Abbas Sajwani, Founder of AHS Group discusses his latest business ventures and his ambitious plans for the future.
Emirati entrepreneur Abbas Sajwani has been surrounded by the real estate industry his whole life. Son of Hussain Sajwani, the Founder of DAMAC Group, he was inspired by his father to open his own company in 2017 at the age of just 18. AHS Group’s portfolio includes Ventures, Properties and Investments and it has an ambitious objective to be one of the leading business groups in the Middle East by 2025. With entrepreneurship in his blood, Abbas has big plans to expand the business further and follow in his father’s footsteps by entering the property development market.
Earlier this year, Abbas set up the property sector of the business after seeing a gap in the market for super high-end properties in the UAE. Sajwani noticed many high-income expats were beginning to move to Dubai during the global pandemic and he wanted to find a way to facilitate their needs, providing no-expense-spared homes. AHS Properties focuses on renovating and selling premium properties within some of Dubai’s most luxury neighbourhoods. The company currently has four luxury villas on the portfolio with its flagship property in Emirates Hills being valued at AED150 million.
Can you tell us why you decided to launch this new real estate sector as part of AHS Group?
I opened the company last March as I started to see that Dubai was changing in terms of the luxury, high-end property market. The people it was attracting was different. Many were coming from Europe, Russia, American and India. Because of the COVID restrictions everywhere else, all these nationalities decided to come to Dubai and that directly boosted the high-end market. When you are dealing with the super-wealthy, they don’t mind spending on houses. They don’t negotiate or try to lower the price. They know what they want, they like the location and the product and so they buy it. So, I saw the demand for high-end properties increasing and there was limited supply. The top communities in Dubai remain as Palm Jumeirah, Emirates Hills, and Bulgari Island. There are houses available but many of them are starting to age now and the person who wants something uber-luxurious, isn’t happy with that. The people who are coming to Dubai don’t have the time to come and completely re-do something, they want things to be ready. When I started this sector of the business, the market had already started to pick up, for example, in one Frond on The Palm Jumeirah, a house sold for one hundred and ten million dirhams – the highest price for a single house – so I think the high-end market is very stable. The buyers are all end-users, so we don’t have house flipping, people are buying these houses to actually live in. That gave me the comfort of the market sustaining.
So far, you have four villas in the portfolio, what are the plans for the company moving forward?
Yes we have started off with the four villas. Our main property is in Emirates Hills – it’s a 45,000 square-foot house and it has all the amenities you can think of. From seven bedrooms to an indoor club, indoor pool, outdoor pool, cinema room, cigar lounge, sauna, steam room, spa – this house has become our flagship. On Palm Jumeirah, we are not able to have a house of that size as the land is much smaller, but we have taken three villas there which we are working on. So, the idea is to stay within villas and super-high-end properties.
How do you go about finding buyers for these properties?
It’s not as hard as you think! I used to think it would be difficult, but today, there are more buyers than you would think. And we are dealing with the top brokers in town, so they bring the clients. The idea that a client comes only occasionally is no longer the case. High-value transactions are happening every week.
What do you think is drawing people to Dubai?
Obviously, in the summer Dubai is not very attractive because of the weather, but in the winter, it is the nicest place you can be. I’m not saying this out of bias – the security here is unbelievable, it is so safe you can leave your door open, and you cannot do that anywhere else. The weather is another aspect because we have a great climate here. And then there’s the lifestyle – we have the best restaurants, the best shopping malls, the best of everything and the quality of life is I think, the best. Also of course we have no tax which is a big drawing point for people. The location is excellent and with channels like Zoom, many people can live here and work for their companies elsewhere.
What made you decide to launch your own company?
We first ventured out a couple of years ago, but this is the first time we are entering the property sector. We are already active in facility management; we have a media company and an investment division which has investments around the world. So, AHS Group is already established, but we decided to get into property because we saw this gap in the market and the demand was there.
You have seen your family in the real estate business growing up, how do you think that has inspired you?
I learnt everything from my dad – every detail –he is the one that motivates me and pushes me. Most of my inspiration and where I get my ideas from comes from him.
Tell us about your relationship with your brothers and sister?
We are four siblings which is a good size family! As a family, we are very close. We have regular outings – my dad likes us to spend time together, so we have a lot of family dinners, lunches, and trips. We have a very close bond.
This year we are celebrating fifty years of the UAE – what does that occasion mean to you and what is a message you would send to your country on the occasion?
What the UAE’s leaders were able to do in just fifty years is incredible. No country in the world was able to achieve what the UAE has achieved in such a short time. From creating a global city to all the investments abroad. What they were able to achieve overall is something amazing and I think it’s unseen before.
What is something you would still like to do that you haven’t done yet?
In terms of business, I like to see where the market takes me and there are always new opportunities, especially in today’s times with things like Bitcoin. I think these kinds of things are amazing. Going back to the property market, one of the big reasons for prices being high is also connected to Bitcoin, you have many Bitcoin buyers who have moved to Dubai. There was recently a transaction on the Palm for a villa for 20 million dollars and the person paid in Bitcoin. Right now, I want to focus on the property market, and I think there is a lot of room for expansion. We are also looking at international cities that have super high-end properties.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that you have?
In the high-end sector, I don’t see too many challenges. We don’t have the challenge of too much supply as there is in the mid-market because you can’t create another Palm or Emirates Hills overnight. In this business, your margins could become less as your land cost goes up for example in certain areas. This would be the main challenge that could occur.
What advice would you give to people to start investing in this country and what are the selling points to coming to do business in Dubai?
The ease of doing business and how it’s super easy to open a company here. The returns are still great compared to other markets, the initiatives that are put in place every day by the government drive the market. For example, the new initiative of giving longer visas etc., all these kinds of things bring investors to the UAE and help the market to grow. Giving passports to people who have lived all their lives here makes them feel more secure. It allows people to feel that they are at home. So, these initiatives from the government and the leadership of the country are what is driving the market.
Who is a leader from the UAE that inspires you and why?
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. How he built the city in just fifty years and how it competes with the world’s best cities inspires me. Dubai has reached the levels of New York and London which took hundreds of years to build, and we have done it in such a short time. If you look around at the buildings, the infrastructure, it’s incredible. It’s all coming from the top and the leadership is excellent in all aspects.