What role does Wujha play in the real estate market?
Wujha is developing innovative housing solutions, mainly targeting Omanis. Our project is located in Muscat city center, which is one of the reasons why demand is growing every year. We target different types of customers, including those looking for housing investment, future investment, and money security. We offer diversification by location and types of housing. The real estate sector in Oman is based on two main aspects: prices and options. If you focus on both aspects of affordability and quality, you will be successful in the market. We also have an affiliation with banks in regard to client facilitation, using conventional and Islamic financing to suit a diverse client base. We want to take full lead of the sector, which is a tough objective. We will work on two aspects: build to sell and build to lease. In terms of strategy, the global market goes up and down, but sometimes you need to apply it to an isolated economy such as Oman, where you need to be able to provide the right solutions and products. The market will leave you behind unless you introduce new, innovative products, especially now with ICT disrupting the market.
How is IT and technology impacting the real estate sector, and how are you incorporating it into your operations and products?
We are an ERP-based company that connects the whole organization to one platform. This gives us unique and uniformed reporting methods, allowing us to make the right decision at the right time. On the other hand, technology is essential for facility management, but this depends on the resident association who will manage the building after we hand it over. Cultural readiness will drive technological advancement and innovation. In terms of infrastructure readiness, Oman is not ready. Even with the base there, people are not ready to pay for the service. This is why operators are reluctant to sell advanced services. Once the infrastructure is ready, the private sector will step in.
What are the new trends that you are seeing in terms of lifestyle habits and customer requirements?
Most people want to have a stylish, open space and white lighting with a modern design. For this, we use famous house designs from Spain and Italy. We have different suppliers for each segment of the design and we get our supplies from all over the world, including Italy, Turkey, Greece, India, China, and Indonesia. We cannot rely on local suppliers if we want to deliver international quality standards.
What is your assessment of Oman's real estate sector?
The market is optimistic and demand for housing is growing hand-in-hand with population growth. Of course, the current market situation is being felt but not heavily, since demand is always there. Accommodation and housing in Muscat are always in demand, so we mainly focus where the economy is centralized. With the government cutting down on expenditure, contractors and suppliers have become skeptic; however, the downward trend is just a part of the classic real estate cycle. The market will correct itself as the real estate market in Oman is properly regulated. Obviously, it will not be easy for a company with no experience. The Omani market is not mature enough for us to consider mergers or consolidation as viable options.
What are the main challenges real estate players face today in Oman?
We do not have a central index of data where you can get the right information, so you must find it yourself by conducting surveys. Nobody knows when the rent should go up or down, which means you must wait six months until you realize there is an issue. By then, you lose time, effort, and money. We are ready to pay for an index service as it will help us develop better products.