SLOWLY BUT SURELY

Dubai 2020 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

RSG Group of Companies has climbed the ranks of the top real estate firms by growing at a sustainable pace and delivering top-quality developments on time.

Balvinder Singh Sahni (Abu Sabah)
BIOGRAPHY

Balvinder Singh Sahni (Abu Sabah) is the founder and Chairman of RSG Group of Companies, a multi-billion-dirham organization spanning the Middle East, the US, and South Asia. Highly profitable property transactions of over AED5 billion put him on the map of Dubai's property heavy weights. He also ventured into residential and hospitality projects, currently worth over AED3 billion. His vision is to develop 4,500 units in five years across the UAE, the US, Russia, and Europe.

What opportunities are you looking at in the real estate sector?
Dubai has always offered incredible opportunities; you just need to keep your eyes and mind open to them. If you stay open-minded and focused, Dubai is an amazing place. The real estate market hit a lull, but we have seen the worst and it will go up from here. One of the contributing factors to the upswing is the improving political situation in the region. Soon enough, all the GCC countries will come back together again like brothers. Outside the GCC, the situation in Iraq is also improving, and we are continuously improving ties with India. The demand will always bounce back in Dubai because everyone wants to live here. We will see this pick up even more and the market regain its strength as Dubai continues to build its tourism offering. It is a fabulous tourism destination with an expanding offering.

How has the uptick in demand for real estate and tourism influenced RSG Group of Companies' transition from residential real estate to the hospitality segment?
We recently completed the Burj Sabah, a residential development with 228 units for mid- to high-income tenants and leased the entire building to a corporate tenant. Now, we are shifting our focus to the hospitality sector. The hotel segment is doing well, even though there is a lot of downward pressure on prices. We have one hotel under construction now and another in the concept stage, both on Sheikh Zayed Road. There is growing demand in the hotel segment, and this is what the government wants and is leveraging on as part of its vision. The government wants to build more hotels and attract more tourists. It is becoming a bit hard for operators and landlords, but there are always winners. Aligned with these initiatives, we have been quite bullish about the market and have continued investing during the downturn. RSG Group has been working in Dubai for 23 years, and it is still building. We are working on a unique concept in the food and beverage space as part of our building in Bay Square, proving, regardless of naysayers, there are always opportunities. Profits have come down for every investor, but Dubai is still the best place to live.

Are you seeing the sentiment change among international investors too with the new residency laws?
Many in the market are worried about Dubai after Expo 2020, but I believe in the vision of the Dubai government and HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The government is prepared to leverage the legacy of Expo. The world's greatest exhibition is set to attract 20-25 million visitors to the Emirate; if only 5-10% choose to live, study, or work here, it will be a fabulous economic stimulus. It is not just about bringing visitors for Expo; it is about introducing them to Dubai and making a good first impression for people to relocate here. To anyone interested in Dubai after Expo 2020, in particular individuals who missed the opportunities in 2006-2008, this is the right time to buy. Moreover, Dubai has matured as a market over the years, which investors can see from the Dubai Land Department's statistics.

Being in the real estate ecosystem, do you feel a portion of the responsibility to contribute to the revival of the sector?
Dubai is my home, and I am doing my part to make Dubai a special place for everyone. In addition to favorable tax frameworks, Dubai is an incredibly diverse place. People of every nationality can call Dubai home because 85-90% of its population is made of expatriates. The city offers phenomenal infrastructure, security, lifestyle, a prime location, and incomparable flight connectivity. Growth will continue beyond Expo 2020 because 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the UAE, which will bring renewed and updated ambitions to drive the Emirate forward.

What is your vision for RSG Group as we look ahead to the turn of the decade?
RSG Group's strategy has always been, and will continue to be, to go at a sustainable pace; we do not enter into too many projects. This helps us maintain our quality and let our work speak for itself. We deliver top-quality developments on time, which is what we are known for in the industry. We owe this reputation to our incredible team.