Stelios plans easy invasion in Dubai

EXCLUSIVE: Budget brand tycoon eyes office, cinema, pizza and bus firm launches in emirate.
Stelios plans easy invasion in Dubai
By Diana Milne
Sun 24 Aug 2008 10:20 AM

Business tycoon and easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has revealed plans to launch a budget office rental business in Dubai.

In an exclusive interview, he said that he hopes to set up easyOffice in the emirate following the success of the business in London.

He sees strong potential for the business in the Dubai, where soaring office rents and building delays can make finding commercial space difficult for newcomers.

He revealed to CEO Middle East that he is also looking to launch regional franchises of easyCinema, easyPizza and easyBus – the latter providing bus services to and from Dubai Airport into the city.

“Being such an entrepreneurial place, I think it would be an excellent opportunity for someone who owns their own property who does not want to be tied up on a long lease, to take a franchise on easyOffice and operate it on a short term flexible basis,” he said.

The easyOffice model works on the basis of companies being able to rent office space by the room on a short or long term basis for as little time as a week.

“If you go to easyOffice.co.uk you will see that you can book office rooms in London by the week and pay by credit card and I think that would be a good opportunity for Dubai,” he added. “But we need a local partner in real estate.”

easyOffice will not be Stelios’ first business venture in the region. He has already launched his budget hotel chain easyHotel in partnership with Nakheel and plans to open properties across the Gulf.

“We work largely on the basis of franchising so in the same way that we found Nakheel hotels for easyHotel I hope that I’ll be able to find other reputable local companies to take on other brands.

“Anything from bus operations to and from the airport on easyBus to pizza delivery with easyPizza.com. These are the more humble pedestrian activities that every city needs.”

Stelios added that the economic situation in the West has made finding business opportunities in the Middle East even more imperative.

“The whole easyGroup is about diversification so it’s a case of picking the right brands, picking the winners, and coming over to the Middle East and seeing whether we can introduce them into a booming region not a region that is going into recession.

“The biggest problem in the UK at the moment is that the economy is going into recession which means that fewer people will have less and less money to spend.

“So I’m looking forward to investing and spending more time in Dubai and in the Gulf.”

He said however that he does not plan to launch a budget airline in the region – because he believes that the competition in this sector is already “formidable”.

Stelios, who set up easyJet in 1995, is estimated to have a personal fortune of $2 billion. The easyGroup now includes 17 brands.

Stelios will be the guest of honour and keynote speaker at the CEO Awards 2008 on October 13.

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