Damac chairman Hussain Sajwani, the world's tenth richest Arab, is looking to extend the developer's presence in Asia
Is there a moonshot idea that you are currently intrigued by? Are there any you are pursuing in your business?
Asia’s continued economic growth, and specifically China’s, drives my interest. Damac has been active in the Chinese market for several years, but I am now looking at extending our presence there. The value of China’s emerging middle class continues to grow and I see great opportunity to capture additional investors thanks to increased bilateral relations between the UAE and China.
What does diversity mean to you? How are you pursuing this in your organisation? Are there any tangible results you can share?
Diversity is an essential ingredient at Damac. It means we have a wealth of varying views, ideas and perspectives to tap into when developing strategic plans or when making critical business decisions. Diversity gives us range, and that is a clear advantage in business. At Damac, we currently have 77 nationalities working for us, from every continent.
With talk of trade wars, tariffs, exchange rates in constant flux, oil price uncertainty, geopolitical turbulence, and a new emerging demographic (maybe even more than one) entering the workplace, how are you keeping up with the rapid pace of change?
I have never been one to read too much into politics, so all this talk is just that, talk. I am only concerned with policies and changes that affect my organisation. This allows me to make small but important adjustments to how we grow as a company.
If global politics change the dynamics of the industry and markets we operate in, then we adapt and revise our approach to make best of the opportunities that we have, while reducing our exposure to negative policies and such.
How would you describe the story behind your business?
The story of Damac and its success pre-dates to the forward vision of the UAE’s founding fathers, who understood the value of building a strong, unified nation that would serve as a gateway between the east and west. The spirit of this vision and our understanding that we are united in prosperity propelled me to work hard at supporting the UAE’s development of a sustainable business and social infrastructure.
Entrepreneurship came naturally to me and I understood from a young age the importance of home-grown businesses. So fast-forward to the early 2000s, when the UAE’s leadership ambitiously opened up the real estate market, I jumped on the opportunity and created Damac Properties. The rest is history.
If all goes well, where do you see your organisation going in the next five years? The next decade?
Damac has reached a size and a level of maturity that enables it to start looking beyond the region. We have delivered over 20,000 homes, which only a handful of developers in the Middle East have done, and I know that we can leverage this expertise to expand our presence and offering to other markets around the world.
Where do great ideas come from in your organisation?
Everyone at Damac is able to contribute to the company’s growth, innovation and performance. We don’t have one central team or department that is solely responsible for this.
How do you encourage creative thinking within your organisation?
Each department has its own approach to drive creativity and problem solving among their teams. Some departments choose to get inspiration by holding brain storming sessions outside of Damac offices, while others incentivise their teams to share creative ideas. We also encourage healthy living, which is an imperative part of remaining mentally sharp and being able to critically analyse information.
As such, Damac employees are encouraged to pursue active living through various internal initiatives. We regularly host department-led fitness challenges, as well as community-based events that encourage employees and their families to get active by incorporating a large element of sports.
Do you believe social networking has impacted your organisation or yourself, personally?
Both Damac and I are active on social media, across various platforms.
I believe these networks have become one of the most effective marketing and communications channels for any organisation. We use social networks to communicate our products, views, success and even advice. As long as you engage your audience by sharing content that is relevant to them and are respectful to the community, you can continue to grow your audiences, which ultimately has a positive impact on your brand and image. It also has facilitated two-way communications with our customers, offering a way for them to connect with us on a personal level.
What do you enjoy the most about working at your company?
Seeing a tower or a development begin its journey as a sketch or idea, and materialise into a home or community. The process takes years, several hurdles and lots of hard work, but the impact of seeing your idea take shape and turn into a dream for a homeowner is what I love most about Damac.
What is the biggest decision you’ve ever had to make for your company?
The biggest decision I made was to take Damac public, as this step required us to make a lot of internal changes, in order to be compliant with various financial regulations. It also meant that our books are open to public review and scrutiny, which is a big decision for a business owner to make.
What would you say to a new employee about the culture of your organisation?
Working at Damac provides a unique opportunity for anyone to excel in rapidly. We have no barriers that prevent people from presenting and implementing their ideas, strategies or recommendations. We welcome anyone who has ambition, goals and a desire to prove themselves, as such, high performers tend to shine brightly and rather quickly at Damac.
Do you value education or experience? What is the biggest determinant of a person’s progress?
Education is the foundation that helps us to understand, enables us to advance in our professions and allows us to gain the right experiences for continued growth. So you cannot value one without the other, both education and experience matters. Education exercises the mind and opens it up to new ways of thinking. Education can take place within the walls of a school or through casual conversations with elders or experts.
This in turn leads to a broader understanding of the world around us, which enriches the experiences that we go through, so that we can carry those experiences as we progress through a company and through life. In my opinion, that’s real growth.