Man on a mission

Although just 32-years-old, Rashid Galadari is head of a multi-million dollar real estate empire.
Man on a mission
By Diana Milne
Sun 11 May 2008 04:00 AM

At just 32-years-old Rashid Galadari is head of a multi-million dollar real estate empire with plans to bring new levels of luxury to the region's property market. Diana Milne meets Galadari and finds out what makes him tick.

I was hoping that my job was going to be like a politician and I was just going to be photographed kissing babies in public," says Rashid Galadari, whose job at the helm of the Galvest holding group, parent company of Galadari Investment Office hasn't quite turned out like that.

For us it's very simple. We're not in the hit and run business. Our properties speak for themselves.

As the son of the late Abdul Wahab head of the multimillion dollar Galadari Group, the 32-year-old had a tough act to follow.

"Sometimes it does get to you a bit. I won't lie," says Galadari.

"It's not just because of the family background but it's the fact that it was my choice to say I'm going to take the lead. I'm going to be the chairman of the company."

Rashid made the decision to set up his own branch of the family business after graduating from university.

And so far the bargain has paid off. Today GIO, which was set up in 2005 at the same time as Galvest, boasts a vast portfolio of luxury properties and he reveals, it could be considering becoming the latest Arab company to launch an IPO.

"We've discussed it. The company is still young, it's still small. Hopefully I think at one stage we would probably look at it. It's not something that is completely not in our heads," he says adding that this probably would not happen in the next 12 months.

It has been a busy few months for Galadari following the launch last month of GIO Emporium - two towers, one commercial the other residential within the City of Arabia development.

Celebrated French designer Philippe Starck has designed the interiors for the residential G Tower while his interior design firm yoo@work designed the interiors of the G Office development. While the company has gone into partnership with German investment firm ACI, which has developments endorsed by the likes of Boris Becker and Michael Schumacher, Galadari is keen to point out that he does not support the trend of celebrities lending their names to projects, without being directly involved in their creation.

"What we're doing basically is we're taking branding to a different level in the sense that we don't want to use the philosophy of branding a property just for increasing revenues."

We've been there before the boom took place and we're hoping to be there afterwards as well.

The whole idea is that our brand partners have input in every aspect of the project especially when it comes to interior designs.

"It's a pretty much hands-on approach from their side."

While GIO currently focuses on the luxury real estate development business, Galadari is keen to enter new business territories and reveals that he is looking to expand into the hospitality sector, to acquire and develop properties abroad and even to own his own television company.

"When the company first started it was pretty much heavily involved in development as it is today however it has evolved into a proper holding company and we are looking into hospitality and property acquisitions abroad.

"I've always loved the media industry and I'm hoping I can look into that. We'd definitely be looking at media as well," he says adding that he hopes to one day own a television company and a studio.

In terms of international property acquisitions, Galadari reveals the company is looking to enter the European markets, but that it will be targeting emerging markets when it comes to new developments.

"At the moment we are concentrating mainly in the region and Dubai especially. But as a strategy I think that we would be targeting the emerging markets more especially when it comes to development. But when it comes to acquisitions we will probably be looking at the European markets. We feel that our group philosophy, the ideals and the look of the brand itself would work very well in the foreign markets."

Galadari's family back-ground means that for him, money is no object - and if he wants to do it, there isn't anything stopping him from owning a television com-pany, opening a hotel or buying multiple properties in Europe. But while he has chosen to dedicate his business to luxury developments, Galadari is not a man who believes in excess, preferring to take a measured approach to his business both when it comes to the direction he takes it in and the money he makes.

"I like to do things one step at a time and I don't want to confuse anyone or myself. There has to be some sort of discipline put into what you are doing. When I started the company I could have just released anything and everything in terms of property.

"And the reason I said I want to go into something that's luxury orientated was because I enjoyed doing that and seeing what we can do in terms of future prospects and partnerships that I can be involved in."

Galadari says that he believes that Dubai's real estate sector is evolving into a buyer's market where increased choice has made buyers more discerning over where they invest their money, creating the need for developers to focus more on the quality and unique selling points of their properties.

"What's happening now is that people are becoming more choosy. You don't just put anything out on the market and it's automatically going to sell. You're not just looking at it as a concrete commodity anymore. People are looking at it as a building where they will live and the quality has to be of a certain standard. For us it's very simple. We're not in the hit and run business. Our properties will speak for themselves."

