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Despite the tremendous response his projects have received, Rizwan Sajan admits his foray into real estate was a big risk. “Frankly speaking, when I started I was a little nervous,” he confides, belying the bold, flamboyant persona associated with the self-made billionaire. But he adds that the success of Dreamz, his first real estate development project, quickly restored his confidence in the market.
Sajan, Founder and Chairman of Danube Group who rose to prominence as a construction materials supplier before diversifying into property development two years ago, has since launched Glitz, which was also a sales success, and recently Ritz, which the company said was sold out. In an interview with PW, Sajan talks about the Dh300-million Ritz project, his tolerance for risk and new business ideas.
Have things turned out the way you expected them to be?
Better than what I expected. To be honest, when I started this venture, I didn’t start at the right time, when the market was booming. And frankly speaking, when I started I was a little nervous as to what’s going to happen. My first break was Dreamz. That gave me a lot of confidence. Then we started Glitz I, II and III, and the response was tremendous. Now I’m coming up with Ritz.
So how much of a risk was it when you decided to venture into real estate?
I take calculated risks. I always see how much I will lose if it doesn’t work out. I don’t think how much I will make. So when I launched Dreamz, I was thinking how much will I lose and whether I can afford that loss. And if I can afford that loss, I will take that risk. So if I don’t sell for any reason, I know I have an appetite to take that risk without going to anybody or any bank asking for money. I can develop it on my own.
How big is your development portfolio now?
As of now it’s Dh1.5 billion. I expected it to be a little bit higher than this — Dh1.5 billion is nothing, other people are launching much bigger projects. But we want to be very careful because we are playing with other people’s money.
You’ve said that your customers enjoy a luxury quotient they don’t pay for. What do you mean?
We use the same luxury materials we supply to other luxury buildings. If you go to the show apartment, you will see the fittings we use are the same being used in the Burj Khalifa. Why am I able to do this? Because we are a building materials supplier. I get a special discount, which other developers don’t. And I can pass this savings to my developments.
Do you have a dream project you want to build?
I don’t have any dream project. My dream is to offer something better, something special in every project, every product. Earlier it was the payment plan of 1 per cent per month. Then we offered this innovation of converting a one-bedroom into a two-bedroom. Maybe I’ll come up with something better in the next project.
Do you think up a new business every year?
I don’t think about it, but of course it goes in my mind. Like today, while I’m talking to you, there’s this thing that suddenly came into my mind, that why don’t I start a hotel business — Danube hotel. I don’t know if it’s going to be implemented or not. Right now I’m busy with my property business, but if I have extra time, I will look into it and start something. It could be called Danube hotel.
Tell us about Ritz.
Ritz is in Al Furjan. It comprises 450 fully furnished studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. It is 800m from a proposed Metro station. Studios start at Dh430,000, one-bedroom apartment from Dh750,000 and two-bedroom from Dh990,000. The majority of furniture are imported from Spain. In this project, a one-bedroom converts into a two-bedroom. The same furniture is used in the studio apartment where in the day time it is a complete living room, and at night you just pull a wall cabinet that becomes your bed.
Glitz is running four to five months ahead of schedule [It is set to be completed in the summer of 2018]. If you compare this with all the other private developers, I can assure you not a single developer has completed before time.
When we launched Glitz, we offered this excellent payment plan of 1 per cent per month. With Ritz, I wanted to offer something better, and that’s this innovative idea where you buy a one-bedroom apartment and you can use it as a two-bedroom apartment.
Has this concept been implemented in Dubai?
This is the first time. I’ve never heard of anyone doing this here. My son, who goes to different furniture fairs, came up with the idea. He said daddy why don’t we have this innovation. He showed me a couple of videos and I said yes, this is a very good idea, a great innovation. And this was only made possible because of our business in building materials. We can source materials ourselves.
What’s the difference between Ritz and the previous projects?
For Ritz we are offering fully furnished units, which was not the case in Glitz.
Can you talk about the naming convention you use for your projects? What’s with the letter Z?
I don’t know, I’ve been very lucky with letter Z, so we’re following the tradition. We go through a little research, but there’s no other reason, except that I’ve been lucky with letter Z. The first product was Dreamz, then Glitz and Ritz. Maybe the fourth or fifth will also have the letter Z.
Would you mind living in any of these projects?
If I didn’t have the money to stay in Palm Jumeirah, by all means I will live there. With the luxury I’m offering, nobody would mind living there.
Should a buyer be bothered by the ongoing price correction in the market?
Of course they should be bothered. If I’m a property investor, I should also be bothered. But I have a simple calculation to explain [why we shouldn’t worry too much]. Dubai has a population of 2.4 million and in five years the Dubai Government expects the population to grow to 3.4 million. We are talking about one million extra people in the next five years. With four people in one apartment, we require 250,000 apartments in the next five years.
Are you already thinking of your next project?
If this is successful, it will be Ritz II.
Do you have a time frame when you launch your new projects?
Normally we launch in four to five months.
Source: Jobannie Tabada, Features Editor, Property Weekly