MAINTAINING EXCLUSIVITY

Oman 2020 | REAL ESTATE, HOUSING & MORTGAGE | INTERVIEW

With limited-edition units, complete home automation, and a concierge services application, Barr Al Jissah has outperformed the rest of the market.

Firas Matraji
BIOGRAPHY

Firas Matraji is CEO of Barr Al Jissah. He holds a bachelor of mechanical engineering from the American University of Beirut and an MBA at Kingston University in London. He has over 16 years' experience in the development and construction industries and in 2014, following three years as general manager of operations at the Zubair Corporation, he was appointed CEO of subsidiary company Barr Al Jissah. During his time at Barr Al Jissah, he has been integral in overseeing its transformation into one of Oman's leading luxury destinations.

How did the luxury real estate sector perform in the last few years?
Oman's luxury sector did not experience a major dip in the last few years. People are still staying in five-star hotels and buying luxury products. The developments in the past few years pushed companies producing luxury products to innovate. The luxury segment is about experiences as much as the product. At Barr Al Jissah, we have outperformed the rest of the market and sold a number of units in the Al Mina development. We have noticed that instead of small units, clients are going for larger units, which is interesting. All of our units are tailored to the client's needs and that helps us find buyers.

What are your prospects for 2020 now that the economy is set to grow by 3.7%?
There is still confidence in the economy as evident from the number of people from abroad showing their interest in Oman's real estate market. People are confident that Oman is the right place to invest. January 2020 outperformed January 2019 so data is also backing this trend. Nonetheless, the current project we are working on will be our last project in Oman because otherwise our projects will lose their exclusive appeal. For a company such as ours, it is important to maintain the same level of serenity, services, and exclusivity. Another factor is that we are competing with all the GCC countries; therefore, we have to maintain our exclusivity.

What are the keys to maintaining the image of exclusivity in the luxury segment?
We offer complete home automation and a concierge services app. For example, using the app, clients can use our service to fill their fridges with supplies when they are not home. The app also enables our clients to check their utility bills and control home appliances. We are trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible. We put a lot of focus on sustainability. We want to start focusing more on healthy living. We want people to be able to walk around, so we are creating walking tracks and running tracks. Moving forward, we will add more facilities to the marina, such as snorkeling and places to sunbathe. The overall experience is the key to maintaining the image of exclusivity.

What are the prospects of Omani luxury real estate developers tapping into other markets?
It is too early for Oman because most of the developers in are still trying to establish their names. I don't see the majority of them expanding into other markets in the near future. There is still a lot of development that can be done in Oman. What developers in Oman need to do is take advantage of Oman's natural beauty and diversity.

How have logistical improvements supported Oman's real estate industry?
We have been buying all the materials from Italy for more than two years and it has improved our position and given us a different angle or edge compared to our competitors. Since we are buying in large volumes, we can make it work for us and the clients. Italian companies usually ship to the Sohar Port, from where we can easily transport the goods by trucks. Oman's robust infrastructure has indeed helped us immensely. What is more, continuous improvements are being made to existing infrastructure.

What are your strategic priorities for 2020?
Our primary objective is to finish the project we are working on, and we are on track. The biggest challenge we are facing is that we do not want to compete solely on price. Some developers choose to drop prices to sell more, but we do not do that. We are not in a hurry to sell because our projects are unique. We offer limited-edition units with unique values and views.