He says he is concerned by rising property prices in the UAE, claiming that in many cases costs are spiralling out of control.

"There has to be that discipline and what's happening here is there's often no logic involved in the rents going up and prices increasing."

"And this doesn't just apply in the development or sales or rents side of things. This applies to construction as well. Construction prices are increasing so much it's insane. So you can't blame the developers for trying to increase their prices as well," he goes on to say.

However despite his concerns over inflation in the property market, he says he is confident that Dubai's property boom will not be affected by the fall out from the US sub-prime mortgage crisis that is casting such a shadow over the European and US property markets.

"What's funny about Dubai is that whenever there's an issue abroad, such as the credit crunch or terrorism, Dubai always somehow prospers from everything. Everyone always comes over here. It's always been that nexus or safe haven which people want to continue investing in," he says. Galadari says he has chosen to concentrate only on high-end properties because this is one of the most lucrative sectors in the Dubai real estate market.

He says too that unlike many developers in the market he is keen to target end-users rather than creating properties that become investment vehicles for speculators.

"Now in the market there are two areas that sell very well. One is the extremely low end. The other is the extremely high end."

"We're in the high end and our target market is the end users more than anything else. You can't stop investors and speculators from coming into the mix as well. And I don't, I welcome them. But what I hope now is that my product will reach the end user market quicker than a lot of others."

Regionally he says he plans to launch new developments across the region and is currently in talks about projects in Qatar, Bahrain and India.

"In the Middle East, if I'm not mistaken, Qatar is growing very fast at the moment so we would look at that market."

"We have a lot of friends in Bahrain as well and we have been in talks to do stuff there as well," he adds.

Galadari however has a strong sense of loyalty to Dubai and says he hopes to be part of the emirate's continued success story.

"It's not about just being one of the many members in this whole real estate boom. We've been there before the boom took place and we're hoping to be there afterwards as well."

He reveals that his ambition is to be one of the largest luxury holdings companies in the Middle East within the next five years.

He knows he cannot do this alone however and is keen to develop a management structure that will support his ambitions - through empowerment of his staff.

Company structures that allow for delegation are lacking in many family run Middle Eastern firms he goes on to say, with decisions traditionally made by one person - the head of the family.

"Empowerment is a very important issue over here," he says. A lot of the Middle Eastern families or groups have difficulties empowering people in terms of giving them responsibility.

It's always been that one man who's always making the decisions and let's be realistic, there's only so much one person can do on his own.

"When you look at the corporate structures abroad there is that corporate governance. We are only just starting to look at that in this part of the world."

"These things are going to be very important in terms of the growth."

"I might be able to give a macro view in terms of vision but it's the people on board that will turn that into a reality."

For now though he admits he takes a very hands-on approach to running his business, joking, "I think I should actually have been a psychiatrist sometimes. People do call me all the time and whenever there is some problems that need to be sorted my phone is ringing," he says.

And judging by what he has achieved so far, and at such a young age, it seems he's managing pretty well on his own.

Rashid Abdul Wahab Galadari, chairman, GIOBorn into entrepreneurial lineage, Rashid AW Galadari established the Galvest holding group in 2005 leveraging his association with the Galadari Group, which has been established for over 100 years and has evolved to become one of the most prominent commercial groups in the region.

Its activities range from high profile consumer brands sold through retail outlets, to the supply of heavy industrial plants.

As Chairman of Galvest Rashid AW Galadari has been driving and expanding business across the Middle East region for many years.

The newest offshoot of the business is the Galadari Investment Office (GIO), a property management and development company.

Launched in July 2005, GIO aims to transform the property market landscape in the region by developing a series of projects that transcend the norm and break conventional barriers.

Rashid AW Galadari's vision is to expand the business across the region ensuring that the family name reaches new and greater frontiers. A dynamic leader, he has already proven his business acumen and skill through the establishment of GIO.

He also played a strategic role in the City of Arabia development in Dubailand. GIO is extensively involved in luxury real estate construction and is renowned for pioneering luxurious commercial and residential properties in the freehold market.

The flagship project presently under development at GIO is the G Tower. At 45 floors, it is one of the tallest buildings in Dubailand, and is being cited as one of the most luxurious residential towers in the region.

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