Rizwan Sajan: From Dubai's 1% Man to 101 levels
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Rizwan Sajan: From Dubai’s 1% Man to 101 levels

Rizwan Sajan: From Dubai’s 1% Man to 101 levels

Rizwan Sajan, the founder and chairman of Danube Group, is famous for being the “1 per cent man in Dubai”, but he’s reaching fresh heights with his company’s latest tower project

Gareth van Zyl
Rizwan Sajan.

Going from the slums of Mumbai to the heights of Dubai is a rags-to-riches story that belongs to none other than Rizwan Sajan, also known as the 1 per cent Man.

Sajan’s business initially focused on building materials, then home retail and today the UAE skyline is dotted with his company’s residential towers.

Some Dubai residents may even refer to him as the emirate’s own ‘rocket man’ as his charismatic approach to marketing has helped him in becoming a household name.

“I have been a strong believer of marketing. Starting from the early days of Danube Group, we’ve been using various marketing strategies to create an impact. Even with limited funds in the 1990s, we successfully marketed our brand. What we did was very interesting — we utilised small trucks and branded their tyres. It was visible and strong. It also gained popularity very quickly, making Danube Building Materials visible everywhere,” Sajan tells Gulf Business.

“Marketing is the most effective way to boost brand visibility and sales, especially in Dubai. Nowadays, social media stands out as the best owned marketing tool. Currently, we’re putting in our best foot forward to promote Danube Properties and we’ve been trying multiple mediums and platforms. You name it, we’ve done it. Danube Properties is reaching new heights, quite literally, every day,” says Sajan.

And Sajan has, literally, gone from a disruptor in the real estate market in 2014 in Dubai to launching what will be one of Business Bay’s most iconic towers: Bayz 101.

Scheduled to be completed in 2028, the 101-level residential building will be situated within just a two minutes’ walk of the Business Bay Metro Station.

It promises to have spectacular views of the iconic Burj Khalifa. And naturally, buyers can purchase units via Danube’s 1% plan.

As per this plan, buyers pay a 20 per cent down payment at the time of booking, and then they can pay the remaining 80 per cent in monthly instalments of 1 per cent.

A visit to Danube’s office along Sheikh Zayed Road, makes one realise how popular this plan is. Packed with buyers, Danube’s offices are a constant hive of activity and a miniature of the Bayz 101 building sits gleaming in the middle of the entrance to its building.

Buzzing around this are customers signing up to take up properties, whether it be in Dreamz, Jewelz or Wavez, among its already 13 completed projects. The company has another 15 ongoing projects in its pipeline.

“We have grown very fast as we have championed the affordable luxury properties for the last ten years and have managed to convert thousands of tenants to homeowners, who now enjoy living in the comfort of their own homes,” Sajan tells Gulf Business.

“To maintain our leadership in the affordable luxury segment, we have followed a strategy. First, we have launched one project at a time. Unless the project was sold out, we did not launch the next project. We have maintained this for the last ten years of our existence. This way, we managed the project development cycle – from project launch, sell-out, and contracting before moving on to the next project.

“Second, we have been a delivery-focused developer. Delivery is key to gaining buyer trust and the real estate business is about trust. Buyers put their life savings in a dream home. You can’t play around with it. We need to deliver it on time, so that the buyer can move in on time and save his rent to pay instalments.

“Third, we offer luxury properties – but at an affordable price. So, we don’t compromise on quality. In fact, we have been exceeding customer expectations – better amenities and facilities than what we had promised to customers,” Sajan notes.

Surging real estate growth

Dubai’s property market has been on a tear since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In 2023, we also witnessed rents skyrocketing and it will continue to do so in 2024. The Dubai real estate market will continue to grow in the next 2 years by at least 20-25% and this will inspire further confidence among property buyers,” Sajan tells Gulf Business.

Another major boon for the market has been a decision by UAE authorities to make it easier to attain a Golden Visa through property investment. Here, the country plans to scrap the Dhs1m property down-payment that was previously required for residents to qualify for the 10-year Golden Visa.

Instead, residents will soon be able to qualify for a Golden Visa if the property that they’ve bought is over Dhs2m in value.

Rizwan Sajan at the Danube Property Offices. (Supplied)
Rizwan Sajan at the Danube Property Offices. (Supplied)

Interestingly, Sajan highlights how this marks a transition for the UAE market from being, traditionally, an environment where expats only stay for a few years to more long-term residency.

“We expect the Dubai real estate market will see sustained growth over the next five years as it has matured and is no longer a transitional market. Also, the emirate’s population will continue to increase in the coming years as new job opportunities will be created as well as more high-net-worth individuals will flock to the emirate to cash in on higher capital and rental returns. In addition, the government’s pro-business and pro-investor policies will continue to attract fresh capital into the real estate sector,” says Sajan.

Sajan and his team at Danube have also been around long enough to see many changes in the Dubai property market over the years.

This includes the makeup of buyers and renters in the emirate. Sajan proudly says that Danube Properties has catered to more than 112 nationalities and that his company remains committed to providing the highest level of services to clients from all over the world.

