Ladies dressed in their finest gowns and elaborately applied make-up crush against the doors of the Madinat Jumeirah, jostling with black-suited men similarly desperate to witness the man for whom they have endured the Dubai summer humidity: Shah Rukh Khan.
The Bollywood superstar — reportedly the second-richest actor in the world — is, typically, running almost two hours behind schedule. Almost a thousand men and women — many of whom belong to the elevated tiers of Dubai society and hold well-paid, respectable jobs — are practically begging for the gala dinner and Khan’s on-stage appearance to begin.
King Khan, as he is affectionately known, is in town to draw attention to the Royal Estates, a new residential development in Dubai Investment Park, launched by otherwise little-known developers Aristocrat Star Real Estate Development, Pacific Ventures and PAL Development. The three firms have hired Khan, or ‘SRK’, to endorse the $650m “affordable housing” project, that perhaps would have dissolved into the sea of master developments launched in the emirate in the past 15 months.
If attention was what they were seeking — and they won’t reveal even a rough figure of how much they forked out for SRK — it has certainly worked. Not only is the chaotic scene at the Madinat Jumeirah evidence, but the “Royal Estates” garnered more than 600 news articles across the Gulf, India and Pakistan during the two-week period after it was revealed that SRK would endorse the project and he physically attended its launch in Dubai on 6 August.
But the more important question is what impact will the actor’s endorsement have on the project’s bottom line?
Aristocrat Star Real Estate group chairman Osman Valli skirts the question when asked by Arabian Business, but says the aim is for SRK to create awareness that will ultimately lead to quicker sales.
“A lot of people don’t have to say too much, only one word can pay everything off,” he says on the sidelines of the launch.
The development was yet to sell out at the time of going to print, but analysts believe the endorsement of SRK, or any other respected celebrity, does bring some benefit — even if only initially.
“They get more mileage because of the high-profile names attached to these projects,” Deepak Jain, Jones Lang LaSalle’s head of strategic consulting for the Middle East and North Africa, says.
“Selling in the first phase is important for some developers and can determine whether or not it’ll be successful in subsequent selling phases.”
Article continued on next page...