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Sat 23 Mar 2019 01:13 AM

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Entrepreneur of the Week: Paul Mallee and Rami Shamaa, co-founders of Maison Privee

Maison Privee aims to combine the service and convenience of a premium hotel with the privacy and comfort of home

Entrepreneur of the Week: Paul Mallee and Rami Shamaa, co-founders of Maison Privee

They launched their company just two years ago but have already managed to attract 10,000 guests. The duo co-founded Dubai-based Maison Privee to combine the service and convenience of a premium hotel with the privacy and comfort of home. They tell Arabian Business how it all came together, and what their next move is.

Why the decision to launch Maison Privee?

Paul Mallee: The combination of a softened real estate market and the continuously growing tourism numbers in Dubai, not to mention the international trend toward residential accommodation demand, prompted us to come up with a concept that would solve more than one problem at the same time.

We knew that providing homeowners with an opportunity to generate higher returns from their investment by filling the latent demand by tourists for quality residential accommodation on a short-term basis would put us in a very strong position for growth. This is why we launched Maison Privee.

Where does the name come from?

Rami Shamaa: Maison Privee is French for private home and perfectly describes the luxury accommodation experiences we wanted to provide when we founded the company just two years ago.

Our innovative concept combines the service and convenience of a premium hotel with the privacy and comfort of home and offers authentic luxury stays in outstanding locations with stunning views of Dubai’s skyline.

What is your business model?

PM: Maison Privee operates two core business models. The first option is our property management solution, whereby we are incentivised to optimise the income based on a revenue share approach.

The second option provides for a guaranteed income to the home owner where we rent the property from the owner on an annual basis at market rate with the aim to short term let it to our guests. This ensures peace of mind and security for the owners’ investment, with no vacant periods and certainty of income.

How did you manage to increase the number of your guests so quickly?

RS: The Maison Privee team comes from a combination of blue-chip backgrounds in organisations such as Booz Allen Hamilton and GE, coupled with hospitality and luxury real estate expertise.  Based on this extensive experience, combined with a successful funding round, has enabled the business to put the right structures and process in place to grow quickly while focusing on developing an exceptional guest experience.

What are your expansion plans?

PM: We are currently looking at several new markets, both inside and outside of the GCC, and expect to launch in a number of new markets over the coming years.

What is your vision for the company and what do you see it growing into?

RM: The vision for the company is bold. We want to continue to grow with our HQ in Dubai, along with operating 1,000+ properties across multiple international markets.

Would you ever take the business global?

PM: Absolutely!  As mentioned previously, we are exploring international expansion as we speak.

Who would you count as your competition, and how do you deal with competition?

RS: The elevated customer service we have built allows us to continuously stay ahead of the pack. We offer cutting edge technology services, including optional seamless self-check-in, round-the-clock support team and a digital welcome pack highlighting all required information to access the property and facilities.  Many of the homeowners who choose to trust us with their properties do so as they feel secure in the knowledge that we run a very professional operation and will protect their asset; continue up-keep and maintenance of their property and validating guest’s details before booking.

Our innovative concept combines the service and convenience of a premium hotel with the privacy and comfort of home

Homeowners are also given access to owner-specific interface to check bookings of their apartments, ensuring visibility and transparency. In addition, homeowners are offered extreme flexibility in being able to block out dates where they would like to keep their apartment for their own personal use.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re currently facing with Maison Privee?

PM: Over the past two years, the biggest challenge has been to attain operational efficiency. As our portfolio is spread across Dubai, it is more challenging operationally than running a hotel. Achieving efficiency in this regard has been huge for us and has now given us a platform to scale. As the industry is still quite new (it was regulated by DTCM in 2016), some homeowners still struggle to look past the long term rental option. A shift is taking place here and most are now understanding that the yields from short term rentals, particularly in key tourist destinations such as Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina and Downtown, are up to 40 percent greater than long term rentals. Educating owners on this new opportunity can sometimes be a challenge, but once we can prove to them that we have had success with similar properties to theirs, it typically works out from there.

Since Dubai is one of the most expensive cities for Airbnb, what is your strategy?

PM: We compete on service and experience rather than price. Our market segment is luxury and we provide our guests with the best facilities in the best properties with the best views in the city. We wrap all of this with exceptional customer service.

For our owners, we ensure that their returns are optmised by targeting the right profile of guests through selective channels.

What are some future trends that you expect to see in the coming years in the short-term rental market?

RS: Dubai government and DTCM have opened the doors for short-term rentals in Dubai and that has allowed the industry to flourish and we believe that it will continue to do so. Our aim is to further elevate the customer experience and we are focusing on introducing new partnerships that further benefit and aid our customers. We ‘re also looking to refine our business model in readiness to enter new markets.

Why did you decide to launch the company during a downturn in the Dubai real estate market? Or better yet, is that what prompted you to launch the company? Please explain

PM: As mentioned previously the softened real estate market did play a role in our decision to launch in 2017 but it certainly was not the only one. Maison Privee is increasingly recognized as a disruptor in the hospitality market and our core business model is internationally applicable. Two years ago we realized the scale of the opportunity and we are working hard to take a significant position in the market both here in the UAE and internationally.

What are your expectations for the Dubai real estate market in the near future?

RS: Currently the prime rental market in Dubai is nearing an almost 10 year low. As prices continue to drop, many owners are turning to renting their properties on a short-term basis as it provides and immediate solution to otherwise volatile market conditions. This model is also particularly well suited for owners living abroad or not permanently based in Dubai, as the short term rental approach is able to generate revenue on their investment while having the property ready for their use whenever needed.