“Due to evolving geopolitical dynamics, Dubai has experienced a significant influx of individuals relocating from various global regions. Notably, in 2023; Indians, Russians, and British investors have emerged as the primary contributors to Dubai’s real estate market. Additionally, neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey are increasingly becoming assertive players in the Dubai property landscape, signifying a broader spectrum of international interest in the city’s real estate sector,’ says Sajan.

But Sajan goes on to highlight a particular nationality as emerging as a serious purchaser of properties.

“We, at Danube Properties, have seen a surge of interest and investments, especially from Russians in 2023. In the last 12 months, they have accounted for 22 per cent of our buyers. Dubai has built a strong reputation for stability, security, and luxury, and it has become a beacon of hope for those seeking a haven for their investments. However, Indians have always been our top investors, and in 2023 they made up 32 per cent of our customers in the UAE,” says Sajan.

What goes up in markets, though, often can come down. The financial crisis in late 2008 was an example of this. Following surging property prices in the likes of Dubai, the emirate was hit hard by company closures and job losses.

The real estate market would build up to recover again, only for the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 to put a damper once again on prices.

So, does this moment that we’re in now, represent a new real estate bubble? Not quite, says Sajan.

“No, there is no bubble,” says Sajan.

“In fact, if we go by the property rates across the major global cities around the world such as New York, Hong Kong, London, Paris, property prices in Dubai are undervalued by two to three times. Swiss bank UBS, in its latest Global Real Estate Bubble Index 2023, ranked the Dubai property market as ‘fairly valued’, which proves that there is no bubble. Keeping in mind population growth and supply of new residential units, in coming years we can safely say that the market will stay at a fair value and attractive for investors, offering very healthy returns,” he adds.

“Dubai remains a robust destination for global real estate investment due to various factors such as world-class infrastructure and a growth outlook. This growth can be attributed to the path-breaking policies adopted by the UAE government, which have had a positive impact on not only the real estate sector but also other sectors of the economy,” Sajan goes on to say.

To drive home his point further, Sajan further tells Gulf Business that other research houses have pointed to how Dubai remains a competitive market.

According to Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2023, property prices in Dubai are still lower than London, Hong Kong, Geneva, and New York. For example, $1m can buy 105 square metres of prime property in Dubai as compared to 33 square metres in New York, 34 square metres in London and 37 square metres in Geneva.

Henley Private Wealth Migration also estimates that 4,500 millionaires relocated to Dubai in 2023, making it one of the top two most attractive destinations for high-net-worth individuals to migrate to. This comes after 5,000 millionaires relocated to Dubai in the previous year.

101 levels: Meet Bayz 101

Driving around Dubai these days, one will find a lot of advertising and marketing, along the sides of buses, billboards, and buildings about Danube’s latest pièce de résistance — the Dhs3bn Bayz 101.

Ground will be broken on the tower later this year, but it will ultimately become one of the tallest towers in Business Bay when it is completed in 2028.

Concept image of Danube’s Bayz101. (Supplied)

Built on an area of 2.1 million square feet, Bayz101 will offer a diverse range of living spaces, including studio apartments, 1BHK, 2BHK, 3BHK, 4BHK, and retail options. From Dhs1.2m, buyers will be able to acquire studio units.

It will further offer 40 amenities ranging from a health club, swimming pool, jogging track, sports arena, workspace, business centre, tennis court, sky bar, and even doctors on call.

With Bayz 101, Danube is also offering its famous 1 per cent monthly payment plan, thereby ensuring that more residents are able to realise the dream of owning a home in one of the world’s premier locations.

“This project exemplifies Danube Properties’ commitment to delivering exceptional living spaces and redefining the standards of contemporary urban living,” says Sajan.

Community living

Township projects and communities have also been prominently adding to the real estate sector in the Middle East, says Sajan. Families prefer to live in communities where educational institutions, healthcare, retail, and other community facilities are easily accessible.

“This is a natural progression to the real estate market development. Demand for ready-to-move-in apartments always existed, but with the sky-rocketing rents, the demand for off-plan properties has gone exponentially high. As Dubai continues to grow and provide opportunities for professionals from all over the world, we are going to see more professionals moving in with high incomes. They would prefer off plan as well as ready-to-move-in apartments and villas. So, rent-to-own, mortgages and payment plans will help the developers sell these inventories faster,” says Sajan.

Driving growth into the future

Whether it’s building out communities or towers that reach over 100 levels into the sky, Danube has become one of the fastest growing, and biggest, real estate developers in the UAE.

“Danube Properties has come a long way in perfecting the art of developing homes with all the facilities, amenities and quality finishing and delivering them on time and at affordable price,” says Sajan.

“For more than eight years, we have delivered affordable luxury to thousands of families. From 2023, we have added the touch of brand by joining hands with luxury brands to bring branded residences to our buyers who like a touch of class in their homes,” he adds.

Finally, Sajan concludes that Dubai will continue to be a rising giant in the world of real estate development for years to come.

“Of late, Dubai has seen a massive increase in investors from new markets such as Western Europe, attracted by higher returns. Most of the global studies have rated rental and capital returns offered by the Dubai market higher than the other major cities around the world. And this will be a key factor that will dictate the market and drive it forward,” says Sajan.

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