ORO24’s Atif Rahman on Dubai’s meteoric ‘875% real estate growth’

Atif Rahman took to the stage of Gulf Business’ first-ever Business Breakfast briefing to talk about his insight into the growth of Dubai’s real estate sector

Founder and chairman of ORO24 Developments, Atif Rahman, took to the stage of Gulf Business’ first-ever Business Breakfast briefing on Wednesday and he inspired the crowd with his insight of Dubai’s real estate sector growth.

In this talk he also unpacks a calculation that he says illustrates how the value of real estate transactions in Dubai have increased by 875 per cent in the last two years on a median level, compared to the period between 2017-2020. Furthermore, he explains that looking at it from a volume perspective, the increase adds up to being 576 per cent.

You can watch the full video below of his speech. An edited transcript of his speech is published further below as well.

12 June 2024, Gulf Business Breakfast Briefing, Grand Plaza Mövenpick Hotel in Media City, Dubai Speech by Atif Rahman, chairman and founder of ORO24 Developments

Good morning, everyone. It’s great to be back at events and to see some old friends. Let’s get started. I don’t want to make you feel like you’ve just landed from Mars by talking about the real estate boom, which is all over the media. However, not mentioning it would make me feel out of touch, so let’s continue the conversation about Dubai’s real estate boom, and I’ll share my perspective

We have some amazing success stories here in the real estate industry, with friends like Firas Al Msaddi (CEO & founder of fäm Properties), Alex Zagrebelny (Founder & CEO of R.Evolution Group), and Fibha Ahmed (Vice President of Property Sales, Bayut & dubizzle), who have unique insights to share. But first, let’s look at some numbers. I reviewed data from 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, and compared it to what’s happening in 2023 and 2024. Can anyone guess the growth percentage?

How many of you think it is 100 per cent growth compared to those years? Just one? OK, how about 200 per cent? Two people. What about 400 per cent? Three people. Well, the actual growth in transaction value is 875 per cent. That’s why everyone is talking about it.

And if you look at the volume, it’s 576 per cent. Now that we agree neither of us has come from Mars, let’s continue talking about the boom and the reasons behind it. Diving deeper into the data, I have two great success stories to share. Every time I talk to Firas, he’s full of data—he’s loaded with it. I was just scratching the surface, and I can only imagine how much data he has. This phenomenal growth is truly impressive.

We need to understand what has led to Dubai’s success story. In my opinion, there are two key eras. First, His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who laid the foundation for today’s growth, and then His Highness Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whom I consider the finest leader ever born. His vision is so advanced that it might take us 100 years to fully grasp what he foresaw.

Congratulations to the team from Motivate Media Group on their 45th anniversary. They came to this city when it was just sand and a few hundred thousand people, yet the leadership at that time was charismatic enough to attract potential residents to Dubai.

We might think the current real estate boom is happening organically, but that’s not the case. I remember preparing for a speech long ago and learning about the Harris Master Plan for Dubai. In the 1970s, a British architect named John Harris was hired by Sheikh Rashid. Harris was almost on his way out of Dubai but was called back to create this master plan. Dubai was built on this plan.

If you think the trade and luxury we see now is new, remember that landmarks like the Jebel Ali Free Zone, the Trade Center, and the Burj Al Arab were all built before 1999. Then, many of us arrived, the freehold era began, and the rest is history. Dubai experienced its share of ups and downs, but it all started with the Harris Master Plan.

Today, we are talking about the 2040 Master Plan.

I still remember the real estate boom around 2004-2006. Back then, we used to see community master plans frequently. Sometimes I joke that this isn’t a boom compared to those days. During 2007 and 2008, you could turn Dhs5m into Dhs50m overnight — that’s how wild the market was. In comparison, today’s 875 per cent growth feels almost normal.

Amid all this, we received the 2040 Master Plan, which shows how the government is thinking and planning ahead. This plan aims to grow the city beyond imagination and demonstrates excellent crisis management. The 2040 Master Plan promises a more vibrant community, doubles the greenery, enhances business opportunities, and improves mobility in the city. That’s the vision we’re talking about.

Dubai is truly the city of the future, and its growth story is phenomenal. This growth is especially remarkable considering the global economic turbulence, with economies like Japan, the UK, and Germany facing recessions. Despite this sunny outlook, we must also consider the risks and responsibilities as business people.

In my opinion, the real estate boom is driving the economic boom, not the other way around. There are still opportunities to be tapped into, such as innovative real estate and redesigning the master plan for the city’s future. I anticipate a market correction where the growth will plateau, then undergo a soft correction before continuing its upward trajectory.

Dubai is truly the city of the future, and its growth story is phenomenal. This growth is especially remarkable considering the global economic turbulence, with economies like Japan, the UK, and Germany facing recessions. Despite this sunny outlook, we must also consider the risks and responsibilities as businesspeople.

In my opinion, the real estate boom is driving the economic boom, not the other way around. There are still opportunities to tap into, such as innovative real estate and redesigning the master plan for the city’s future. I anticipate a market correction where growth will plateau, then undergo a soft correction before continuing its upward trajectory.

And let me explain why I hold this view. Before diving into that, it’s crucial to recognise the existing real estate risks, including potential debt defaults and construction challenges. With numerous projects launched, the question remains whether we have the capacity to deliver on all fronts.

Now, returning to brighter aspects, Dubai excels as a city where the government consistently leads ahead of the private sector, setting it apart globally. While elsewhere the private sector typically takes the lead, Dubai’s unique dynamic sees the government pioneering progress.

Here’s an intriguing statistic for you: consider the UAE’s land mass compared to the entire world. The UAE spans 83,000 square kilometres, whereas the Earth totals approximately 510 million square kilometres. This means the UAE occupies a mere 0.016 per cent of the planet’s total area. In terms of population, with 10 million people amidst a global population nearing 8 billion, the UAE’s population constitutes about 0.129 per cent. These figures highlight the relatively small scale of both land and population in the UAE context.

And yet, if you were to conduct a global survey, you’d find that half of the world’s population wishes to visit Dubai. This widespread appeal is fuelled by government policies and the city’s resilient growth story, driven not just by sentiment but by a robust belief system and visionary governance. Dubai’s unique position as a leader rather than a follower in governance sets it apart.

While we see these as unique opportunities, growth should continue with minor adjustments. It’s crucial to recognize the role of technology in the real estate and construction sectors. Historically, these industries have lagged behind in benefiting from technological advancements compared to others during the third industrial revolution. To address this, the government recently launched the Chief AI Officer for 22 government entities, a groundbreaking initiative that enhances government operations and benefits the population, economy, and local businesses.

I recall the Ministry of Happiness, established a few years ago, which epitomises Dubai’s innovative spirit and distinguishes it globally. This commitment propels Dubai to compete vigorously worldwide. PropTech, a vast field often reduced to property listings and data, holds immense potential beyond these facets. Incorporating AI and Building Information Modeling (BIM) into real estate projects could revolutionise the sector.

As we navigate this landscape of necessity and opportunity, there’s ample room for all stakeholders to engage meaningfully in the real estate sector. I look forward to our panel discussion later. Thank you all for your attention. Have a wonderful day ahead, and continue to enjoy Dubai’s remarkable growth story. Thank you.

Credit Gulf Business

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