Muhammad Binghatti CEO Of Binghatti On How He Is Shaking Up The Real Estate Industry

Lindsay Judge   |   24-04-2024

If you live in Dubai, you may have noticed a series of residential buildings that have appeared over the last few years with distinctive black, white, and orange graphic designs. These instantly recognisable buildings, which are inspired by sunrise, can be credited to Dubai-based real estate developer BinGhatti, which was founded in 2008 by Emirati entrepreneur Dr Hussain BinGhatti and his sons Muhammad and Ahmed. But during thr recent years, the forward-thinking company has taken its portfolio well beyond that initial concept, partnering with luxury brands on some of the most sought-after real estate developments in the region. Working on luxury buildings in partnership with brands such as Jacob & Co. Bugatti, and, most recently, Mercedes-Benz, BinGhatti has become a pioneer in the luxury real estate sector with a unique approach and an innovative vision.

Behind much of today’s vision is CEO Muhammad BinGhatti, who, alongside his brother Ahmed, after seeing his father’s work ethic and passion growing up, has made it his life’s mission to transform the real estate industry. After studying to be an architect, he imagined a new approach to real estate that would be brand-led, seeing projects in the same way that a luxury automotive or jewellery brand might, to create something that will become a visually beautiful investment. As the company embarks on its latest projects, we find out more about what’s in the pipeline for BinGhatti. 

What is the vision and direction of the BinGhatti group today?

It has always been the same vision since day one. Our vision was to create a real estate brand with a very clear architectural and visual design identity and philosophy. Very similar to what you see in the automotive industry or the fashion industry. Take Mercedes-Benz, for example. If you see a Mercedes-Benz car, you immediately know which brand it is. We wanted to be the pioneers of bringing such design philosophy to the real estate segment. That was part one. 

Part two revolved around expansion on a global level. We brought our name to a global audience through partnerships with international names such as Bugatti, Mercedes-Benz, and Jacob & Co., and they were the first partnerships in the world with such brands. This enabled us to take the BinGhatti brand to a global level. 

Now, part three is scaling in terms of the size of our portfolio and the introduction of technology. We are really focusing on the product and enhancing it technologically to redefine the real estate industry worldwide.

Our approach is very design-led, and as an architect myself, that has always been a focus. I am inspired by brands from different industries, and for us, real estate development isn’t a commercially driven exercise; we approach it more like a brand would. 

Tell us more about the brand partnerships you have so far — what are the benefits for both parties and how do you think those particular brands align with your company?

The benefit for us is obviously the brand positioning—some of these brands have existed for over a century, and they have very renowned names amongst huge audiences with large client bases worldwide. So, I think resonating with specific audiences that perhaps weren’t privy to the real estate industry opened up a whole new audience for us.

Secondly, in terms of brand positioning, it puts our name out there. No one in the real estate industry has been able to work with such brands worldwide; we were the first developers to do so. Also from a design perspective, these brands have design guidelines, philosophies, and technology that are sometimes far more sophisticated than what we have in the real estate industry. So, we reap the benefit of working with such minds. 

Of course, the benefit for them is exposure to a huge industry — exposure in the Middle East, where real estate is a very hot industry — and obviously providing their client base with new asset classes. It’s not just cars or watches or jewellery; it’s also real estate. 

How do you work with the brands on the properties’ design elements, and what are some of the challenges related to this?

In terms of challenges, pretty much everything we do is challenging! Specifically in this endeavour, the challenge is bridging the gap between the approach to an industry like real estate and the approach to jewellery, for example. It’s not necessarily the same approach or the same business model, so I guess it’s about finding that consensus and understanding how to go about specific exercises. 

More interestingly, the most rewarding part of the process is sitting down with these brands and working with them on many levels, from design to technology to innovation. And for me, this is the part that can be very enjoyable and beneficial to really make sure that the products we are designing truly depict the DNA of the brand. 

Tell us about technology and innovation at BinGhatti and where you are heading with this. 

As a company, we have always focused on technology, which we have invested a lot in for the past five years. Right now, we are looking at things like AI and sustainable technology. For example, in the Mercedes-Benz properties, we are looking into introducing a facade that spans 75,000 square feet outside of the project, which is envisaged to generate energy for up to 40 electric vehicles per day. We are considering other intricate details. If you look at the projects within our portfolio, many of them have flyback mechanisms for the kitchen cabinets; we have voice recognition software to control lighting and air conditioning. And we’re really trying to take real estate as a product to the next level. We’ve seen it happen in the smartphone industry and the automotive industry, with brands like Apple and Tesla. And quite similarly, we are trying to achieve similar leaps and triumphs in the real estate industry through technology and AI. 

On a global scale, where do you think BinGhatti fits today, and how does Dubai as a market fit into what’s happening with the industry globally? 

I always feel that the real estate industry has so much more to offer, and I say this when I compare real estate to the automotive industry. When you buy a car, the technology you get for the price you pay is so sophisticated. So, the question I ask myself is: ‘How can we achieve such a level of technological advancement in the real estate industry?’ That’s really ultimately what we are focused on as an organisation right now, and of course, scalability is a big thing for us now. We’ve doubled if not tripled, the size of our portfolio over the past three years, and as things stand, we’ve deployed one billion dirhams in plot acquisitions in the past six months. That’s enabled us to compile an additional AED10 billion worth of real estate projects, adding to the portfolio that was already worth AED20 billion. So, we’re now sitting on a portfolio of 30 million dirhams that will materialise within 2024. 

