Emirati property developer and entrepreneur Mohammed Bin Zaal is a visionary.
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bin Zaal saw the changing landscape of the working world and set plans in place to provide new forward-thinking concepts and businesses for new generations. He has pioneered several unique developments, thinking outside the box to offer solutions for the modern world. His father, Zaal Mohammed Zaal was the brains behind Dubai living concept Al Barari, for which Bin Zaal was the CEO for many years and he too has the same entrepreneurial spirit as his father and it has since led him to work on his own projects.
After leaving his father’s company, Bin Zaal shifted focus to his first solo development; KOA Canvas. This modern real estate project was designed with the vision of changing the way we work and live in Dubai. More than just a retail estate, KOA creates communities that reflect the new global outlook of the region and cater to a new generation of people who demand individual expression. KOA puts innovation, substance and craftsmanship at the forefront with a brand new way of living. At the heart of KOA is Nasab a private workspace and social club that combines work, wellness and creativity in a modern environment. Nasab invites its members to work in an innovative way, intricately weaving leisure and entertainment into daily working life. We discover more about this unique concept and Bin Zaal’s plans for the future.
This past year has been a strange one for all – what is a lesson you have learnt and have you changed anything in your life or business?
As a business, we learnt to move quickly and to be responsive to the needs of our members and potential customers. There is no point holding on to legacy plans and processes. The world changed very quickly and we had to look forward and adapt. We changed our growth plan, our product lines and our marketing approach in the span of a month, and for Nasab in particular, it has been a really positive move.
On a personal level, 2020 taught me the value of slowing down. Like many, the “always-on, always running” mentality was setting the tone for my life, I just didn’t realise there was another option. 2020 has been a huge wake-up call for me, it’s shifted my entire outlook on how I live my life and my values.
What was the goal you set out to achieve with Nasab?
The way we work has changed. People need flexibility, mobility and they want to be inspired. Nasab was created in response to this changing work dynamic. We created a place that inspires great work and provides a platform for cultural education and allows people to make meaningful associations with like-minded individuals.
With so many changes in the way we work – in your opinion what is the future of the traditional office job?
The future of the traditional office job is going to be the one that creates productively, cost efficiencies and attracts the greatest talent. There will not be a one-size-fits-all model. I think we’ll see many different hybrids – remote workspaces, working from home, virtual offices merging with more formal HQs. Decision-makers need to be asking themselves how they can attract the best talent and give them an environment that allows them to do their best work.
What do you think members can gain from being part of the Nasab community?
For freelancers or small companies, it is the ability to be surrounded by like-minded people and potential collaborators. We give them an environment they would not be able to create for themselves. For SME’s, they can attract talent through the environment they can provide to their team. They also see huge benefits through cost, savings and flexibility.
Your concept is appealing to a new generation of people – how would you sum up the future generation and what do you think are the biggest differences compared with generations before?
The young generation has access to so much knowledge, so much inspiration, so many options. They see every purchase decision as an extension of themselves so the values and emotional facets of products and services become very important for them.
To what extent do you consider the importance of looking after our wellness when we all live such busy lives?
It’s everything. Mental and physical wellbeing is intrinsically linked to our output and performance as professionals. It’s a non-negotiable investment for anyone that wants to get the most from every facet of their life.
Tell us about the KOA estate in general and what makes it so unique?
The biggest point of difference for KOA is that it seeks to bring all aspects of the grassroots cultural movement that is taking shape in Dubai into residential living. There has been an ongoing shift in the region where we have seen creative industries, personalisation and community-focused initiatives become more and more in demand. These trends have touched on many different sectors but haven’t been fully realised in the places where people live. KOA brings this together through not only the tangible design elements of the project but also through amenities, activities and services available to residents. What we have created is a real ‘members’ community where residents have access to all the elements they need to enrich their lifestyles. KOA’s strength lies in creating unique spaces and that are focused on enhancing human experiences.
Tell us a little about your choices in architecture and design in relation to your projects.
For everything I create I ask myself one question; “would this be as relevant in 20 years as it is now?” Timelessness is the one constant through all of my architecture and design choices. Nasab, and even KOA Canvas and LOWE – cannot be categorised into any trend or single design style. They are based on craftsmanship, beautiful materials and art pieces that tell a story. Multi-layered designs that resonate with and reflect the individuals that use the spaces.
Where do you stand on sustainability with your projects?
The connection and commitment to nature is one of KOA’s defining characteristics. The grounds of KOA Canvas and Nasab preserve the ecological balance and sustainability of the local area through landscaping that’s focused on celebrating the region’s indigenous plant species. It’s about paying homage to the real, local beauty of the region and not imposing excess strain on the environment.
What would you still like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
I’m very happy with the progress we’ve made. We have been able to shift perspectives on what a work environment should look feel like and modernise the mindset around how great work can be achieved. There is still a long way to go. We are a young company and in a short time, we’ve built an incredible platform for future growth and progress in this arena.
As an entrepreneur, what advice would you give to others who want to follow their own dream?
Having the right team around you is everything. Find people who share your vision and values for your project. You can’t compromise on this. Take the time to find the people who truly understand what you are trying to accomplish and complement and enhance your skills. And of course, just start; once you start moving in the right direction, the rest flows.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My wife is my biggest inspiration.
What does the month of Ramadan mean to you?
It means reflection, gratitude and family. It’s a special time for me and my family, especially now that I can start to teach my boys about it, and its place and value in our lives. It’s a challenge every year, it’s a humbling experience that I am very grateful for.