In a competitive market, real estate developers must prioritise transparency and trust to survive, says Farhad Azizi, CEO of Azizi developments
Why is transparency such a key issue in real estate?
Transparency and absolute honesty is paramount to business and especially in real estate. Developers are being put to the test, and only those who adapt by implementing a more customer-centric, transparent, honest, and research-driven approach can thrive. If there is no trust in off-plan sales, there will be no off-plan property sales – it is that simple. As an off-plan developer, we are selling trust.
We are selling our promise that we will build and that the building will be to the customers’ liking. It is therefore important that we deliver on our promises in every aspect of our business – from what we advertise, to how we communicate and what we deliver – to maintain the high level of trust that is fundamental to the industry that we operate in.
Do investors trust real estate companies in the region?
There is a direct correlation between investor trust and the performance of the real estate sector. The challenges that the real estate sector witnessed in the past had much to do with the global investment climate, and it is to the credit of Dubai that it has shown economic resilience due in part to the government promoting transparency across its operations. This is particularly evident in the property sector, which now has clear guidelines of operation, ensuring that investor interests are protected.
How has Azizi Developments in particular addressed this issue?
To go beyond adhering to governmental guidelines, there are several measures that developers can take. At Azizi Developments, for example, we enhance the transparency of our daily operations by issuing regular construction updates and leveraging multiple channels of communication with our customers. It is important to us that investors are kept up-to-date on completion progresses. Stakeholders must also be aligned, which entails communicating through monthly email newsletters. Social media is a great tool to enhance transparency as it grants immediate and instant feedback from customers.
Do consumers have to factor in transparency hurdles in the UAE?
I do not believe that there are any transparency hurdles. However, it is important for customers to do their due diligence when choosing a developer: Conduct a background check on them and always go for those with proven credentials.
As a business leader, how do you contribute to industry transparency?
A developer’s CEO needs to be the most visible and reachable ambassador of the brand. Customers and the public may reach me by phone – I’ve given out my private phone number to ensure this. I’ve implemented an open-door policy that allows any stakeholder to see me personally. Azizi Developments also places a strong emphasis on communications and frequent updates through various channels, including email, social media, phone and several office locations.
We have a social media team that ensures customers are provided with instant responses, even to negative feedback. I see it constructively. If the issue is genuine, our team will resolve it as fast as possible; if it is not, we will engage with the user and attempt to identify the source of their frustration so that we may offer a solution. Such social interactions consolidate the bond between customer and brand.
What is your focus for upcoming deliverables?
We have marked 2019 as our Year of Construction. A number of our residential developments are in final stages of completion, with approximately 4,000 units being handed over this year. We have also launched new residential projects, such as BAYT by Azizi in Dubai Sports City, and introduced short-term rental homes whereby owners are assured higher returns by having their homes managed and serviced for them; we extended the concept to our master-planned community, Azizi Riviera. We have completed 13 projects in Dubai and 41 buildings and six shopping malls internationally since we launched our real estate operations decades ago. Today, we have over 200 projects in development in Dubai and are due to deliver nine this year, including five buildings in Al Furjan, Phase One of Azizi Riviera in Meydan One, Mina by Azizi in Palm Jumeirah, Azizi Aliyah in Dubai Healthcare City, and Azizi Aura in Downtown Jebel Ali.
You are a hands-on CEO, frequently visiting build sites. Why is this important for you?
I could never be a hands-off CEO. I am constantly evaluating the progress of our projects as it is important to monitor on an ongoing basis. Visiting sites helps foster relations with construction partners and take corrective measures, if needed, at the earliest. Personally, there is nothing more rewarding to me than to witness the progress of a development first-hand. Visiting each of our construction sites every Tuesday not only enables me to ensure timely handover and that our quality standards are met, but is also the most fulfilling part of my week.
What are key lessons that you learned, and how have you applied them?
I have learnt the importance of ensuring the highest standards of transparency. As a customer that has invested in a home and set aside his/her income to owning it, it is imperative that you are kept up-to-date with its progress. I have also internalised the importance of customer-centricity. Customers come first – they are the core of our business and the reason for why Azizi Developments is what it is today. It is important to research their needs and aspirations and work towards their satisfaction through updates on their projects and ensuring the highest standards of quality in work while adhering to the delivery schedule. Only research-driven companies that implement the latest technologies, which now extend far beyond mere desk research to big data and machine-learning algorithms, will prosper.