Hustle, Innovation, Family: How The UAE’s Own DAMAC Properties Are Taking Center Stage In The Real Estate Market

Anika Eliz Baby

Whether you’ve just come into the city or been here long, the name “DAMAC” is no stranger. Their story is one of grit, adapting, and most importantly- family.

The year is 1982. Dubai has just struck oil and gas at Margham 1. A plethora of opportunities have opened up in the soon-to-be city of dreams. Channelling this spirit, entrepreneur Hussain Sajwani begins his catering company in Abu Dhabi

Growing with the country, DAMAC quickly expands into developing and selling small hotels. By 2002, DAMAC Properties is born. By 2013, it was the first major property firm in Dubai to list on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

Since the beginning, DAMAC has always been about predicting the market and catering to customer needs

A great example is how Hussain Sajwani was able to predict and prepare for the financial crisis in 2008, as explained by his son Ali Hussain Sajwani– the Managing Director of DAMAC Properties.

“My father is a big risk taker, very aggressive. He expanded in a large way and then the financial crisis happened in 2008- which he saw before other people. He really saw that around 6-9 months before everyone else did. And he started taking action earlier. And that’s what helped us a lot.”

In 2010, while the city was slowly coming out of the crisis, Sajwani was making strategic moves to setting up Damac Hills 2. He proceeded to buy 50 million square feet of land in the middle of the desert.

“Everyone was telling him- are you crazy, what are you doing?… And today that’s our signature flagship property. We’ve just kept expanding since then, growing, focusing on the customer, focusing on the product, on the quality.”

In many ways, DAMAC has been a reflection of Dubai’s diverse shifting interests

Ali Sajwani insists that the success of DAMAC is owed to their customers.

In 2021, DAMAC observed a peculiar trend in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People were leaving apartments, and they wanted to move to houses. And the main reason was the big backyard.”

With a sense of understanding that comes from knowing the community, the team decided to “build villas in the sky”– and this thought led to the creation of the Cavalli Tower.

“High ceilings, huge terraces, infinity pools on every terrace…we sold out in 48 hours” 

Back in 2007, DAMAC had the genius idea of combining two of Dubai’s prominent qualities- luxury brands with Real Estate- giving birth to creations like the DAMAC Heights Fendi Casa and Cavalli Towers. The group had officially set a benchmark, and several competitors continue to attempt replicas.

“It’s all about brand affinity…People like being affiliated to brands. It gives them a sense of belonging, a sense of place. And I think property is no different.” 

The Sajwani family holds the concept of family and community especially close to their heart

It is this strong love that the Emirati family extends to the city too. This affection has resulted in Damac being the pride of Dubai as we know it today.

Ali Sajwani began working at DAMAC at the tender age of 11. Passed down from his father, he also has a strong sense of work ethic. This meant pulling long hours every day, working in the office at 8 am on a Friday morning (which was the weekend back then!), being on the ground and understanding the work of the labourers, and even making cold calls while with the sales team. The Managing Director has definitely earned his reputation.

Today he has also ventured into creating Amali Towers- a project he is developing with Amira Sajwani, the Managing Director, Sales & Development at DAMAC Properties and Founder & CEO of Prypco. Together, the siblings are developing a unique luxury project focused on beachfront living. Amali intends to bring the resort lifestyle to Dubai- “It’s like you’re in a mini vacation every evening.”

Ali Sajwani’s deep-rooted affection for his family is also reflected in the way he doesn’t fail to mention his 2-year-old son who he fondly describes as, “my pride and joy” when asked about his future plans.

“Focusing on the family business, and focusing on the family itself as well. Making sure us siblings always work together- always have a close relationship. That’s key. It’s [also] very important to take the business forward and to be happy as well. Family is everything today.”

Here are Ali Sajwani’s key predictions and tips for the real estate market in Dubai:

  1. Rent prices will continue to go up, but not in comparison to international prices. “If you compare the prices in Dubai to London, Hong Kong, New York, we’re up to 80% cheaper than some of those global cities. You’re still getting great value for money in Dubai.” He also mentions the added values of better security, lifestyle, entertainment; and less taxes
  2. Buy a property over renting in Dubai. “You get the capital appreciation”
  3. The property market is going to go much. much further in the next 30 years. In the last 30 years, Dubai has already come out as a global city. “It’s attracting all this foreign wealth,” he says in reference to all the companies and hedge funds moving here. “There is a global brain drain of talent, and everyone wants to move to Dubai.”
  4. The concept of luxury properties will keep getting bigger and more prominent.
  5. Go for beachfront living- prime products as close to the beach as possible. “In real estate, it’s all about location. The supply for lands near the water, near the beach, is extremely finite here in Dubai.” He explains how these are the types of properties to run out quickly. “With the luxury market booming so much, that’s the product that these types of people prefer to buy.”

The Lovin Dubai Show: An interview with Ali Hussain Sajwani

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