November 12, 2017

Why I will Scale Cheesecake

“Quality is not about how expensive a product is but how consistent it is”

The Grid: You have focused on a specific area with in the food service industry, why?

Rehan Samee: You mean deserts? There was such a glaring deficiency (in terms of quality) and still is. When you go to a Starbucks, for example, you have a variety of food items to choose from; lollipops and packaged nuts near the check out counter to croissants, muffins, cookies and cakes in their display chillers. These are supplied by different vendors. What we found – and what we still find – is that the quality of these products, particularly bakery and pastry items, is very average. There is sweetness but nothing else.

Now take a step back and just visualize what “food” is to us today … it’s not just a means of survival … it is an experience! Switch on any TV network in any language. There are channels just dedicated to food. Look at the trends reflected there and on social media. There is a growing consciousness of the quality of ingredients, flavor subtleties and texture combinations and clearly a demand for more.

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November 12, 2017

A Sweet Spot in Outsourcing

“We wanted something more scalable than [a restaurant] at a small incremental cost”

The Grid: From banker to B2B desert maker. What was that moment of change?

Rehan Samee: I always had the entrepreneurial curiosity. Since I first came to Dubai twenty years ago I have been itching with ideas. Whether it was to create nutritious preservative free TV dinners, inspired by the most amazing Thai red curry cooked by my ex-wife; or looking to establish different types of entertainment centers when all my boys would have to play with in malls when they were growing up were ball pits! Why not carting, archery or even miniature golf… with some kind of F&B? So I have been down a lot of paths that never materialized.

The Grid: Why do you think that was?

Rehan Samee: In hindsight, it was not as much about the feasibility of the product as it was the type of co-operation – particularly with the TV dinner idea. The person you think of as the co owner of the company interprets roles differently to what you do sometimes. Pieces therefore don’t fall into place.

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“There is nobody that cares more for a building than the people living in it”

The Grid: You presented on technology and property management at SMARTInvest Real Estate last month. What would you like to see happen in the industry most?

Fadi Nwilati: The RE industry and PM industry are far behind on technology platforms. We still do the same things we did ten years ago including processes. Yes we as an industry are using new platforms and software but they are related to document management (e.g. financial management like invoices, receipts, budgets).

This helps back office but there has been very little or virtually nothing done to improve tenant/landlord, resident property manager and resident security communication in a building. (more…)

October 16, 2017

Keeping Tenants Safe

“This is the difference between a well-managed building and one that is not”

The Grid: Tenant management is increasingly important as it can have an impact on real estate yields for investors. What are best practices today?

Fadi Nwilati: Although that is the common term used in the industry, we like to separate it into:

  1. Lease Management (managing documentation, administration, legal and commercial activities)
  2. Resident Management

Lease management is purely administrational and relatively straightforward. We follow ISO 9001:2015 practices for quality management and administration and use technology to automate those processes as much as possible, reducing human error and improving customer satisfaction. It is a documentation-heavy process so tenants typically complain about signing so many papers even after a lease is signed.

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“The introduction of VAT regime is not merely a change in taxation. It’s a change in how we do business”

Grid: With implementation of VAT around the corner in UAE, what more can you tell us about the proposed VAT legislation, with an emphasis on financial services?

Jigar Doshi: UAE VAT law has been designed in such a way that, at a macro level, it will cover almost all the supplies of goods and services including import of goods / services, real estate, energy and even water supplies.

There are certain relaxations offered in the manner of zero rating and exemptions in the UAE VAT law. For instance, exports, international transport, certain education services are to be zero rated, whereas certain financial services, supply of empty land, local passenger transportation are to be exempt from the VAT levy. All other supplies will attract the standard rate of 5%.

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October 13, 2017

The Art of Opportunity

“New growth opportunities come from non-customers: those who do not buy your product or services”

The Grid: Marc, in your workshops across the globe, you introduce a new approach to strategy based on your own methodology and framework carefully set out in your book “The Art of Opportunity”. Why do you think we need a new approach?

Dr. Marc Sniukas: Every business is interested in growing its revenues and finding new sources of growth. Many, however, find it increasingly difficult to do so by applying traditional approaches to growth which follow that you just try to sell more to your existing customers, increase profits, or maybe buy new growth through mergers and acquisitions.

The Grid: What do you suggest for businesses that may be stuck between traditional attitudes towards growth and a desire to disrupt the existing mindset that holds them back?

Dr. Marc Sniukas: The framework that we outline offers a new approach to finding and seizing opportunities for growth by answering the classic questions of strategy: “How” and “where” to play and win in a new way? (more…)

“F.A.I.L. means “First Attempt In Learning” and allows us to view failure in a new way”

The Grid: Tell us about your successes so far with the Women’s Angel Investor Network (WAIN)?

WAIN: Let’s go through some of our statistics. We have invested almost $500K since we formed 3 years ago. We have invested in 6 companies and with one firm, Little Thinking Minds, we invested a second round. We have 30 investors currently and will grow our investor base by another 20 by year end. Our members make an average number of 3 investments. A little over 7% of our current members are a Board Member and/or an Advisory Member with our investee firms.

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“Approximately 90% of cyber-attacks start with a phishing email”

The Grid: As part of the InfoSec community detecting online vulnerabilities for clients, what are the most common cyber threats you see in the workplace today?

Paul Harris: If someone is determined to get into your house, they will and it’s the same for businesses as they increase their digital footprint.  There are something like 400,000 versions of malware, namely malicious software, detected every single day. A lot of this malware is recycled by other cyber criminals by making the slightest changes to previous versions. In the past year in the UK alone, 76% of businesses got hit by some sort of cyber-attack.

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“It is for the shareholder to decide if they want to leave the share distribution to the local Shariah laws or want to choose the distribution themselves”

The Grid: The DIFC Wills & Probate Registry (‘the Registry”) has recently launched the first Free Zone Company Will. What protection does this provide shareholders and which free zones does it encompass?

Sean Hird: The Registry launched the Free Zone Company Will in response to the marketplace. It was created as an alternative to the full DIFC Will for cash, car, property, and children. and designed for people who had shares in a free zone company but no other tangible assets here.

So in essence, we are empowering people with the provision of an online template that is specific to free zone companies and is easier and cheaper to put in place because they do not need any bespoke drafting.

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June 7, 2017

Rental Peace of Mind

“In other markets – Britain, Australia, India – you would be happy with 3% to 4% yields. In Dubai, you are looking at a minimum ROI of 7% to 8% in a good location by an established developer”

The Grid: As the Editor-in-Chief of Property Time, could you share your insights into the Dubai property market at present?

Binesh Panicker: You can’t generalize about the Dubai real estate market. It is going through a unique situation right now, different from the past. Growth is not happening across all segments – luxury, mid, low-end – the same way.

Some investors focus on the luxury segment others on affordability. People focusing on the affordable segment are doing pretty okay. This is validated by the fact that developments such as Nshama won recognition at the first Gulf Real Estate Awards 2017 by the Dubai Real Estate Institute (DREI) this April. People are price conscious. If you look at the new projects coming up, it is developers like Danube launching new projects because their previous launches have sold out.

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