The Business Year

Majed Al Hogail

SAUDI ARABIA - Real Estate & Construction

In Every Direction

Managing Director, RAFAL Real Estate Development Co.

Bio

Majed Al Hogail has an MBA from the University of Illinois. He has 24 years of working experience and has held many senior positions at both national and international companies in Saudi Arabia. He is currently the Managing Director of RAFAL Real Estate Development Co., having previously been its CEO since its inception in 2007.

Burj Rafal Community is now the tallest residential property in Riyadh, with numerous other projects in the pipeline. What strategies have brought RAFAL to this point? RAFAL was set up […]

Burj Rafal Community is now the tallest residential property in Riyadh, with numerous other projects in the pipeline. What strategies have brought RAFAL to this point?

RAFAL was set up in late 2007 with the aim of becoming a community innovator in Saudi Arabia, focusing on residential properties for the middle-income segment. Our strategy is to create residential communities based around a compound lifestyle. We create both horizontal and vertical communities, with a concept that is entirely new to Saudi Arabia.

Tell us about Burj Rafal Community and what factors drove RAFAL to develop a residential skyscraper?

The main driver was client demand. We believe that Riyadh has the potential to become a business hub. The objective, then, behind the Burj Rafal Community was to provide a home for newly married couples and people with style seeking an address for their home and a second home for people who need to stay in Riyadh for a few days a week. It is ideal for people who are keen to own an alternative home to the familiar horizontal compound. It offers good quality alternative services and facilities; it appeals particularly to the new generation, who enjoy the idea of living in a landmark property that offers unique views that only high vertical properties can provide. Burj Rafal Community targets upper-income groups, with a focus on upper middle-class clientele who seek an alternative vertical lifestyle. The average clients are well-educated, mid-career professionals who want to provide a good home for their families. The design of the homes in our various projects reflects the segment targeted. Therefore, apartments in the Burj Rafal Community are offered in various sizes.

You have numerous partnerships, such as the one with Kempinski Hotel, which you brought to Riyadh and started the operations and management of the Burj Rafal Hotel Kempinski. How do you cultivate these relationships?

To achieve success in our line of business, we need collaborations and partnerships with different contractors, operators, and facility managers. Kempinski’s move into Riyadh resulted in the first Kempinski hotel in Saudi Arabia. We were looking for a brand that would enrich the property itself, because the property is an iconic landmark, and the highest residential, it is the highest in Riyadh. As it transpires, Kempinski was the perfect fit. Meanwhile, we have also entered a structured partnership with a contractor, Dubai Contracting Company (DCC), for its first project in Riyadh. We are willing to take a risk on a company that prioritizes development and expansion in Saudi Arabia, and also believe in long-term structured relationships. In that regard, ours is a more strategic, rather than an investment partnership.

The term “community innovation” has long been familiar in other markets. How have you adapted the concept to the Saudi market?

People generally can’t afford large properties, which has led to a trend for smaller housing. Until recently, public development and infrastructure was not designed along communal lines. Rather, it was mostly about leaving one’s private self-contained home and going out among the general public. In a community-type layout, you leave your home to find yourself in your neighborhood, passing by your neighbors, and only gradually moving into the public space. There are certain challenges you have to face into residential schemes here to reflect the reality of Saudi Arabia. For example, people here tend to work late, women do not drive, and there are limited play areas and gardens for children, which is where the community model comes into its own. Children play in the garden, the streets are safer, you have more interaction with your neighbors, and communal facilities foster greater interaction, such as a communal gym. This setup enables the parents to work late with a peaceful mind, assured of a safe family environment where your home has all the services and utilities you need.

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