Power Letters 2022: Rizwan Sajan, chairman and founder, Danube Group
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Power Letters 2022: Rizwan Sajan, chairman and founder, Danube Group

Power Letters 2022: Rizwan Sajan, chairman and founder, Danube Group

We opened our showrooms in Uzbekistan and Nepal and are planning to take Danube Homes to more than 50 countries worldwide

For most businesses, the year 2021 was a year of adjustment and consolidation. However, for Danube Group, it was a year of growth and expansion. When the Covid-19 pandemic forced a lockdown in March 2020, we took a few important steps. One of them was not to panic and take a realistic view of the business activities. Covid-19 is a short-term challenge and it should not affect the long-term sustainability of our business.

The lockdown gave us more time and we took this opportunity to listen to the team members – getting to know them better and develop a new strategy for sustainable growth. So, when the lockdown was lifted, we were ready with a new strategy – that combined offline and online sales. We were quick to get back on our feet and by August-September 2020, we charted our growth plan. As a result, by the beginning of 2021, our business started to grow. So, unlike other businesses, we were back in the growth mode from the beginning of 2021.

In June 2021, we launched a new hospitality solutions division for the tourism, hospitality and hotels – sourcing some of the best products and services from all over the world. We also launched our new residential property – the Dhs475m Skyz project in Dubai – due to increased demand for new homes.

Danube Homes – our home improvement division – has started to grow internationally through franchise agreements. We opened our showrooms in Uzbekistan and Nepal this year and are planning to take Danube Homes to more than 50 countries worldwide. In fact, we are aiming to take the brand to every country where Emirates Airline flies to. The pandemic has changed customer behaviour. We know that customers might not come to our showrooms the way they used to earlier due to the change in their preferences. Therefore, we have to take the showroom to the customer’s homes.

Since we had already developed the soft infrastructure for e-commerce sales prior to the pandemic, we took the opportunity during the pandemic to sharpen our focus on our e-commerce platform. Our digital channel has picked up significantly. Sales are shifting from offline to online gradually and so we have to convert our facilities to become fulfilment centres.

Looking at the UAE, some sectors are performing better than others, such as the real estate sector, which has seen an increase in the number of transactions and the recovery of the lost value of properties. This growth has been led by the UAE’s immigration reforms, reduction of fees and charges and the decision to eliminate the requirement to mandatorily have an Emirati sponsor for local companies. We have seen a lot of wealthy people from different countries relocate to the UAE. Some sectors will take time to fully recover – maybe in 2022 or 2023. But the mood is upbeat and investor confidence is back. Foreign investors are setting up companies and relocating their families to the UAE due to the safety, security, quality of life, world-class infrastructure and connectivity and ease of doing business that it offers. This is creating employment. The retail sector is picking up and so is tourism and hospitality.

I think by the first quarter of 2022, most industries will recover substantially. However, the full recovery will depend on how the Covid-19 situation changes in other countries as well as the spread of new and deadly variants – that might put things in jeopardy. With the new omicron variant, for example, we have to re-assess the situation and the outlook – if it gets out of hand. So, although we remain careful in our projection for the future, we nevertheless, remain positive. For Danube, 2021 was a year of return to growth and 2022 will be a year of continued growth and expansion – into new verticals and new territories. I believe we now have a solid track record and a strong team to become a global business.

We will grow vertically and expand our business horizontally – by entering new markets and developing the business in those countries. But surely, the company is back on a solid growth mode.

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