prod­ucts which they may gain a com­mis­sion from.

What lux­u­ries are im­por­tant to you?

Ul­ti­mately, we all have very ba­sic needs when it comes to liv­ing so I think ev­ery­thing above com­fort­able liv­ing can be seen as a “lux­ury”. What’s a lux­ury to me? Be­ing able to spend qual­ity time with fam­ily and loved ones.

How much do you have in your wal­let right now?

I have Dh50 in my wal­let – but I tend to use my Ap­ple Wal­let more these days.

What car do you drive?

I’ve taken a lean ap­proach which is to use a cor­po­rate leas­ing pro­gramme for the com­pany. This way we have all the bills (such as in­sur­ance, car reg­is­tra­tion and main­te­nance) taken care of and most im­por­tantly any­one in the com­pany can use the car while I am away, which is at least 10 days a month. As for my week­end car, I have a vin­tage 1982 Mercedes-Benz SL380.

Do you pre­fer us­ing a credit card or cash?

Debit card over cash for sure. I’m also a big fan of Ap­ple Pay, which makes things sim­pler, faster and smoother. I try not to use my credit card un­less I’m trav­el­ling or for emer­gen­cies.

What fi­nan­cial ad­vice would you of­fer your younger self?

I think I’m still learn­ing what ad­vice I would give to my­self.

Reem Mo­hammed / The Na­tional

Shahzad Bhatti set up a a real es­tate agency in Dubai while he was still study­ing at univer­sity

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