Are your properties still varied in terms of the levels and clients you’re targeting?

Yes absolutely. This was also part of the vision from day one, to have a fully integrated product line. An all-encompassing product line. We have tapped into all the niches in the market. We still offer our mainstream luxury products in a variety of locations. We have products in locations like Jumeirah Village Circle starting from 650,000 dirhams. We have products in areas like Business Bay, where we have products that start from 1.5 million dirhams, but then we also go up to 750 million penthouses! So we try to cover all areas of the market. 

What do you look for in brands that you might partner with?

We look for brands that are design-led, who understand design and think in a design-orientated way. We are a design-led organisation, and we want to work with brands that use that same approach. We also look at partners who are very innovative in their respective industries. We look at brands that have very rooted heritage and have existed for a long time. Brands that have a loyal fanbase. Ultimately, what we look for are leaders in the industries. If you take a brand like Bugatti, it’s the leading hypercar or automotive brand that is not comparable with other supercars. It is the same with Mercedes when it comes to that segment of automobiles. Mercedes-Benz has been dominating the automotive industry when it comes to luxury in the sense of that asset class. I think, more than anything, we should look for brands that break boundaries and go above and beyond. If you look at a brand like Jacob & Co., the timepieces that they are making are ground-breaking and technologically different in the horology industry. The mechanisms they have in their watches and the designs are quite radical, and that’s what we look for. 

What else is in the pipeline for BinGhatti this year?

We’ve been busy buying plots across Dubai. We recently acquired a big plot in Business Bay, spending around 100 million dollars on it. We’ve deployed quite a significant amount in areas such as Jumeirah Village Circle and Business Bay, and we are expanding in these locations. So, there will be many launches happening this year, and it’s very exciting. We recently launched BinGhatti Phantom in Jumeirah Village Circle with a total gross development value of 700 million dirhams and it’s already half sold out. 

What are your thoughts on the outlook of the luxury real estate industry in Dubai and its future direction?

I’ve been doing Dubai real estate for a long time, and honestly, this is the best time I have seen the market perform. I envisage the market continuing to perform well. If you want me to translate that into anticipated numbers, this year specifically, I think we will see a growth in prices between 12 to 15 per cent, perhaps. Rentals will also continue to grow by perhaps another 10 per cent, and I definitely think the market is going to continue to flourish, at least for the next 24 months. I don’t see any signs of a slowdown. The population in Dubai has grown; at least 100,000 new families have arrived here, and a lot of people are choosing to become homeowners from all around the world. Things seem very positive, and I envisage them continuing in this way. 

What drives you and your vision as an entrepreneur, and what advice would you give to others who are thinking of starting their own business?

My advice is to be obsessed and don’t be average! It’s all about that drive and really being committed to something 110 per cent. Being obsessed to the extent that sometimes people will think you’re crazy or that you’re a perfectionist, but you have to do what you have to do to make things work and never give up on your dreams. You must persevere and be ready to fall ten times and get back up on the eleventh time because you will fall. You will incur mistakes on the way, and I think one very important lesson is that failure is a natural part of the process towards success. You have to experiment 100 times to succeed once. 

When we set off on this journey, my vision was to create a global impact and show the entire real estate industry how real estate can be thought of differently and approached like a brand. We see beautiful brands in different industries, and I always felt like real estate could be less commercial and more brand-focused, and that’s what I’m trying to do. 

What is the professional motto you live by?

One of my favourite quotes is by Paulo Coelho. He said, “the secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” 

That’s definitely my mindset right now. After so many years of struggle, perseverance, and very dark moments, I think once you can break through and find that light at the end of the tunnel, the reward far outweighs the dark moments. 

What was the biggest challenge you face now?

My biggest challenge is my struggle within myself because once you break a certain boundary in your life and you realise you were able to break something that you thought was impossible, it becomes a never-ending cycle of constantly trying to better yourself. And again, it’s setting the bar higher for yourself. You must keep progressing and challenging yourself to do better and go further. It is the small details that make a big difference and help you to improve, even if you are doing well. So, my biggest challenge would be competing with myself, and it’s not easy! 

What advice would you give to your younger self? 

I would tell myself to really come to terms with failing. Failure is OK. When you fail the first time in entrepreneurship, it feels like the end of the world, but when you don’t realise it, this will be one of many failures that you are going to face. No one is there to tell you that, and if you don’t have that expectation, you will feel devastated the first time you face such a situation. So, I think starting with that mindset helps you a lot as an entrepreneur. 

What message would you send to our readers to sum up your work and why they should be interested in following your journey?

If anyone is interested in seeing real estate around the world change, follow me and watch it being changed! I think I can confidently make that claim, and it is my lifetime commitment to do so for the industry. I think it’s part of my service to the industry to do that. We have made great strides so far, and we’ve done some things that were thought to be impossible before. We’ve brought brands on board who weren’t necessarily interested in working in this industry, and in that sense, we have started to redefine the industry, and we will continue to do so in many ways.